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Thursday, December 15, 2016

In front of all this beauty

That moon!  All the way in this morning the moon lead the way, large, cold-blue, and ever-so-slightly fuzzy from somthing in the dark atmosphere between it and me.  It floated, limned and bright, always slighty to the right of my forward progress, visible through the front windshield or the glass portion of my car's roof.

When I arrived at my office on campus (with, I kid you not, Creedence Clearwater's Bad Mood Rising playing on my car's sound system) I stood in the parking lot, shivering, and drank it in as it glowed as bright as a street light between the denuded trees next to me. The sureal colors created by the sulfur street lamps were mocked by the moon's pristine blue-white reflection.
This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary.
   - Tory Dent, The Moon and the Yew Tree

From Bruce Cockburn's, Understanding Nothing:
High above valley,
Above deep shade coloured with the calls of cuckoos,
The ring of coppersmith's hammer high in the hiss of the wind
Wind filled with spirits and bright with the jangle of horse bells
After a crisp night crammed with stars
It's morning
Weavers' fingers flying on the loom
Patterns shift too fast to be discerned
All these years of thinking
Ended up like this
In front of all this beauty
Understanding nothing

Today's playlist:

  • Pure Prairie League: Amy
  • America: Sister Golden Hair
  • Bob Marley & The Wailers: Is This Love
  • The Young Rascals: Good Lovin'
  • King Harvest: Dancing in the Moonlight
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival: Bad Mood Rising

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Energy wins out

Brrrr. A clear dark sky brings temperatures in the high 20's (F, ~-2C) this morning.  The roads are mostly dry, thankfully, but little splashes of ice pop up here and there, so most folks are taking it slow this morning.
Headlamps reflecting off the tail lights and any bright-work
bedecking the back-ends of the cars in front of us;
a slow-moving procession as we wind cautiously down the
icy road on this clear-sky-cold morning. 
The cold asphalt holds the moisture tightly to itself
in a frozen embrace, reflecting streetlamps, headlamps,
the occasional faint star's light from millions of years before.
Or does the frozen water hold the street? 
No, I think it is the clear-eyed sky, darkly backlight
in this early hour, wide open to the warmlessness
of eons of deep space and far-traveled starlight that holds both
road and ice in a bracing grip: winter. 
     - Cold Road, December 2016
The usual cold morning tension: part of me would like to stay home warm and curled up with a good book, the other part of me is coiled energy ready to be up, out, and productive.  Energy wins out.

Today's Playlist:

  • NPR News for a bit, then:
  • Sigur Rós, Rafmagnið búið
  • Sigur Rós, Hrafntinna
  • Sigur Rós, Heysátan

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

We know this narrative's path

It is Mr. Malleable's day of the week.  The skies are dark and cloudy, the roads glisten with wet, yet it isn't raining.  There are freshly-fallen leaves strewn about the sidewalks and, where there are no sidewalks, the sides of the road where asphalt meets gravel or grass.  They have certainly fallen since the last rains came through because they still move like free spirits, not yet wet and heavy.  They move like they still live high up in the breeze zone, they don't yet know they have died.

The transit bus in front of me must be trying to catch up with its schedule. A big boxy White Rabbit, it is moving along at an anxious full legal speed (plus a little).  The freshly-fallen leaves get caught up in the bus' swirling wake and dance up in front of me on the road before sweeping under my front bumper.  If it weren't so dark out I'm sure I would be able to see them behind me, now dancing in the wake of my car.

