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Archive for January, 2010

Flotsam

Inspired by my husband (!), I will offer a numerated list.  In the spirit of blogging, even when I don’t have time to build a narrative.

1.  The students’ school play is next week.  And I would love to have one more week.  Maybe this is always the way.  I danced with the fairies today, in the empty gym.  They have added Shakespeare’s original words, “You spotted snakes with double tongue, thorny hedge-hogs be not seen/newts and blind worms do no wrong/Come not near our fairy queen,” (for example) into “Sweet Dreams” by Beyonce.  I think they think they sound pretty fierce, but in reality, especially in the gym with late afternoon light, all alone in their stocking feet, they sound awfully sweet.

2. I watch the Home Shopping Network, or QVC, in the middle of the night when I am too anxious to sleep.  I prefer handbags and jewelry. I like to hear all the ways they describe the pieces. I fancy that I would make a good on-air speaker about various pieces of sparkle.  I also like how they always have people (ladies, usually) calling in, even if it’s the middle of the night, to talk about what they just bought.  I lay on the couch, and listen to all of the ladies’ voices, and slowly turn the volume down, until I can barely hear them.  And after a few hours, I can go to sleep that way.

3.  I have found the perfect very cold weather warmth-fix.  I wear knee socks, and leg warmers, and soft tights, underneath pants.  And then I am pretty much set.  If it’s above 30 degrees, I’m comfortable with the three first layers and a skirt.  I can’t believe I went 30+ years without really dressing warm enough to go out comfortably.

3.5  I was sort of the ragamuffin kid who might have seemed mildly neglected by the school ladies.  I have several very embarrassing and specific memories about not wearing a coat to school, and being made to wear a coat from the lost-and-found box by the secretary.  I was mortified each time, and believed those coats to be dirty, and did not want to be seen in them.  Now, as a teacher, I wonder about those kids that don’t come to school in coats.

4. I always found Legos boring as a kid.  I just wanted to put them into a giant stack, one giant stack.  What was the big deal?  With wooden blocks, you could build doll- or stuffed animals-sized houses.  And if you stuck the wrong two shapes together with Legos, they wouldn’t stick.  My major playtime activity was playing school with my dollies, animals, and little sister when she was old enough.  I made class rosters, and attendance sheets, and had elaborate lessons. Jamie Leigh actually learned to read by age three, so I suppose my curriculum was successful.  I wonder if she has happy memories of those times, or just remembers me as bossy.

5. I wish I could play a musical instrument. I can sing, and I can even read music after several years of church choir, but I’ve always wished I could play the piano or some kind of instrument.  Is it too late?  It wasn’t too late for languages, so I hold out hope. But then I worry that it’s ridiculous for someone my age to be taking music lessons.  It’s like when I was in my late 20s and had two cats, to which I was heavily and dramatically allergic.  Twice a week, I’d go to the allergist to get two allergy shots.  In the waiting room, it’d be me and a whole bunch of schoolchildren.  I could either read _Highlights_ or _Parenting_ magazine; nothing in between.  I’m working up the bravery to pick up an instrument: let’s put it that way.

(photo detail taken at the Jefferson Market Public Library)

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the Livery Lorax

Small confession: I really like to take a livery car to work.

Up where I live, there are no yellow cabs. There are pretty occasionally livery cabs, which are the shiny black towncars that one calls when one is “Calling a car.”  Technically (legally, I guess) they are not supposed to pick up “street hails.” In my neighborhood, that doesn’t matter.

[There is a separate post in here about the “unofficial livery drivers,” who stand around the corner by the Dunkin’ Donuts. If you can’t find a real livery car, you can walk up to the group, and say, “Taxi?”  One of them will take you to their car or van, and drive you to wherever you want for ten dollars. I find this incredibly convenient. Matt is a little freaked out that I do this.]

Moving on…  Last night I slept through the night for the first time in several days. I haven’t been taking seroquel, because it makes me very sleepy of a morning, and I’ve wanted to get right up.  And I’m out of selexa, my daily anti-anxiety, and have been since the wedding. (Come on, health care bill!)  But I took some last night, and finally slept.

I woke up struggling to get really awake, and needing to rush. I also had brownies to take for my kids, and a giant piece of cardboard to fashion with the stage crew into a moon for Titania’s bed.  And it was snowing, snowing, snowing.

So I hailed a livery cab.  Actually, I think all the livery drivers around here know I occasionally take them, because often when one passes me, they honk lightly. If I want one, I turn my head and nod.

The snow was beautiful, and Leo (the driver) and I both mentioned it.  As we passed by the zoo and the botanical garden, I mentioned how pretty the snow-covered trees in the zoo were.  He gestured to the garden, and said that the garden was so beautiful.  I agreed, and said nothing as we drove by it, a long look at hundreds of trees, laden with snow.

He said, “You know that movie… the witch?”  (English is his third or fourth language, not his first.)  I said, excitedly, “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe?!  Yes!”  He said, “The garden looks…like that movie.”  “Oh, yes, ” I agreed. It really does.

