Jnana's Red Barn

A Space for Work and Reflection

Category: Tendrils

ON INTO ARIES  

Why wait for the dust to settle? Here are 10 bullets from my end.

~*~

  1. First crocus, first hyacinth. More welcome signs.
  2. “Ice out” in our yard – the first day you can walk a diagonal pathway without stepping on snow.
  3. At the feeder, our goldfinches have regained their yellow, first as a tone under the gray and then full-out bold. How rapid the change!
  4. Jazz trumpeter Clark Terry had a special relationship with the University of New Hampshire, one town over. His legacy continues around here. Still wish I’d heard him live, when it was an option. Remember, he taught the incomparable Miles Davis. And my, how I remember that night!
  5. How I love Robert Rauschenberg’s concept of Combines! Neo-Dada, me? Harvesting? (As in wheat. Or driving into fields of corn.) His approach infuses so many of my poems and much of my fiction. What got me labeled as a Mixmaster. Let’s see what we can throw together. Don’t leave out Roy Lichtenstein, either, with his Ben-Day dots fetish from the hot-type days of newspaper production. Oh, how that dates my sense of contemporary!
  6. Another magazine renewal form, among those I’ve let drop. Constrained income has meant limiting my memberships, too.
  7. Here, in a period when I’m supposed to be emerging from my shell, I find myself retreating instead.
  8. In the graffiti at the top flight of the observation tower: “Sometimes love just isn’t enough.” (Looking down, I saw no evidence the author had acted rashly.)
  9. What do we make of capitalism that buys a company and then expects the workers to make concessions to pay for the move? Shouldn’t the ownership go straight to the workers?
  10. Buzzards – more properly, “turkey vultures” – have returned.

~*~

The spires show signs of serious damage.

The spires show signs of serious damage.

 

The stained glass has been removed as St. Charles Roman Catholic church awaits demolition. Just three blocks away from St. Mary Roman Catholic, the two congregations had sharp differences, as some oldtimers will relate. One originated in the Quebecoise immigrants; the other, in the much earlier Irish. Now they're part of one parish.

The stained glass has been removed as St. Charles Roman Catholic church awaits demolition. Just three blocks away from St. Mary Roman Catholic, the two congregations had sharp differences, as some oldtimers will relate. One originated in the Quebecoise immigrants; the other, in the much earlier Irish. Now they’re part of one parish.

 

Water damage had weakened the structure, and repairs were deemed too costly, especially after the city's three Roman Catholic congregations were merged into one parish.

Water damage had weakened the structure, and repairs were deemed too costly, especially after the city’s three Roman Catholic congregations were merged into one parish.

 

AS THE SAP FLOWS

The mind dances here and there, rarely in a linear fashion. So what’s on my mind these days? How about counting on these fingers?

~*~

  1. Wet, sloppy snow? The kind that falls all day, making me want to scream each time I look out the window, even when it’s half melting on the street and ground and even though I no longer have to commute through its hazardous, annoying conditions. The mere thought of it, though, has us going stir-crazy.
  2. Maple-sugaring season, for some of our friends. Just listen to all the discussion regarding this year’s sap run.
  3. Blame the switch back to so-called Daylight Saving Time. Keep feeling I’m way behind. Look at the clock, it’s 1:30 p.m., then have to tell myself it would have been only 12:30 just a few days ago. This internal ticking!
  4. Revisiting Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle (four operas spanning 17 hours, which somehow pop up for me in late winter), I confess it’s hard for me to wrap my head or heart around the mythological story. Gods who are not omniscient or who are ruled by lust – that is, who are not omnipotent – make the first obstacle, even before we get to all the reliance on magic and potions. Only when I see them as today’s celebrities does any of this come into focus. And then there is the matter of flawed parenting and marriage. Even more tantalizing is the concept of casting the “gods” as the superrich who are bankrupting America – off they go to their compound.
  5. In observing the Eastern Orthodox dietary restrictions for Advent and now Lent, I’m made more aware of the world’s poor and hungry. Reach for milk for my coffee or for an egg or cheese or butter, then pull my hand back, realizing they’re dairy products, and thus prohibited for the stretch. Under a lacto-vegetarian regime, which I’d practiced in my past, these would be acceptable. The vegan alternative is so much stricter. How out of reach our Western abundance is for so many in the world. As my wife says, the practice makes us tea-totaling oil-free vegans. Curiously, our temporarily limited diet (or “fasting,” in the terminology) does not have me feeling penitent but rather, as we pursue it, has me delighting in ranges of food we normally slight. Even so, I’m really looking forward to feasting come Easter.
  6. Considering many of my favorite hippie-era writers, I’m surprised to see how apolitical many of them are. Richard Brautigan, ever so playful – or even Jack Kerouac, who inspired so many of us. I am open to alternatives, like John Nichols or Edward Abbey, though their writing feels far more conventional and less heartfelt. Makes for a fresh way of revisiting the literature of the era, especially as it leaps ahead to our current political situation.
  7. Insecurity is a manifestation of ego, standing counter to humility.
  8. A sense of being released in to the NOW for the NEW. The way some work continues.
  9. How do people in the construction trades schedule their lives? Do the calls for repairs, remodeling, and new building really average out week after week?
  10. No idea what’s on tap for tomorrow.