This is the season of dark mornings and dark evenings.  Of watching for shadows that move along the sides of the road (don't they know that all-black clothing, while fashionable, is totally invisible in the dark?) against the glare of on-coming headlights, on both the morning and evening commutes.  Caution mixed with impatience adds to the volatility of the road.
Even the swarms of kids have given in
To winter's big excuse, boxed-in allure:
TVs ricochet light behind pulled curtains. 
The days throw up a closed sign around four.
The hapless customer who'd wanted something
Arrives to find lights out, a bolted door. 
     - Maggie Dietz, from November
Gas prices are down again these days. Big and excessively-big vehicles fill the roads as those with short memories happily wrap themselves in 2 tons of aggressive sheet metal so they can once again tower over the rest of the traffic.  I shake my head, bemused. They will probably be making excessively-big car payments for much longer than the gas prices will stay artificially depressed, but as we've seen this same movie a few times already I can't feel too much sympathy.  Big, small, slow, fast, weak, powerful: everyone gets the opportunity to move at the same speed, which is precisely no faster than the car in front of you.  The only variable is how much gas you consume while you move in queue.
Traffic was heavy coming off the bridge,
and I took the road to the right, the wrong one,
and got stuck in the car for hours.  
Most nights I rushed out into the evening
without paying attention to the trees,
whose names I didn't know,
or the birds, which flew heedlessly on. 
     - from A Partial History Of My Stupidity, by Edward Hirsch
History has been on my mind a lot of late.  I fear we're watching a rerun of things that happened just outside the immediate memory of almost everyone living today, but not outside recorded memory we are all very familiar with.  Like the gas prices movie, like freshly-fallen leaves.  We know the path this narrative flows through, so we are without excuses.
An infernal angel passed in flight
just now along the avenure
in a crush of thugs; an eerie emptiness
lit and festooned with swastikas engulfed him;
the poor, defensless windows, also armed
with guns and war toys too, are shuttered up,
the butcher who decked berries on the snouts
of his slaughtered baby goats has closed; the feast
of the meek executioners still innocent of blood
has turned into a foul Virginia reel of shattered wings,
ghosts on the sand bars, and the water rushes in
to eat the shore and no one's blameless anymore. 
    - Eugenio Montale, from The Hitler Spring
We're in an uneasy quiet right now, a wait-and-see pause.  Well, I am.  Cockburn, singing at me this morning as I drive along, casts just the right mood:
Bell in the fire station tower
Rings out the measure of the racing hours
I slip through the door to the roof outside
To gaze at the sign hanging in the sky
That sailor on the billboard looks so self-possessed
Doesn't have a thing to forgive or forget
All's quiet on the inner city front.
    - from, All's Queit On The Inner City Front

Today's Playlist (all Bruce Cockburn):
  • All the Diamonds In the World
  • All The Ways I Want You
  • All's Quiet On The Inner City Front
  • Ancestors

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Winter-tired in my acoustic bubble

This morning's chill is sharp, in contrast to my dull tiredness, as the garage door rolls up and back. Its springs creak plaintifully above the mechanical chugging and the clanking of metal hinges and plastic wheels. I commiserate with them this morning.  For reasons outside of my control and somewhere just beyond my ability to conciously understand I woke in the middle of last night and then tossed and turned for a couple of hours before finally finding sleep again, shortly before the morning alarm.  Thankfully not a common problem for me, though today it leaves me feeling as winter-tired as a leafless tree.

See, Winter comes to rule the varied year,
Sullen and sad, with all his rising train—
Vapours, and clouds, and storms. Be these my theme,
These, that exalt the soul to solemn thought
And heavenly musing. Welcome, kindred glooms!
     - James Thompson, from The Seasons: Winter
I've been listening to a shuffle of Sigur Rós tunes the last few days, leaving it as-is for this morning's drive. The rich and complex tapestry of their music rolls around my little car's cabin, creating a warm acoustic barrier against the dark pre-dawn morning.  The Fiat isn't much more than a little bubble anyway, but this morning it feels totally spherical.  Snug as a field mouse's winter nest, and me a claustrophobe who likes small spaces.
Ethereal globe of thinnest glass,
Sphere of air, yet visible,
What hand of nymph or fairy
Could mold thy fragile form,
Airy, bouyant, weighing naught?
And of what clay, if such it be,
Did thy creator model thee?
     - Frank M. Schoonmaker (10 yrs old), from Crystals
Today's playlist (all Sigur Rós):
  • Inní mér syngur vitleysingur (Live)
  • Sæglópur (Live)
  • Festival (Live)
  • E-Bow (Live

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The morning after and the luxury of ignorance

Wednesday morning came anyway.  I envy the birds wheeling around in the cloudy sky over my head this morning because they don't differentiate their days by what they fear or worry over, only by what actually happens to them when it happens.  They react when they must.  We people, on the other hand, parse the changing world around us in a much more granular and nuanced way, through complicated layers of what we think it all means for tomorrow.  This is one of those mornings, as palpable as a hangover, that feels not unlike the loss of a loved one.