There was a beat while we exited, and turned onto our main boulevard.  I’m guessing he said what he said next based on the enthusiasm of my response to the Narnia movie.

He said, “Do you ever think… trees are… alone?”  I took him to mean, correctly, “lonely.”  They did look lonely, some of them, standing there in the snow.  “Yes, sure.  I think maybe.”  He said, “Like… in the jungle they are… there are living things.”  I thought he meant that our city trees didn’t have much living habitation.

I said, “Yes, but I think— trees maybe have a different time. ”  I was thinking of the Ents in Tolkien.  I said, “Like, we humans are [gesturing rapid movement] rush, rush, rush, and animals are [gesturing] rush, rush rush.  And trees are [slowing voice] in a longer kind of time.”

“Yes, yes,” he said.  “Yes.  But you know: the trees, they are living.”

“Yes,” I said, “You can tell– they’re living creatures like we are.”  He nodded.

He said, “I will tell you.  Yesterday? I saw a tree, I was walking?  I put my hand on it [he mimes this], and then I–how do you say? [mimes hugging]”

I said, “Embrace. You hugged the tree?”  He said, “Yes, yes.  I want… it feeling inside, I can feel.”

I said, “It’s like: it’s energy, and energy moving inside it– it can influence the energy in you.”

He nodded eagerly: “Yes, yes.”

We were quiet for a few blocks.  He said, “No one talks about this.”  I agreed that no one really does.

As we turned the last corner before the school, he expressed amazement that some people don’t believe in creation (“I believe in creation and evolution,” he said) and said that we must be egotistical.  Actually, he used a Spanish word for “egotistical” but it must be a cognate, because “ego” was its root, and I echoed, “Yes, egotistical.”  Leo thinks that we build robots and things, and want to be the only creators, and forget that we also are some sort of creation.

After I got out of the car, and he opened the trunk to get out my giant cardboard piece, he said, “It’s good to talk. It helps the thinking.”

For the rest of the day, every odd tree I saw, I thought, “No one is wondering about you, tree.”  Except for a very few.

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I have a great new blog to recommend. Here’s how it started:  One of our photographers, on her blog, posted a no-make up photo of herself, and noted how tired and bad she looked.  I commented, writing that she didn’t see what I saw, and wouldn’t it be interesting/powerful  if we believed what our women friends said about our appearances. That is: we are hard on ourselves, but maybe we’re not seeing ourselves accurately.

Soon, Jodie had written a new post, in response to my comment.  She put up a photo of me, and of another woman, and asked for comment.  It was wonderful– wonderful to first hear my own self-criticisms, and then see what commenters (mostly strangers to me) had to say about what _they_ saw when they looked at my photo, and then so cool to see how many women said, “We need this,” “I’m going to do this with women I know on my blog,” “This is amazing.”

Clearly, Jodie had hit a chord.  Now, there is in fact a new blog devoted to this project: The Fresh Reflection. It’s really incredible.  In today’s photo, the subject herself commented– and she mentioned her “Jay Leno chin,” which she dislikes. Which is incredible because: when I (and others, obviously) see her photo, we see so much beauty.

It gives me pause. What if I have children, what if I have daughters? Is there a way to keep that negative inner voice from ever beginning, to stifle self-criticism about one’s own beauty?  The women I know, and have as friends, are a force: they are every one gorgeous, and also brilliant, amazing, resilient, and kind. Generous. And physically attractive? YES.  And yet, I have heard _each one_ of them disparage her own physical beauty.  What is up with us?

As I asked Jodie in a comment, “How would we move through the world differently if we believed what our women friends told us about ourselves?”

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Images

I don’t want to write about Haiti, or talk about it.  I was getting my nails done when the news came on last Tuesday. Wolf Blitzer actually, God help us, asked someone there if he could hear any children crying for help.  Later, Pat Robertson’s take on the situation made my blood boil, and I was unable to sleep for the anger.

I’ve been watching old episodes of _The West Wing_ of a morning, instead of listening to the radio news.  I’ve de-friended two friends on Facebook because of bone-headed or thoughtless comments that made me so angry that de-friending them was better than responding.

Maybe in a few months I will write about what I am thinking, and the people I am thinking, about up on a mountain north of Petionville, and the feelings of complicity, shame, anger, and despair that tinge every thought and experience I’ve ever had with Haiti.  For now, here are some photographs of children and places I know.

Looking down a mountain at Tom, former roommate, middle school teacher, and med student.  The plots on the opposite mountain are farmed by hand.

A ruin.

Tigga with bubble.

Steven, taking his turn.

Steven, joyful.

Josephine.


A school boy.

Soccer in Fermathe.

Learning the alphabet.

Teaching.

View of Port au Prince from a roof top.

View down a street in Petionville.

These children live at and are supported by Wings of Hope, in Fermathe, Haiti.  It is the only orphanage of its kind in Haiti, and serves street children, and abandoned disabled children, along with its sister orphanages in Port au Prince and Jacmel.

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