Jnana's Red Barn

A Space for Work and Reflection

Category: Tendrils

WADE IN THE WATERS

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

~*~

  1. Tide-pooling requires climbing around on slippery boulders in the intertidal zone that exists between daily high and low water marks along the coastline and its tributaries. It means parting the various kinds of seaweed or lifting rocks to observe what’s underneath and then placing them all back very gently. My favorite time to go is at extreme low tide, when we can venture into reaches that would otherwise be too deep. How I love to overturn my first submerged rock and find both starfish (officially, a sea star) or urchin – and then a second, with two starfish. The first time I find three in one day, my wife proclaims me to be a member of the Order of Starfish. In another week or so, the water may be warm enough for brisk swimming, too.
  2. We seem to be on schedule with the garden, despite a late start. But there’s always something that will be left behind as we go.
  3. Professional (as in JOB) – a prop, identity, or purpose? Now that I’m retired, I’m still working.
  4. He admits, “I’m a skin man” for attraction, more than tits, ass, or legs. Well, if you have to get picky?
  5. Keep asking myself what my life would be lacking if I hadn’t moved to the hippie farm or gone to the ashram at all? My novels Hippie Drum, Hippie Love, Ashram, and likely Subway Hitchhikers would have never come forth, for starters. As I look back, the experiences look inevitable – and essential.
  6. As much as Dr. Bronner’s bottle-label diatribes arose from a splash of water, I suppose.
  7. You don’t know about hillbillies in a Yankee state? Oh, my. Then and now.
  8. Our neighbors’ block party is always a big occasion. Living one street over, we’re always included.
  9. What’s it mean to be a LANDLOCKED SAILOR?
  10. How much of my “real life” has been COUNTER-CURRENT – that is, occurring apart from the time and labor that paid the bills?

~*~

Spire in the city.

Spire in the city.

The historic Park Street Church sits at the edge of Boston Common and just a few blocks from the Massachusetts State House. In addition to the long list of influential speakers who appeared in its pulpit, the wonderful composer George Whitefield Chadwick was organist here. He beat Dvorak to the punch at a New World symphony.

 

YES, IN THE BASKET WHILE PICKING

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. And now, fresh strawberries. The bed we renovated last year is making amends. So how do you like yours the best?
  2. So delightful to have cut flowers indoors, too. A sprig of laurel (from the burial ground) is stunning against the deep purple velvet of a Siberian iris.
  3. French 75s. That’s the cocktail they like at Chris and Linda’s.
  4. I still aspire to writing a novel with only three or four characters. Two, however, feels just too tight. It would be something tightly focused and linear. But the current has often pulled me in the opposite direction. Big Inca, for instance, is essentially four – but look at all the others who keep wandering in and out!
  5. How little of the traditional canon I’ve pursued. There are vast gaps in my reading repertoire. That doesn’t mean I haven’t read – far from it.
  6. A perfect June morning: cool, touch of breeze, sunny and clear. After a full night’s sleep.
  7. Her eye is so close I see my own reflection.
  8. Maybe writing and revising have been my first love over all these years.
  9. Headed to the liquor store to make sure I’d have enough gin for a martini but arrived five minutes after it closed: take that as a sign.
  10. Being remembered as “an intense young man.”

~*~

The sign over a sidewalk on College Hill in Providence, Rhode Island, immediately had my attention. Alas, we were strolling a few hours before noon. The day was evolving in other directions.

The sign over a sidewalk on College Hill in Providence, Rhode Island, immediately had my attention. Alas, we were strolling a few hours before noon. The day was evolving in other directions.

 

I COULD BE LIGHTING THE GRILL

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

~*~

  1. In my life, a renewed period of purging and cleansing. One personal goal: to wear out shirts and shoes I don’t particularly like before donning the others – exhaust them and then discard them with a sigh of relief – rather than leaving them untouched. That way the pile keeps getting smaller.
  2. How many talented people I’ve known. And how much blown opportunity.
  3. How rarely I seem to read for pleasure. Rather there’s often a sense of duty – obligation – as in I ought to read this or that. Especially when it’s a gift.
  4. Sometimes in revising a piece I touch on something (often I have no idea what) that sets off a deep grieving. It’s a psychological release, however painful.
  5. Both the Hebrew Bible and Greek Logos point to a heightened sense of the individual and individuality in contrast to wider society and social norms. We’re each responsible – accountable – for our own actions.
  6. We’re hoping to get to Lowell, Massachusetts, this month to take a boat tour on the canals that pass next to its historic mills. Sometimes, from the photos we’ve seen, the route’s like a narrow brick canyon.
  7. I turn to the singer next to me and tell him how much I envy his fine tenor, especially in pieces where the melody’s in the tenor line. (He’s able to belt it out, too.) The woman in front turns to us and says, “I’m sitting in front of you two again tomorrow.”
  8. Everything we’ve transplanted to the garden is looking happy.
  9. PERFECT WISDOM, a John Woolman term, as in Sophia. Or Christ.
  10. We can’t just sit on these things. Yada-yada-yada.