How do we sort through this year's presidential election?  The pundits and analysts have been doing their best to make sense of it all since late last night, but for me it so far resolves into a couple of core thoughts:

First, never underestimate the willingness of people to enthusiastically vote against their own best interests when the issues become more complicated than their ability to follow them.  Like Hagrid says of the giants in Harry Potter, "...overload ’em with information an’ they’ll kill yeh jus’ to simplify things."

Second, closely related to the first, is a passage (the emphasis within is mine) from Charles Dickens, in A Christmas Carol:
“Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,” said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe, “but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?” 
“It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,” was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. “Look here. 
From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.
“Oh, Man, look here! Look, look, down here!” exclaimed the Ghost. 
They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread. 
Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
“Spirit, are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more. 
“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.”
We cannot maintain the greatness of this nation (or, in the words of the man who we have apparently elected to be our next President, "Make America great again!") by continuing to vilify education and intelligence. The luxury of ignorance runs deep in the veins of institutionalized oppression, but it doesn't ever preserve or build. We grew to economic dominance as a nation on the G.I Bill and the educated workforce it created. Now?

Imagine, if you can, that you are one of the women who came forward to point the finger at the man who sexually assaulted you and that you have just now seen your assailant become the most powerful man in the nation and, arguably, the world despite his own recorded admission of sexual predation. This same man who threatened to sue you, if elected, is now President elect.  What does that mean for Title IX investigations of alleged sexual assault taking place across college and university campuses all across our nation at this very moment?

Imagine, if you can, that you are not a Southern Baptist with, as Bruce Cockburn says in Gospel of Bondage, a "mouth full of righteousness and wrath from above."  Where does your faith now fit into our national dialog when other religions have been so vilified by the man now our President Elect?  I saw a bumper sticker the other day.  It was the common "Co-Exist" sticker written with religiously inclusive symbols as per usual, but it had a Christian cross standing alone to the right of the word and a sword was crossing out the word co-exist. A sword!
so i find out what the luxury of hate is
as exciting maybe as doing the dishes
face toward window -- light received
you walk away to see a film see some
people see a man
stab in throat twist in gut all too clear
not too new -- all been done before
planet breathes exhaustion
staggers on
enemy anger impotent gun grease
too many thoughts
too dogshit tired
one small step for freedom
from foregone conclusion
   - Bruce Cockburn, from You Get Bigger As You Go
Imagine, if you can, you are not a white midwestern or southern male.  You have likely been viciously and ignorantly profiled throughout this campaign by the man who is now our President Elect. He has promised to build a wall to keep some folks out of our country, to enforce a religious litmus test for all immigrants, to keep women marginalized and objectified and, in the words of what I thought was a prior era, "in their place."

It will be (darkly) interesting to see how this new Republican party handles what I suspect is a worst-case scenario for many in the party.  It's easy to obstruct and throw rocks when you are not in control of all three branches of government.  Now they are (or very soon will be) in control and suddenly the threats they have issued either have to be carried out (for which I think there will be significant consequences) or they have to find a way to back down.  And with their new leader in the White House, that's not going to be easy to do. Unfortunately, this is a train wreck we're watching from seats on the train.

We've really done it to ourselves this time, and now we'll have to see what the consequences shape up to be in the coming months and years.  We will have to find a way forward.  Maybe this will finally bring the majority coalition together tightly enough to get us over this last-gasp ass-clenching of the formerly-entitled.

Just as it is for the birds above me this morning, each day will follow the last and we will respond to each situation as it emerges.  Maybe we'll learn something more about ourselves in the process, something we can use to start moving forward again.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The rose above the sky, prints of a cat, and a freewheeling derby

The ghost-prints of a cat--two individual paw prints, to be precise--keep reappearing in front of my eyes as I drive in this morning.  After every swipe of the wipers they shimmer there for a fleeting second or two and then disappear as the rain overtakes them.  No idea what the cat had on his feet that left such a lasting imprint on my windshield overnight but its faint and ghostly residue, reappearing with each swipe, haunts my drive like something from a Scooby-Doo cartoon.

