Jnana's Red Barn

A Space for Work and Reflection

Tag: Boston

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.

 

OH, SUCH PLEASURE IN THE SPRAY!

Penguins at the New England Aquarium take utter delight in the periodic rounds of spray around their pool.

Penguins at the New England Aquarium take utter delight in the periodic rounds of spray around their pool.

The New England Aquarium at the edge of Boston Harbor is a fascinating destination. And penguins can be endlessly amusing.

Boston is a rich and varied destination – the Hub of New England, or the Universe, as they used to say. Living a little more than an hour to the north, we’re well within its orb.

 

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.

 

HONORING THE MARITIME LEGACY

 

Suspended overhead.

Suspended overhead.

A reconstructed whale skeleton suspended in the New England Aquarium pays homage to the region’s close relationship to the sea. For generations, whaling was a major industry that provided essential oil to illuminate the night. The aquarium sits on a wharf in Boston Harbor.

The city is a rich and varied destination – the Hub of New England, or the Universe, as they used to say. Living a little more than an hour to the north, we’re well within its orb.

And you knew all along it was a flipper, right?

And you knew all along it was a flipper, right?

 

STARTING OUT BEHIND ONCE AGAIN

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. This month’s annual perusal of seed catalogs leads to opening our shoeboxes of seeds themselves – counting and inspecting all the packets remaining from previous seasons. Makes for quite an impressive array, even if I’m not the principal gardener. Just listen to all that considered discussion and dreaming on the part of the actual planters, the mother and daughter and their friends.
  2. Even in retirement, I require a timetable – a to-do list – some sense of priorities and direction, in addition to routine. What does that say about me?
  3. From spam email: “Man Snake Enlargement.” Also, “Man Pole.” (Um, like a May Pole?) English terms pale by comparison.
  4. My Motets move in poetic processes that largely lack images. It’s a curious twist for me.
  5. At a holiday gathering with friends and family, one of the tots picks up my Peterson bird guide. Claudia intercepts it, opens it, and, as if it’s an illustrated children’s text, begins inventing a story. “This is Emily. And what’s this duck doing? It’s FLYING! And this one …” Anyone else think there’s another book waiting to take off there?
  6. Taking a few risks, looking at the proposal and rules. If I fail, it’s more on my own terms.
  7. Memory, as counterpoint and harmony for the present. Or maybe dissonance and discord.
  8. Still can’t take in the news.
  9. Parasite: a freeloader, usually fatal. Lives off the work of others. Seldom demonstrates gratitude or other qualities of good upbringing.
  10. What happens when we lose our sense of mission?

~*~

Fennel seeds dusted in snow.

Fennel seeds dusted in snow. Our herb garden at rest.

 

AND NOW FOR ‘TENDRILS’

Here’s a new category that’s been percolating for some time, and I’m finally launching it here at the Red Barn – a format with 10 short, bullet entries each round, ideally reflecting places my mind roams and reaches. Admittedly, the title Tendrils is a pun, but among other things, the series is supposed to be fun.

The essential point is quite simple. Being mindful of what’s right in front of us can be a vital practice, but it’s also a challenge. The observations don’t have to be profound or run off in depth, but the simple act of acknowledging their presence does have spiritual and psychological value.

One of my ways of entering the silence of Quaker worship – or of settling down into meditation, for that matter – is to try to recall what’s happened over the previous week, something that can be surprisingly elusive in the rush of daily life. For me, it’s a way of getting grounded and staying on course rather than being blown mindlessly about.

Here goes, then – 10 from my end.

~*~

  1. For many gardeners, January is a time for perusing seed catalogs and planning what to plant where. My wife refuses to even look at the catalogs that arrive before the new year – feels it’s somehow sacrilegious, like all that Christmas decor before Halloween, much less Thanksgiving. I’ll agree. Besides, far too much holiday action has been going on up till now.
  2. I’m still not reading the news. But I am revisiting a lot of the Bible these days, especially where the prophets seem to be addressing today.
  3. We traditionally attend to one of the Revel’s last winter performances right after Christmas Day. See our trip to Harvard’s Sanders Theater as an affirmation of the 12 Days of Christmas that run till January 6. What a lovely time for family and celebration!
  4. The buyout came five years ago – followed by another year of part-time shifts, which were curiously free of office tension – at least of the kind caused by wondering about any remaining security. The proposal had been hanging through months of negotiations, pulled off the table, and then, suddenly, I was informed I’d be unemployed by the end of the week.
  5. When we moved into our current home, the place across the street was in impeccable shape. But changing circumstances led to nearly two decades of deferred maintenance and neglect, and it was frightening to observe how quickly a house can start falling apart in this harsh New England climate.
  6. There’s been no Maine shrimp season for several years now, and the moratorium has been extended for this winter – the fourth in a row. While the local shrimp are small by market standards, they’re quite tasty and easy to work with. The shells pop right off. We’re hoping the fishery recovers in time for next year.
  7. Considering the challenges before us? The hippie legacy needs to kick into gear about now. Resurrection of the Dead, as it were. Older, wiser, tougher. Keep the faith – and keep on truckin’.
  8. My wife says I have an Old Testament countenance these days. My face has changed, she continues. Dunno, but I can say I’m feeling different. More grounded, perchance. Or more focused on what remains.
  9. Looking back on the past year, I remain inspired by a paragon of courage and integrity: Khzir Khan and his wife, Ghazala. The cause is far from over.
  10. In the mirror of our national turmoil, we who believe in reason, justice, and commonwealth need to remember what we stand for – much more than what we stand against.

~*~

This wrought-iron love seat in a far corner of our yard also serves as a measure of our snowfall. Frequently, the snowpack rises to the seat itself -- and often to the top of the back rail.

This wrought-iron love seat in a far corner of our yard also serves as a measure of our snowfall. Frequently, the depth rises to the seat itself — and often to the top of the back rail or higher. But that doesn’t make for a telling photo, does it?

 

CLOCKING THE AGES

At the rear of the great hall.

At the rear of the great hall.

The great speeches, lectures, and debates gracing Faneuil Hall over the years reflect the rise and advance of American liberty and democracy.

Boston is a rich and varied destination – the Hub of New England, or the Universe, as they used to say. Living a little more than an hour to the north, we’re well within its orb.