~*~

The Rhode Island Capitol, as seen from our hotel room. The tiny statue on top of the dome is not Roger Williams, as I'd assumed, but the Independent Man, originally named Hope.

The Rhode Island Capitol, as seen from our hotel room. The tiny statue on top of the dome is not Roger Williams, as I’d assumed, but the Independent Man, originally named Hope.

WITH SOME DOWNSIDES AS WELL

At least they’re not commandments. Holy Moses!

~*~

  1. Observing a hummingbird in the azalea just outside our bay window – these amazing creatures really do have a ruby band at their throat.
  2. All the vacation-bound traffic: boats, campers, trailers, RVs. Along with the state troopers, enforcing speed caps. There are somedown sides to living here.
  3. A pile of bricks came along with the house when we moved in. Surprising how useful they’ve been.
  4. How long ago, the realization and description: “She sounds like a parody of teenage upheaval.” It’s a rough rite of passage.
  5. A stage of revision as an Acid Bath – fine lace of reduction opening passages for air. (Revisions grounded in the present more than any past.)
  6. Look to that relationships stuff. Maybe the Proust questionnaires, too.
  7. The next step in nuclear fusion, so I’m told, is to use the technology in conjunction with our existing nuclear waste, depleting those nasty stockpiles – a process that should generate 10-times as much power in combination.
  8. Constitution, Consensus, and Consciousness. How far away they seem in today’s general scene.
  9. From inscription over pre-war German synagogues: KNOW BEFORE WHOM YOU STAND BEFORE YOU PRAY. To wit we might add: BEFORE YOU WRITE or BEFORE YOU WORK.
  10. Public life and business: “We’re sinking into the Abyss.”

~*~

A popular landmark in downtown Boston is the Customs House tower, with its useful clock. Not all of the views are this crowded.

A popular landmark in downtown Boston is the Customs House tower, with its useful clock. Not all of the views are this crowded.

 

ROLLING IN CLOVER, AS IT WERE

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

~*~

  1. Time to start checking on the ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Maine, courtesy of the NOAA buoys reported on the website. I no longer bother to venture into real surf until the readings hit 60 Fahrenheit. Below that it’s blue-toe water.
  2. There’s an irony in performing sun-salutation postures but none, say, for the new moon or full moon. Om, my. Inhale and exhale, with incense.
  3. On our apron by the back door, a small snake, whip motion, ever so slowly.
  4. Here I’d been intending to write leaner, tighter, shorter, clearer – a lacework of Light. Wind up with dense blocks of prose-poems instead.
  5. It’s hard to imagine my native Buckeye State was created, in essence, by eleven Connecticut veterans of the American Revolution who met at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern in Boston on March 1, 1786, to form the Ohio Company. The tavern was a gathering place for wealthy merchants sympathetic to the patriot cause. At least it wasn’t Manhattan. Who knows what we would have wound up with.
  6. Sometimes you feel a new beginning – not just renewal but turning a corner.
  7. My own pathway unfolds as its own guide.
  8. Sometimes I read this place as CLOVER NH. Better, of course, than the unintentionally comic EFFINGHAM.
  9. I’ve resolved to spend more time in the mountains to our north this summer. In recent years, even getting to the beaches nearby has been elusive.
  10. So that’s it! Blah-blah-blah.

~*~

Preserving a touch of history in downtown Boston, while the rest of the building's been razed. Something similar just happened to the oldest residence in Maine.

Preserving a touch of history in downtown Boston, while the rest of the building’s been razed. Something similar just happened to the oldest residence in Maine.