There are two musicians/groups I listen to more than any others, enough to have a playlist (each) of their music ready to hand: Sigur Rós and Bruce Cockburn.  Today was a Bruce Cockburn playlist sort of day.  Really good, really familiar music is one way to escape the constant turmoil of the simultaneously most-ridiculous and most-frightening presidential election in living memory (which, unfortunately, is saying something).  The mind, though, has a knack for making order out of random, shifting the magnetic letters on the fridge door into sentences.  Like the last scene in the BBC film of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy where pulling the scrabble pieces out of a bag randomly brings up a totally cohesive and totally wrong sentence, this morning's playlist let lyrics leap out at me, pulling me back to thoughts of this election:
Gutless arrogance and rage
Burn apart the best of tries
You carry the weight of inherited sorrow
From your first day till you die
Toward that hilltop where the road
Forever becomes one with the sky 
'Til the Rose above the sky
And the light behind the sun
Takes all 
    - from The Rose Above the Sky, by Bruce Cockburn
Gutless arrogance and rage, indeed.

Fall in the Pacific Northwest is mostly wet and gray, with scattered days of clear-ish skies. Inconsistent weather, wet but not cold, makes for indecision about what to wear. I'll carry a coat again today, not wanting to wear it because I don't need its added warmth and weight, but knowing I'll probably need its ability to repel rain.  I'm reminded of a poem a wrote, well... at least 35 years ago, Deliverance of Derby:
An inverted wind-blown hat
Lies like a catch-basin under a rain gutter,
Cocked by a passing sidewalk breeze,
Straining to free itself from underneath
Its liquid load. 
Feet passing by in frenzied
Haste, some irresponsibly clad in last season's
Less-warm fashion, splash on through winter's
Rains. One, less agile than its counterparts,
Sets free the hat. 
In a shower of stale rain
The cascading derby dances over the lazy
Foot, drenching it in gratitude,
Then quickly catching upon another
Breeze, off it flies.
Come to think of it, I envy that derby, gratefully cartwheeling down the sidewalk while tossing off the things that worry-weigh it down.  Now I have today's goal fixed firmly in mind.

Today's Playlist (all Bruce Cockburn music):

  • The Rose Above the Sky
  • Free To Be
  • Nicaragua
  • You Get Bigger As You Go
  • Get Up Jonah

Friday, October 28, 2016

In the mood to lose my way with words and images

Friday, dark and lingeringly wet but not actually raining now.  The commute is almost bereft of traffic most of my way into campus, giving the dark side streets a post-apocalyptically eerie emptiness.  The illusion was thoroughly dispelled by the time I hit the main arterials, where all the traffic missing from side streets was now queued up at each of the lights.  This morning's mix of tunes shifted through instrumental, Icelandic, Spanish, back to instrumental, and finally settled on English.

John Mayer's song 3x5 popped up as I slowly rolled through campus. It's almost an anthem to anti-instagram/snapchat/facebook, savoring the real view over the recorded-and-shared view:
Didn't have a camera by my side this time
Hoping I would see the world with both my eyes
Maybe I will tell you all about it when I'm
In the mood to lose my way with words
   - full song lyrics here  
I suspect most of us can relate.  Too many self-important selfies blocking the scenery behind, or photos of reclining sandaled-feet in front of oceans, photos of breakfast, lunch, and dinner in other places instead of anything that really shows and shares those other places fill our social media streams.