~*~

New England Aquarium.

New England Aquarium.

Yes, I’m still swimming laps in the indoor pool, the one in downtown Dover. Glad he’s not in my lane.

 

MARCHING ON, BRAVELY

Being mindful of what’s right in front of us can always be a challenge. Here are 10 new items from my end.

~*~

  1. Keep an eye on the pussy willows, about ready to harvest – a sure promise of spring. How gallantly, snowdrops in bloom – green shoots of hyacinths – even in receding snowbanks.
  2. Keep an ear open at night for peepers, coming to life in their thawing vernal ponds.
  3. Time for seaweed runs, too. Off to the beach to collect mineral-rich debris for the garden. What about picking something out of the canister of kites in the loft before I go? Spend a little more time by the surf? Rather than just dashing off and back home?
  4. As I’ve said, I welcome a faith that encourages questioning and action. I’ve come to appreciate the implicit yes in the Quaker queries. (Link to Light)
  5. Keep hoping to find my appropriate schedule, my right routine, my most balanced pace of life. Years before retiring, I’d draft what I thought might be ideal daily and weekly rounds – charts that drew my wife’s derision when she finally viewed them. (To be fair, some predated our marriage.) Yes, there’s so much I overlooked or simply assumed would fit in. And so much that’s come into my life since. My weekly choir rehearsal in Boston, for instance, throws me off-kilter, since it means getting home around midnight. Otherwise, I’d be rising before 5 or 6, as she does, and sitting to meditate as a yogi or just write. So what have I really settled into?
  6. We are getting days now when the top of the barn’s warm enough for yoga exercise and meditation in early afternoon. Not the schedule I’d projected, but one that’s organic to our situation.
  7. Maybe it’s just a fantasy: past/present/future all within this moment, if you pause.
  8. Fulfillment is ultimately not on my own time scale but the Holy One’s. How terrifying!
  9. Perhaps Verdi’s most compelling plot line until Otello, his 1850 Stiffelio tells of a Protestant minister and his unfaithful wife. Tellingly, it was censored at the first performance and then lost until 1960. In the background, at the time, the composer was living with a divorced woman. Could this be the basis for yet another masterpiece?
  10. Why do Americans keep reelecting the same members of the Worst Congress in History? Is there some death wish for democracy?

~*~

Right in the heart of downtown Dover, the mill. The retail store in the front sits out over the Cocheco River.

Right in the heart of downtown Dover, the mill. The retail store in the front sits out over the Cocheco River.

JUST TRYING TO KEEP PACE

Just a taste of what’s popping up. In case you were looking for a prompt.

~*~

  1. March, with its upheavals, has any bouts of single-digit lows unable to hold long. Typically, it’s the month most prone to heavy snowfalls, especially when temperatures hover around freezing. Country roads get their “frost heaves,” too, for bumpy travel. And bits of green begin trying to break through.
  2. “Why are you getting so upset, so defensive,” she asks after I encounter a setback that makes a mess on the counter. “It’s the sort of thing that happens to everybody” Except I want to shout, “No! It doesn’t! It only happens to me!” Actually it’s an echo of the childhood reaction after being accused, “Why did you do this to me?”Or more accurately, “How could you do this to me?” Mother blaming the Golden Boy once again.
  3. Making photocopies at our computer printer has me remembering one of my definitions of “making it” as a writer, back when – the desire for an IBM Selectric typewriter and my own Xerox copier. Just think, our computer keyboards are a vast leap forward from any typewriter, at least for klutzy typists like me, while our kids take the copier for granted. Oh, it’s just the beginning of a long list of good gear rendered obsolete in our lifetime.
  4. Been harboring a lingering notion about selecting a “top 100” or “best 100” or “favorite 100” compilation of my poems. Not that I really want another project to tackle, but looking at the range of my work over the past half-century sometimes leaves me surprised. Yes, much of it has a graffiti-like imperfection, once I decided to write on the run and revise along the lines of jazz improvisation more than aspiring to a perfectly formed artifact – or whatever. Let me say there are more rough edges than I’d like. Still, that 100 cutoff would mean an average of just two poems a year from what’s been a prolific output, even without the novels and essays. I’m still wondering how I ever did it while working full-time elsewhere.
  5. Rereading Walden with an appreciation of Thoreau’s pervasive satire. It’s a refreshing perspective.
  6. Can the question “Who are you?” be addressed by “Whom do you hate?”
  7. As an acquaintance was told at the office one Monday morning: “You have a billion dollars to reallocate.” It’s something that happens in a corporate buyout. Not that she saw any of it.
  8. Gotta try praying rather than worrying.
  9. Stay balanced and rested.
  10. We’re big on putting the lentils back in Lent.