 

 

GEMINI, BY JIMMINY

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

~*~

  1. This matter of scale – and balance – in a life that has an appearance of randomness. All these items collected throughout the house and barn. Somehow, order reasserts itself, if you look.
  2. Remembering the volcano 37 years ago. Just look at the skulls I collected in that country.
  3. Four years later, the move to Baltimore for the one I thought embodied that moment full of promise to take my life upward into a fairy-tale existence of class and repose, a much different direction from where I’ve landed. Alas, she’d already bolted. And mine has become much more organic.
  4. Common Meter, 8.6.8.6, as in “Amazing Grace,” is simply the syllable count. A great way to swap words and music.
  5. Am not having profound or imaginative dreams. But at least the flow’s beginning again, like looking at a secret movie or computer screen.
  6. When taking portraits outdoors, how often the eyeglasses turn into sunglasses in the bright light – and how often people in party mode turn wooden.
  7. Looking at a book of glass houses reminds me how deeply that Bauhaus aesthetic is embedded in my sensibility. Not that I’d aspire to live in one now. Who washes all those windows, anyway? And what about fingerprints or noses? These days I’ve chosen a different style, one based in Yankee houses that just keep growing, as needed. As for curtains, she and I will argue.
  8. To ease back into Hatha – Ha-ha!
  9. “The things that are not seen are eternal” – II Corinthians 4:18.
  10. Still feeling so tentative rather than forceful.

~*~

Why's he honored on the street?

Why’s he honored on the street?

I chanced upon this scultpture at 15 Beach Place while wandering from Chinatown to Faneuil Hall. It’s about a block from the old Boston Music Hall, where Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto got its world premiere. Maybe this site is where he stayed while visiting? Anyone got a clue?

The sculpture resides just left of the doorway.

The sculpture resides just left of the doorway.

MAYBE IT ALL ADDS UP

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. The return of warm weather allows more leisurely use of the top of the barn again, before high summer makes the space too oppressive. Eight years ago we made major renovations that made the loft more fully accessible and usable, gaining 500 square feet of storage and retreat space – my three-season retreat, as it were. The elbow room has been quite liberating. I love to sit at the hall door, reading and sipping a drink while overlooking my domain. How good, tranquil, it feels. How much I love listening to rain fall on its roof, too.
  2. The rush of spring now brings on fresh lettuce and spinach in our garden. Turning the compost, I’m delighted to see so many red wigglers already active – my little buddies in restoring the earth where we live.
  3. I’ve thought about The Daily Vulture as a title. Seeing them now reminds me of my bird watching on my daily commute, back when I was driving daily. Gee, would the name befit a newspaper?
  4. Thinking, too, of all the near misses on those drives. A few seconds this way or that and I would have been road kill. A feast for the vultures. Far more times than I’d care to recount.
  5. Nice poets are a dime a dozen and largely ignored. Makes me wonder about assuming a hidden identity as a Quaker Agitator, waiting to be claimed. As for amateur theologians? Time to emulate Swami?
  6. There are far more writers than I could ever read. Even in any of my fields of interest. And far more advice.
  7. After living here, in a richly pedestrian-friendly small city in New England, or on historic Bolton Hill in Baltimore, or even the inner city of Binghamton, how sterile I find so many other neighborhoods where I’ve lived or wandered.
  8. How essential and uplifting that sense that says I’M HERE!
  9. As he said of himself, “I go to extremes.” Still, there wasn’t a sweeter human. And he still had his beard in the end. As for our demons and passions?
  10. Hebrew “to know” is yada. Another rich word.

~*~

Guess which one caught my attention.

Guess which one caught my attention.

 

There, on the ground floor of Boston's historic Faneuil Hall, a vendor to warm my heart.

There, on the ground floor of Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall, a vendor to warm my heart.

 

AN EMPORIUM OF TRIVIALITY, TEN ITEMS AT A TIME

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

~*~

  1. Once again, Saturday mornings mean yard sales – an alternative economy that runs into October around here. I’m putting requests in to my two favorite, very savvy, shoppers. Last time they picked up a nifty pair of speakers for my stereo — five bucks, at that — and two fine Spanish diccionarios. See if they can come up with those CD opera collections I’d enjoy.
  2. The first daytime sounds of spring – lawnmowers and motorcycles – are in the air. Peepers, long in play, have been filling nights around vernal ponds.
  3. The first smells of spring for the American male: the charcoal or gas grill and igniting, plus the roasting food – countered by lawnmower gasoline.
  4. In my research for my newest novel, I come across the affectionate Greek word koukla … doll, girlfriend, pretty, pumpkin. Never connected it to one of my favorite children’s television sereis in my dim past, Koukla, Fran, and Ollie, which I’d always thought was one word. Those puppets still look better than anything on the so-called Reality Shows. Their dialogue was no doubt better.
  5. Sometimes, slipping into visual artist mode, I see other humans as cartoon figures. Usually it’s on the street.
  6. So much of my life has been out of balance. Quaker worship, at least, keeps restoring the equipoise.
  7. One shaman, who stayed briefly with us, goes drumming and singing for whales to return after a long absence. Much of his lore comes from comes from weekends spent with his grandmother in a nursing home. I’m grateful to those who’ve stayed faithful.
  8. From what I’ve observed, those who speak most stridently of liberty have tyranny at heart. They’re contemptuous of others, mean-spirited, and misery.
  9. The first week of May is gaudy. Trees of big clumps of bright yellow-green, for starters. Somehow autumn comes to mind first when we mention gaudy.
  10. The month of fresh asparagus stirs memories of Yakima, where the spears grow wild as “local ‘grass” throughout the valley. We’d glut ourselves to the bitter end of each season.