On a recent trip to Vancouver, walking along the beautiful waterfront on a bright sunny day, most of the others walking along were in small groups, each with their own small screen walking heads-down-eyes-on-screen, pausing only long enough to take a selfie and then back to shuffling slowly along looking down.  Anything they recorded was all about where I am, rather than about where I am.  Both elements are essential to the story-line, of course, but there has to be some balance in the mix.  Or so I think (maybe a tiny bit like the angry old man on his front lawn with the plastic flamingos, shaking his head and finger at anyone younger than himself?).
Didn't have a camera by my side this time
Hoping I would see the world with both my eyes
And yet... I always do have my camera with me, and I really like that I do.  It's nothing fancy, just the one built into my phone, but it allows me to capture the small (and large) things I do see with both my eyes.  I'm no crack photographer by any means, but I do enjoy the challenge of trying to capture even a bit of what I see. Maybe pausing long enough to enjoy the big view of Vancouver's waterfront and then being inspired to try and bring home a visual sample of it...

Or some small and whimsical juxtaposition that caught my eye...

Or even trying to capture a fleeting moment of magically-shifting light as it momentarily dances through my kitchen window...

Or, and this is probably the most difficult kind of thing to capture in a single still photo, attempting to snag a feeling in and of the moment...

I think there is value in having both eyes and camera, so long as both are engaged.  Eyes outwardly focused, seeing and absorbing, feeding the soul and participating in the world around us.  Camera at the ready to capture those moments and experiences as best as possible, now and then. Then, the most important part of any saved experience - the retelling of the story.  In an image or with words, or with both. Storytelling is what connects us to each other and creates the sense of a shared experience.
Maybe I will tell you all about it when I'm
In the mood to lose my way with words

Today's playlist:

  • Easy Virtue, Robert Walter's 20th Congress
  • Track 6, Sigur Rós
  • Oculta Realidad, OBK
  • Pipe Down, Bill Frisell
  • 3x5, John Mayer

Monday, October 24, 2016

The poetry gourd

Dark and brooding, this morning's commute weather, and the car behind me clearly has retrofitted too-bright too-blue headlamps.  No doubt it will have a comically large spoiler on it's backside, too.  Overall, though, traffic is light this morning, the lights seem synced with my personal journey, and campus arrives in short order.

As all one of my regular readers will know, my morning cuppa is usually a "gourd" of yerba mate (mate, for short).  A quintessentially South American tradition, there is something very soothing about cupping the warm round gourd (in my case, a beautiful multicolored silicone gourd from Argentina) and sipping the warm earthy beverage up the metal straw (bombilla).

I've been working on mindfulness lately, and nothing is as conducive to that state as the simple satisfaction of drinking mate. It both gives energy (being a caffeinated beverage) and soothes. Like good poetry, it inspires reflection.

There isn't a lot of mate poetry, or at least not that I have found.  This rather surprises me, given its qualities.  But I did find this poem:
Mate is exactly the opposite of television: It makes you chat if you’re with someone, and it makes you think when you’re alone. 
Whenever somebody arrives at your house, the first thing that is said is, “Hello,” and the second is “¿unos mates?” (Would you like to drink some mates?).
This happens in everyone’s house. In the house of the rich and of the poor.
This happens among chatty and curious women and also among serious and immature men, as well.
This happens among the old people who live in nursing homes and among the adolescents while they study or get high. 
It’s the only thing that parents and children share without having arguments about it.
Peronists and radicals, they share mate without hesitating an instant. 
    - Lalo Mir, from Mate Is Not A Drink
And this one, too:
Flower of light and energy
Blossoms through the heart
Gently enveloped in fresh fruit and leafy tone  
An unfolding of nature’s secrets
Following patterns ingrained
By days and months and years
Of perfected work under the sun (shade). 
Inhaling this bouquet - classic, friendly…
World of taste, without exaggeration,
If you recognize that drinking
Is as much of an art as creating
You’ll let the vines penetrate
Their way through your veins 
   - from About Campfire Yerba Mate

Today's playlist:

  • Meet Virginia, Train
  • Dang Me, Roger Miller
  • I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You) [Live], John Mayer
  • Bigger Than My Body, John Mayer
  • When Cicadas Marched, Jeff Johnson & Phil Keaggy

Monday, September 12, 2016

We're still so agrarian in place and time

The mornings are different now than they were just a few short weeks ago.  The sun is out, but it's only in the mid-50's as I drive in this morning.  The forecast is all sun globes for the week ahead, but nothing tops the mid-70's in that forecast.  The weather is nothing but comfortable now in this idyllic pseudo-season; nobody will be complaining about the weather this week.