~*~

Yes, this days our Tibetan prayer flags are frayed and thin.

Yes, these days our Tibetan prayer flags are frayed and thin.

SWIMMING WITH PISCES

Why wait for the dust to settle? Here are 10 bullets from my end.

~*~

  1. Would love to get back to another personal routine that’s somehow fallen by the wayside: sitting abed and “simmering” each morning with a cup of coffee to accompany some reading or just my own thoughts. Rather than popping right up and getting in gear. Theologian Howard Thurman was a big advocate of the practice and its reversal in the evening.
  2. Do have the indolent luxury of hiding out in our third-floor guest room (a.k.a. crafts room), opposite my studio, maybe even allowing a whole thick novel to wash over me as I read if I’m not napping there. It’s the room up there that gets direct sunlight, unlike my north-facing studio.
  3. Forsythia, which she insists are as hardy as weeds, are in danger of blooming too early. One more sign of disaster we’ve observed. We’re watching them, all the same, to bring a few sprigs in to force into flower sometime approaching Easter.
  4. Returning to the memory of hitchhiking – giving a lift to others when you can or extending their generosity, in some manner – suggests compiling a long annotated list of our experiences and what we learned, pro and con. Maybe as Letters to Youth from a retired hitchhiker or a way of finally gleaning some wisdom in reflecting on the era. Yes, it could be giddy but also risky. And I’m not the one to see it from the “hippie chick” perspective. Anyone else want to rise to the challenge?
  5. We’re well into sauna season, the little cabin at the edge of the pond. I’m still not breaking the ice for a dip. Let the younger, more foolhardy guys to that. No, there’s no reason for us geezers to tempt cardiac arrest.
  6. Curiously, I don’t seem to be getting any more done in my personal pursuits than when I was working fulltime. Or was I really neglecting a lot more then than I remember?
  7. February is such a short month, especially for those of us who have legal obligations to fulfill – car inspections and new tags, for instance. And then there are all those monthly payments coming due the equivalent of at least a weekend earlier.
  8. Quakers traditionally eschew a liturgical calendar, preferring instead that every day should be holy. Not that we commonly manage that. But that doesn’t preclude some of us from voluntarily taking up disciplines that would be mandatory in other denominations. For example, my wife and I customarily delve into Advent and Lenten readings and abstain from alcohol for those periods. (As a practice, it’s good to be able to say “No” and stick with it, especially when it comes to temptations like my martinis.) This past Advent we engaged Eastern Orthodox “fasting,” realizing a vegan diet would fit the rules if we eliminated oil on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, apart from the fish allowed on weekends. The avoidance of meat was no problem, but we really missed the cheese and eggs, which many vegetarians allow, and I nearly added milk to my coffee more than once. Almond milk, by the way, is a fine substitute, but I also gained an actual fondness for black coffee. So much for the sugar. Still, it’s surprising how many labels I began reading – cookies, chocolate – and found offending additives. With Orthodox Lent beginning February 27, we’re looking at even stricter rules. It’s what she describes as being a tea-totaling vegan with no olive oil. We really have to admire all those who take this in stride.
  9. And any day now we’ll be invaded by ants. They seldom wait for mid-May.
  10. We’ve seen too many who shout “law and order” turn out themselves to be lawless and disorderly.

~*~

You know it's a cold morning when you look out the window and see this. Especially when all the other neighbors are in the same boat.

You know it’s a cold morning when you look out the window and see this. Especially when all the other neighbors are in the same boat.

A FEW MORE NOTES IN THE SCORE

The mind dances here and there, rarely in a linear fashion. So what’s on my mind these days? How about counting on these fingers?

