This is ecstasy, and behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain. It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love. A sense of oneness with sun and stone. A thrill of gratitude to whom it may concern-to the contrapuntal genius of human fate or to tender ghosts humoring a lucky mortal.
The last few weeks I have passed many a quiet hour in the company of a brilliant and fascinating dead man.
While I sat in a chair swinging and sipping a cup of steaming tea, he shared detailed memories of his happy childhood. Near the warm glow of a fire, he taught me new words (cacology, fop, vicissitudes, incunabula, and impecunious) and secret things about butterflies. I was saddened by his tales of war and exile, even as he kept these in the periphery of a vividly lived life. He showed me sunsets in Berlin, gardens in St. Petersburg, and seashores along the western coast of France. Last night as I turned the last page of Nabokov’s memoir, it felt a lot like losing a friend. What a beautiful mind.
Speak, Memory; An Autobiography Revisited is the literary equivalent of a truffle. I savored it in small bites, never wanting it to end.
First, thank you, thank you to last week’s yogis. Donations went to the Red Cross for disaster relief in the Philippines.
There will be two more Thursday night yoga classes this year before I head into the depths of the cave for hibernation. See dates and details below.
Thursday, November 21 @ 7:00 p.m. This is a pay-what-you-can donations class with 100% of the proceeds going to the Memphis Union Mission. $50.10 will provide 30 Thanksgiving meals for those seeking food and shelter at the mission. If you have gently used coats to spare, donate those too as they are currently having a coat drive.
Thursday, December 5 @ 7:00 p.m. This is a pay-what-you-can donations class with 100% of the proceeds going to Church Health Center.
Both classes are in my cave, fireside. Expect a slow, restorative practice focused on relaxation.
For more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you know why the caged rose sings?
This week as the roses are making one last glorious stand against the imminent winter, I have been running around the yard cheering them on. Today’s bright chill and tonight’s impending freeze threatens to squeeze the life right out of them. A surrendered rose is such a sad (though still beautiful) sight. But tonight we gather close tonight around the fire.
It’s not just the roses creating a spectacle. The pineapple basil, of all things, has decided to shoot off some fireworks during its last hurrah.
And there’s Nickel Kitty, who appears to be a little disgusted by all the attention being lavished on the flowers.
Vase: $1.00 from the Goodwill
Flowers: Free from God.
Fall Beauty: Priceless.
(Who needs Mastercard?)
Author: Sheryl Sandberg
Synopsis: Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, gives women career advice. She also discusses the problems women face in getting leadership roles and how to overcome them.
Why I Read It: Someone at a convention raved about the book during a talk.
Full Disclosure: My opinions may be biased by my dislike of her employer. I don’t do Facebook; the whole phenomenon seems at best a waste of mental resources, and at worst a dismaying invasion of privacy. All that said, I read the book because Sandberg is an accomplished woman writing on a topic, women in leadership, which is interesting and relevant being that I’m a woman and all.
Highlights: It was a quick, easy, well-organized read. Every chapter is concentrated into its one sentence essence (so tidy!!), which made the content memorable. There were a couple of these that stood out:
- Don’t Leave before You Leave, in which she discusses the problem of being focused on some future event rather than on your present job, and
- It’s a Jungle Gym Not a Ladder, in which she discusses the trajectory of a career and how it’s ok to move laterally and all around instead of constantly climbing up, up, up. I appreciate the playfulness of this metaphor.
Lowlights: I had a hard time relating to Sandberg. First off, I am drawn to work that is academic and not corporate. My fields are already dominated by women. I’ve been mentored by women, promoted by women. Likewise, I teach women and promote them. As a result, sometimes the issues she wrote about seemed remote. Secondly, her writing style was safe and overly-processed….a little too polished.
Recommended to: 1.) Men - every last one of you should read it. 2.) Working women with children. 3.) Ambitious women just beginning their careers.
“It’s not about biology, but about consciousness”
If you want to learn more here’s a Ted Talk she gave on the topic.
He fires up his joint and takes a deep inhale.
She watches, a little afraid and a lot disappointed, as his eyes go flat and boring. It’s stinky and smoky and dark and she’s cold. She doesn’t like it here.
He is usually so much more fun than this, especially when they watch Saturday morning rasslin’ together. Between commercial breaks he roars and picks her up over his head like he’s Jerry “The King” Lawler and she’s Junkyard Dog. He turns in a slow circle showing his imaginary audience how strong he is while she clings to his wrists for dear life and screams, “No! No! Put me down!”
“Down?? You want down?”
“Wait! No! Stop! Please! Maaaaamaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!”
She screams in terrified delight as he body slams her down on the couch.
She lies there stunned for the 3 count while he flexes and makes his face look mean like he’s the Incredible Hulk. Then he lumbers off to the kitchen to get a Coke out of the ‘fridge.
Momma always yells at him at this point in the routine, “Stop doing that! You’ll break her ribs!”
“Well, I have to win the match somehow,” he replies.
“I mean it. Don’t do that. You could make her lungs collapse and kill her.”
“Nah, I’m just toughenin’ her up.”
Saturday morning rasslin’ is the real He-man rasslin’ and definitely not to be confused with that “kissy face” wrestling that they do in the Ol’-limp-kicks. She is still trying to work out what exactly the Ol’-limp-kicks is. It is a sports thing, she knows. They’ve explained that it happens every 4 years. She is 4. It is something to do with her birthday? They said no. They said it happened even before she was ever around – before she was even thought of. There is something deeply suspicious about this. How could things go on without her around? The question makes her head feel funny, so she thinks about something else.
She wishes it was Saturday morning.
But it’s not Saturday. He passes the joint to his friend, who takes it, glances at her, then back and him. Between hits he asks, “Do you think she knows what we’re doing?”