Melissa says a significant portion of the lavender is still blooming and there are still a few hearty roses worth admiring and smelling.  I know the beans are still yielding, but they are slowing.  Tomatoes are pretty much done, the last tomatillo has been harvested and the plants are just about ready to pull for the season.  It is a ritual we tend to leave until fall is well settled so as not to violate the remnant of our summer.  Or, as Karina Borowicz says in her poem, September Tomatoes:
It feels cruel. Something in me isn’t ready
to let go of summer so easily. To destroy
what I’ve carefully cultivated all these months.
Those pale flowers might still have time to fruit. 
I'm torn, like the season.  Part of me, if I am honest, is ready for the crisp sharp air of fall and the settling-in activities that come with it.  No doubt the shortening daylight registers with something primordially internal I've long-since lost conscious contact with.  Part of me, though, is very much not ready to see summer leaving, with its bright and bounty and its sensory excesses.
The morning paper lists how many minutes
the sunlight lasts--fact without a hint
of the three minutes lost since
yesterday. In late September, even
those who do not track the time,
as I do, can be startled by the rapid,
sure decline of days growing
hooded at both ends.
   - Summer's Last Tomatoes, by Jacquelyn Malone
Convocation today, the campus stirs in earnest as most of the employees return to kick off the new year. Though the college year technically starts with summer quarter, fall is the real beginning of the school year in most minds.  School starts--as it always has done--when the harvest is in, when the stars form certain predictable patterns, when the birds start to migrate.

We are, after all, still so agrarian in our collective sense of where we are in space and time.

Today's full playlist:
  • My Maudlin Career, Camera Obscura
  • Pieces of the Sun (Radio Version), Test Your Reflex
  • Donald Macgillavry (The Fight With The Blackfeet), Lewis & Clark Soundtrack
  • The Story, Brandi Carlile
  • On the Other Ocean, David Behrman

Friday, September 9, 2016

The sky reflected

Friday morning and all is blue skies.  The Popular Dude doesn't so much strut into the room today as bounce in full of energy and promise.  He holds the weekend in the palm of his hand, held just behind his back, with a wink in his eye.  Of course we're glad to see him again.

Top rolled back on the Fiat, cool morning breeze just across the top of my head, and Sigur Rós playing over the car's speakers, I toddle into campus.  The campus is slowly coming back to life in preparation for the start of fall quarter, just over a week away.  My calendar is mostly unstructured today, which is good.  The pace of email has also started to pick up and I need today to get caught up again.

But the bright blue skies on the drive in this morning are all I'm really thinking about yet.  They recall the trip we took to Vancouver this past extended weekend, and some of the photos I took and thoughts I recorded...

The Sky Reflected 
The pane reflects the color of sky so well
The window might not really be there at all.
The building, rising straight and tall at this seawall edge of the city,
Is only silver frames and sky-filled holes.
There is no wall. 
I am, for a moment, a bird slicing through air,
Destined to sail over, around, and between.
I cut the taut current of air, diving at a silver-framed sky-hole
Only to veer away from sky back to broad sky.
I am not fooled. 
But I am mesmerized by how well this tall
Stolidness muses the cloud-wheeling dancing
azure around it, descriptive in its distillation and yet quite
Poor in its clutched appropriation of the
Sky reflected. 
     - written September, 2016, Vancouver, B.C.

Today's full playlist (all songs by Sigur Rós):

  • Ísjaki
  • Hvalir Í Útrymingarhaettu
  • Bláprádur
  • Samskeyti (Live)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Within me a lunatic sings - song/poem fiction

Thursday is dark and very slightly raining.  For whatever reason this week has been impossible to keep straight.  Every day has been a multiplicity of weekdays.  Yesterday, for example, was constantly both Wednesday and Thursday, and today already feels like it must be both Thursday and Friday.