~*~

Can anyone decode this Dumpster graffiti for me? Love the style, as it is.

Can anyone decode this Dumpster graffiti for me? Love the style, as it is.

 

TWAS EVER THUS

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

~*~

  1. The anticipation mounts when we espy our first asparagus shoots. At this point they express their kindred alignment with ferns, but we know how incredible the spears will be cut minutes before cooking. Forget what you buy in the stores or restaurants.
  2. “Twas ever thus,” as my Mr. Natural tee-shirt still proclaims.
  3. With a sticker covering part of the box, what I read was “Rock Pot, the Original Slow Cooker.” You know, like back in the Stone Age.
  4. It wasn’t in the plan when we decided to dine in Manchester, but I wound up leading a tour through the city’s West Side, plus the millyard and overlook of the Amoskeag falls and dam. “That was as satisfying as having a destination,” she proclaimed.
  5. Pondering the Holy Spirit as Shekinah. Why not a female as holy lover? The Kabbalist perceiving sparks (holy Light) everywhere! Consort of God as feminine action. As for Lillith? Ah, yes, what of her?
  6. Trying to translate from one era or culture to another presents a host of challenges. The term “kingdom of God,” for instance, can convey both patriarchy and monarchy at odds with contemporary American outlooks. I like the “commonwealth of God” instead, though there’s nothing common about it.
  7. How I’ve come to enjoy any stay-in-my-sweats day, one where I drive nowhere. Soon it may turn into slip into shorts and sandals, but the effect’s the same.
  8. How does that big city newspaper get the partygoers to look so good in its weekly charity events page?
  9. I hate “small talk” – or at least struggle with it in many social settings. Any suggestions?
  10. What do I crave? Lust for? (As for you?)

~*~

Virtually all of the rail traffic to and from Maine and the rest of the nation passes along these tracks in downtown Dover, along with the four Amrak runs to Boston and back each day.

Virtually all of the rail traffic to and from Maine and the rest of the nation passes along these tracks in downtown Dover, along with the four Amrak runs to Boston and back each day.

For my slideshow of Amtrak’s Downeaster in town, click here.

TAURUS, TENDERLY

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

~*~

  1. Daffodils and rising scrolls of ferns are two of my favorite proclamations of spring. Last year a sharp drop in temperature cut the daffodils down just as they were starting to bloom. We were so disappointed. (The same snap also wiped out peaches across New England.) How quickly, too, can a vibrant patch go scraggly if you don’t divide the bulbs every few years. As for our ferns, I now feel vindicated for all the ones I transplanted in futile efforts that first decade before they took hold here.
  2. Likewise, hold true to a vision of progress, of a more just and loving society, a realm of selflessness over selfishness.
  3. Hard for me to believe I composed Village of Gargoyles while living in an apartment complex atop the highest hill in the biggest city in the state – before moving to the smaller city where I now reside – a place more befitting the village of these poems.
  4. Need to get new Tibetan prayer flags. The old ones are totally frayed.
  5. Has anyone else read Ned Rorem’s Paris Diary or its New York sequel? Saturated in the self-centeredness and self-indulgence of youth, they’re deliciously juicy and fun reading, though I could never be snide like that. Besides, if I did it here at the Barn, you wouldn’t know anyone in my circles. They’re not even celebrities, even of the minor sort. So much for the gossip on my end.
  6. While assembling the hammock, I heard a squirrel overhead scolding one of the neighborhood cats, likely the one we call Spooky. “Get it,” I urged the cat. Whereupon an empty Nutella jar landed on the table, barely missing me, its lid neatly chewed around. Something the squirrel had pilfered from what one of the kids had likely hidden in the barn sometime over the winter. I looked around but saw nobody to confirm was had just transpired. Trust me.
  7. My emotional wall just may be a shell, too.
  8. In my first moves, all my goods fit in my car.
  9. During the American Revolution, the village center that served as Rhode Island’s capital changed its name from King’s Town to Little Rest, with its delicious double meaning.
  10. Yearning for a renewed feeling of bliss – the holy ecstasy – something I wish she, too, would experience, however foreign it might seem now.

~*~

By my side at the moment. My coffee mug's on a shelf above it.

By my side at the moment. My coffee mug’s on a shelf above it.