~*~

  1. Even before she argues I’m regressing to adolescence, she has many reasons to ask: Am I still emotionally … 15? Maybe this time I’ll get it right. Or just FINALLY.
  2. How is it so many people see me as masked, restrained, even inhibited? All these years. Will the real me please stand up?
  3. Like a pack of cards, “shuffle the deck,” the way of the Red Barn – or my all too rambling life with all of its competing interests! Don’t we need a job or children as focus? Or God?
  4. A jazz guitarist asks me between sets, “Are you a musician? You listen like one.” I take it as a compliment. As for my choir?
  5. Too easily I find myself retreating for too much of the day (and night) in my attic studio, apart from the rest of the house. Call me a third-floor hermit. That’s where I think I write best.
  6. I’d dreamed of having Molly Ringwald join in a movie I’d scripted: 61 Candles. We’d all grown up. Or something like that. Even I was younger then.
  7. It’s a familiar goal in revising a piece of writing and, as I’m finding, in making music. Think of the visual arts, too, and any number of places in daily life. Gain lightness in what had been blocks of density.
  8. Inscribed on the tower: “Maybe he was the love of my life … but I wasn’t his.” (Which interpretation do you prefer?)
  9. How is it I got so old? Even within an old soul?
  10. My overcoat, still tinged with city grime, needs cleaning.

~*~

This is it, indeed.

This is it, indeed.

OR THAT?

Being mindful of what’s right in front of us can always be a challenge. Here are 10 new items from my end.

~*~

  1. I haven’t said anything about shoveling snow, have I?
  2. One tension in today’s world is a matter of staying in place in a restless world. Sinking roots, as it were. Going deep. Without getting stuck. How is this rooting balanced with personal growth and evolution? And, too, how is it I’ve stayed Quaker, amid all the other self-identities in play?
  3. Am continuing my practice of learning Spanish before breakfast – along with our Cuban-roast coffee.
  4. A friend shows us the mass of stonework in the cellar of his 1755 New England saltbox house, and we recognize it’s a thermal mass that holds heat in winter, keeps the place cooler in summer. Those old Yankees were way ahead of our times.
  5. So the day starts clear, then clouds over. Snow on the way? Gotta check our weather vane, see if the wind’s coming in off the ocean.
  6. Observing two side-by-side icicles hanging over our second-floor windows, I see one’s bumpy while the one next to it’s smooth. Then realized, yes, water drops freeze as bumps, and thus the smooth one becomes the question.
  7. As Boss would have told Bill in Big Inca: “I told you to report EVERYTHING.” Maybe there are limits.
  8. Listening to piano music by Louis Moreau Gottschalk, keep hearing a riff that sounds like “Skip to the Lou,” itself a puzzling phrase. Turns out it’s Scottish for “love,” and the tune accompanied a circle game. Also, Gottschalk was quoting a slightly different and more wistful tune from New Orleans, which explains the notes that move sidewise.
  9. The Libertarian Party really blew its big opportunity. Royally. Now where does it turn?
  10. Perhaps tomorrow will be a bathrobe day. Or at least sweats. No driving, just stay indoors at home. Plenty to do here, anyway.

~*~

Joe Pye in ice -- what had flowered does so once again in the heart of winter.

Joe Pye in ice — what had flowered does so once again in the heart of winter.

 

THIS IS IT?

I’ve long been fond of collage as an art form. These Tendrils continue the stream.

~*~

  1. Ground Hog’s Day marks the end of solar winter, in contrast to the standard calendar’s use of the equinox on March 20. We have as much daylight now as we did around Halloween, back t the end of October. It’s another reason I view the year as eight seasons rather than four.
  2. I’ve previously posted about the ways observing Advent as the days leading up to Christmas Day – which then ushers in the Twelve Days of Christmas –greatly alters our way of experiencing the holidays. As a result, since we don’t put up our tree until Christmas Eve, we leave ours up much longer than our neighbors. Long after theirs have headed for the dump, ours is still casting magical light around our front parlor (the room we call the library) while the mass of tiny lighted bulbs outside the bay window are also still glowing. Deep winter’s much more tolerable this way.
  3. When the evergreen tree does go out of the house (meaning any day now), its place in the bay window is soon taken up by flats of seedlings we’ll transplant to the garden, likely in May. My task now is to retrieve the appropriate shelves and bars of lighting from the shed – out in the brittle cold. We always seem to be behind schedule there.
  4. How sad to see so many so-called conservatives turning barbarian, intent on destruction – pillaging civilization and culture.
  5. My last days at the office included erasing my tracks. A lot of stuffed folders went into the trash.
  6. I finally acknowledge my past lovers would have never made me a suitable spouse. How blessed I am now.
  7. Think of the books we keep returning to. Or simply journals. Which of them keep you on track?
  8. There’s a day, as the rabbi admits, for sex and delight, free from the usual intrusions. It’s called Sabbath. Seriously.
  9. Goose – all dark meat, a lot of good tasty fat – a spoonful is great for favoring other dishes while cooking.
  10. Someday has come.