It happened again this morning, that the titles of the songs which randomly popped up on my phone during my short commute to the campus assembled themselves into something approaching poetry:
Another brick in the wall, then came the morning.
I'll do the driving while within me a lunatic sings*,
"Turn to stone, kangaroo court!"
*[Within me a lunatic sings is the English translation of the song title, Inní mér syngur vitleysingur.]
I didn't see that until I started to record this morning's soundtrack.  Hmmm... I'll bet with a little license I could create a short narrative:
Last night I dreamed claustrophobic Poe-esque storylines
All pounding heart and sealing walls
I know I squirmed against invisible bonds of sleep paralysis
As bricks slowly obscured my view
One brick, another brick, then another...

Another brick in the wallthen came the morning at last.
Who wastes their nights in such useless terror?
What else lies hidden in my mind, to creep out when all is at rest?
Inní mér syngur vitleysingur (within me a lunatic sings)
One song, another song, then another...

I leave for work, I think, under my own control
I'll do the driving, but what drives me?
As my own verdict silently and mindfully plays out I turn to stone.
The internal kangaroo court is laughing now
One laugh, another laugh, then another.

Within me a lunatic sings
That certainly wasn't how my night went, thankfully.  And this morning all I noticed was a string of really good tunes that kept me tapping the steering wheel all the way to campus.

Today's full playlist:
  • Another Brick In The Wall, Pink Floyd
  • Then Came The Morning, The Lone Bellow
  • I'll Do the Driving, Fountains Of Wayne
  • Inní mér syngur vitleysingur, Sigur Rós
  • Turn To Stone, Electric Light Orchestra
  • Kangaroo Court, Capital Cities

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Я не понимаю по-английски (I don't understand English)

Is it, isn't it going to rain on me this morning?  Nope - nary a drip hits my car as I putter in under a contradictingly bright but glowering sky.

Cutting across campus yesterday with a colleague we noticed that many of the trees were just starting to turn, starting to cut back on the production of chlorophyll.  No!  Summer just got here - it's only early August, for Pete's sake!
The squirrels are spreading the rumor: no more monkey business.
The Dow Jones hops up, then down, then back up, trying for attention,
           up against dog days.
The Capitol dome rattles like a witch doctor's gourd. “More Republicans,”
           warn the talking drums.
The networks labor underground to stockpile T, A, and blood capsules
           for Sweeps Week, when all hell won’t be enough to save some.
Pedestrians slip into light coats of pollen and mold spores.
   - from Summer's Almost Gone, by William Trowbridge
We live in a region where all four seasons are just barely distinct from one another and where the boundaries between them are gradual zones. It plays out like 8 small seasons rather than 4: Summer, not-summer, fall, not-fall, winter, not-winter, spring, not-spring, summer, repeat...

I remember being in Khabarovsk, in the Russian Far East, in late September.  The weather had been summer-hot for the first two weeks we were there, in the 90's with high humidity.  Then one morning it simply wasn't any more. A cold wind materialized overnight and suddenly you needed a coat to go outside, and so it stayed for the remainder of our trip.  The hot water service (centrally supplied and piped in huge tunnel-sized insulated over-ground pipes (permafrost only a few feet down) turned on and suddenly you could heat your apartment and get all the hot orange-brown water you wanted from your faucets.  The boundary between one season and the next was a clear demarcation.  They have pure seasons in the Russian Far East.  We have a cycle of vague transitions.

After ubiquitous seasons and a search
For anything to give them boundaries,
I wander in the sand avoiding rocks and
Glass, complaining of the seasons how
They cramp even my mirror, clouding a face
Which the broadest sort of caution will not clear
   - from, After Seasons, by Julia Maria Morrison

Since yesterday I've been listening to a "station" on Google Play Music, this one labeled, "Uplifting Indie Motivation."  I like dipping my toes into a stream of musicians and music I may not already be familiar with; I've found a lot of the musicians I like that way.  The music featured on this "station" is energetic and enjoyable. The lyrics - well, that's a different story (or lack thereof).  I sure don't come across any poets in the set of tunes I hear this morning. Mostly fragments of sentences that don't go anywhere but which sound vaguely lost and disillusioned with one song about someone on the run from the law for a hanging crime.  So, really good high-energy music and downer-to-useless lyric content.