Of course she knows what they’re doing. They’re being bad. Momma would be so mad. Daddy smokes Lucky Strikes, which is bad Momma says. But Daddy doesn’t smoke “wacky tabacky,” which is way more bad. She doesn’t say any of this. Even though she is looking at them, they are looking through her and talking about her like she doesn’t understand English or like she is deaf.
She knows about being deaf because a really long time ago, when she was 3, she lived in Texas and her best friend in the whole world lived next door and she was deaf for real. Daddy had explained it all to her then. He told her that her best friend was deaf and dumb. It’s not nice to call someone dumb, she told him. He said he wasn’t being mean – it wasn’t that kind of dumb.
He said, “You know how some people can’t hear and they’re called deaf?”
Well, no, in fact, she didn’t know anything about that. How come they couldn’t hear? What did they hear if they couldn’t hear? Was being deaf like when the wind blows everybody’s words away? Or did they not even hear the wind? Do deaf people’s ears ever ring when nothing is actually ringing like hers sometimes do? Does being deaf sound like the way you hear under water? Do your ears feel full of water when you are deaf?
Sometimes Daddy seems to know a lot and sometimes he doesn’t seem to know much of anything at all. She sorta-kinda got the idea, though.
Daddy went on, “When people can’t talk they are called dumb. It’s just a way to describe someone who can’t talk.”
“Dumb isn’t a nice word, Daddy,” she reminded him again.
Besides, she understood everything her best friend said. Her best friend didn’t say things the way everybody else said things, so you couldn’t listen with just your ears.
She misses her best friend. When her family moved back to Memphis, her best friend stayed in Texas.
She remembers Texas and the night they met. She was outside her new house with Momma and Daddy. The sun was about to go to bed for the night when the neighbors came out of the house right beside theirs. And there was her best friend. They both squealed and immediately the chase was on. Running, running, running. Cool grass on bare feet. Lungs aching with the effort of breathing around giggles, squeals, and exhaustion. The sheer joy of having a friend. Of being seen!
That night as she scratched at her berjillion mosquito bites, her parents murmured in sad, serious tones things she didn’t comprehend.
“… woman in a child’s body”
“…must be hard.”
“What a shame.”
She didn’t understand her best friend was “different” until one day during another endless game of Chase, she tripped over a broom in the driveway. Face slides across bumpy concrete. Pebbles scrape tender skin on palms and knees. Best friend sees her fall and panics, collapsing to the ground beside her. Hands flapping. Moaning. Best friend didn’t fall, why is she crying? Oh, oh, face on fire. It hurts. Best friends crying together. Blood-curdling screams. The scene strikes fear in the heart of both Mommas, who rush out to fix their injured children.
Mercurochrome is dabbed on her scrapes – even on her nose. “Hey Rudolph, what happened to you?” Daddy will say when he gets home from work.
Momma decides it’s better for her not to play with her best friend, who is so much older. She might hurt her, accidentally.
Bruises and scrapes will heal in a few days. Other kinds of hurts take much longer.
Morning light. Tired eyes open, squinty. Through the fringe of eyelashes the air is alive with fairy dust. Eyes wide now. Mamma and daddy need to see this! There are whys that need to be answered. Why did the fairies come and decorate the air? And why did they leave?
She doesn’t yet know the word “mote,” but she is an expert on glitter. She decorates paper plates with glitter and glue. And she can make a necklace with macaroni and string. The macaroni necklace needs glitter and glue! She’ll have to tell mamma.
The air is so pretty. It’s just like the water drops in the bathtub that turn to diamonds when you look at them right. No one else seems to see them. It’s always, ”Hurry up. Get out of the tub. I’m tired” or “Come on, we need to dry your hair before you get sick.”
She discovers momma and daddy still asleep, oblivous to fairies and air that glitters.
Daddy is better at why. She pads over to his side of the bed where he is asleep on his back. She stands there patiently waiting for him to wake up. An eternity of 10 seconds passes. She stares at him trying to force him awake with her will. Nothing. She stands there wondering what is the best way to wake him up without making him grumpy. She has an idea! She will open his eyes for him so he can wake up seeing the sparkly air. She positions her fingers above his eye lid and then pops it open.
He jumps awake like he’s been shot.
She runs away as he yells, “Valentina! What the hell are you doing?!”
She adds another why to the ever growing collection: Why does nobody ever seem impressed that the whole world sparkles?
Yesterday, I planted a hibiscus outside my bedroom door. I pulled some weeds, rearranged a few planters, fully immersed in my happy little zen place. As I was positioning a little garden angel to better rest in the imagined spring violets, I felt a sudden white hot stab of pain in my hand. A moment later an army of wasps rose menacingly out of the little angel. I didn’t stick around to see what would happen next.
I was wearing what I normally wear when I garden, which is basically the equivalent of a space suit. By now I’m familiar with the routine of everything in my garden trying to kill me, so I was shocked that the little bugger managed to stab me clear through my thick rubber gloves. He got me on the right hand, just under the knuckle of my ring finger. Today whenever I try to curl my hand to do things like open the fridge, get the peanut butter jar, turn on the kitchen sink, type, grab my phone, brush my teeth, read my book, or well, anything, there is a bone deep ache in that joint. A preview of coming arthritic attractions, I suppose. How something so small can wreck such huge havoc is quite the mystery, and also possibly the hope for us all.
Meanwhile, the bruised universe on my leg appears to be expanding. The swirl of amethyst is now dotted with peach pinpoints, while the periphery is a nicotine-yellow haze. On the whole, the bruise bears a resemblance to the melting face of a swamp monster – the sort of thing you would see chasing a panicked Scooby Doo.