~*~

Afternoon winter sky over Dover.

Afternoon winter sky over Dover.

WHEN THE WHOLE HOUSE SHUDDERS

Just a taste of what’s popping up. In case you were looking for a prompt.

~*~

  1. Maybe it was all the commuting or the years of leaping from a job in one locale to another in what was supposed to be a climb up the corporate ladder or even the efforts to keep up with the personal writing and publication based in my “off-duty” hours, but when it came to a vacation, I increasingly wanted simply to stay home. Maybe because I’m finally seeing that logjam or backup break loose, my outlook is changing. I wouldn’t mind a little travel. Or maybe even a year abroad, the classic artist in exile.
  2. After hanging a toasted half-bagel from an outdoor branch, I watch a squirrel run off with it rather than nibbling bits on the scene.
  3. I wake to see a shadow flying against the wall before hearing the crash: two more giant icicles melting away in the morning sunlight. The whole house shudders.
  4. A least I’m not playing solitaire these days. How many hours on how many late nights were so occupied, usually winding down after work?
  5. An old man in a baggy gray coat and black shoes and black slacks and old-man baggy hat walks down the street. He smokes a pipe, the phantom who would haunt the author in 50 years. Except that now, the Author will not touch a pipe – or cigar. (Gee, I did use this – or a variation – somewhere, didn’t I?)
  6. After one online exchange, I realized the man’s both hard-hearted and deaf – a dangerous combination. His answers come out of a can.
  7. Back when I drafted Subway Hitchhikers, I imagined an underground network of kindred souls who could venture about anywhere on their thumbs – city or country, all filled with surreal encounters. Nowadays, we can see ourselves as cyber-hitchhikers, going about anywhere we want without having to venture out. But where’s the surrealism, risk, and full-body connection?
  8. She agrees. We’re much closer to Amish values than to mainstream American society and its tastes.
  9. There are times we must ask, “Is it Quaker work rather than God’s work?” Ever see a parallel in your own faith community?
  10. Any of you brush your teeth with baking soda? My dentist got me in the habit of dipping my toothbrush and paste in the powder before getting down to business. Have to admit it feels refreshing.

~*~

Watching this is better than television. You wouldn't believe the drama and comedy that erupt. Especially when squirrels or neighborhood cats corner in on the action.

Watching this is better than television. You wouldn’t believe the drama and comedy that erupt. Especially when squirrels or neighborhood cats corner in on the action.

 

YES, AQUARIUS

Why wait for the dust to settle? Here are 10 bullets from my end.

~*~

  1. Since we don’t put up a Yule tree and decorate it until Christmas Eve, ours stays on display longer than any of our neighbors’. The lights make January a less forbidding stretch. Make it more festive and relaxing. So what do you do special this otherwise cold, dark month?
  2. She’s really at home in a grocery store. Knows all the comparative prices, what’s a bargain, what’s special. Not so in other retail settings. Still, you should see our pantry. Or the two big freezers in the barn.
  3. Swami had long ago said I didn’t need a job (I’m an old soul) because that’s not the work I should be offering. That was long, long ago.
  4. How often does it seem: Fashion = Money … along with the race for something better?
  5. Would I be satisfied with a single-line poem that said everything? Stake my reputation on it?
  6. Considering all the hours I put in on my “personal writing” over the years – the poetry and fiction, especially, or genealogy and Quaker fare – it would have added up to a lot of overtime pay. Even at 10 hours a week, though I suspect with vacations and holidays thrown in, the average would have been closer to 20. I’d really have to land a bestseller to come anywhere close to recouping that investment.
  7. The frustration of my twilight years in journalism, seeing us increasingly pander to stupidity, ignorance, and hatred rather than trying to lead and enlighten.
  8. As the funeral director told me, “We hate holidays. Holidays suck.”
  9. Fortune cookie: You will make many changes before settling satisfactorily.
  10. Can this really be happening to America? Or the world?

~*~

 

Looks like white-painted architectural touches to me.

Still looks like white-painted architectural touches to me.