That same trip to the Russian Far East I picked up a couple of CDs of the current Russian pop music.  It was good stuff (even the pop music there favors minor keys), though I understood very little of the words. Not understanding the lyrics didn't detract from being able to enjoy the music, though.

So I think I'll keep this station on and just pretend I don't understand English as I enjoy our very gentle glide-path away from summer into not-as-much-summer.

Today's full playlist:

  • Geronimo, Sheppard
  • Easy, Real Estate
  • Unbelievers, Vampire Weekend
  • Time to Run, Lord Huron
  • Up Up Up, Givers

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Quiet morning

Sunny and mild, a perfect open-top morning.  Traffic is light and drivin' is easy, even on the less-than-arterial roads that make up my short commute.  The music mix is good, though none of the lyrics (all love lost and angst) seem applicable to such a sunny mellow morning.
How from the quiet center, not the rim,
each man and animal and plant must grow
is plain to me who lived without the hope
of any God, and still lack proof of Him,--
but need it less--who feel and sense and know
the tentative blind shoot drawn safely up.
   - From The Quiet Center, by Edith Henricht
The campus is ghost-town quiet this morning as I pull in and point the Fiat toward the service road to the north campus cluster of buildings.  One car follows me in, closely, its hood sniffing at my exhaust pipe like a dog's inspection/greeting (dude, there's a speed-bump here - chill!), but there is no other movement.
I draw a curve around the door of my consciousness,
The door of the dawn of my vision and revelation,
And draw within, the horns of sentience folding upon themselves,
The folded hands of revelation
Holding the core, the pith, the kernel of quiet,
Of subjectivity, close-leaved, like a budded plant,
Close-winged, like a resting bird.
     - from, Curve of Quiet, by Amy Bonner
No other cars are moving, very few parked in the lots, and not a single body to be seen.  Thursday has obviously convinced a lot of people he brought the weekend with him.

Today's full playlist:
  • Where Would I Be, Cake
  • Country Mile, Camera Obscura
  • Movin' Away, My Morning Jacket
  • Art of Almost, Wilco

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Within to Match Without

Tuesday slips in quietly, wearing a thick roll of dark clouds around her like a comforter shawl that makes the morning light darker than usual through the bedroom blinds, and I would love to stay a bit later under my own comforter.  But I cannot think of any good reason to do so and can think of several good reasons not to.

A tattering of rain and then the reign
Of pour and pouring-down and down,
Where in the westward gathered the filming gown
Of grey and clouding weakness, and, in the mane
Of the light’s glory and the day’s splendor, gold and vain,
Vivid, more and more vivid, scarlet, lucid and more luminous,
Then came a splatter, a prattle, a blowing rain!
And soon the hour was musical and rumorous:
A softness of a dripping lipped the isolated houses,
A gaunt grey somber softness licked the glass of hours.
   - from, Darkling Summer, Ominous Dusk, Rumorous Rain, by Delmore Schwartz
I have to press the wipers into action on the drive in this morning, setting them to pass ever so slightly infrequently to keep pace with a light rain more mist than drops.  The cars that share my short commute seem divided into two specific camps: impatient, pushing, mad at the rain drivers and those drivers dawdling in indecisive wonder at all this sudden wetness.  Rain?  Summer? Pacific Northwest?
The rain, in the backyard where I watch it fall, comes down at different rates. In the center a fine discontinuous curtain — or network — falls implacably and yet gently in drops that are probably quite light; a strengthless sempiternal precipitation, an intense fraction of the atmosphere at its purest.
   - from, Rain, by Francis Ponge
The music stream shuffle is as determinedly mellow as the rain.  Even Bela Fleck's rapid-fire banjo rendition of a Paganini piece lands languidly on the ear.  Intermittent thunderstorms are predicted for later today; maybe the drive home will feature more raucous music, within to match without.

Today's Full Playlist:

  • Heaven/Where True Love Goes, Yusuf Islam
  • As Time Goes By, Mark O'Connor, Wynton Marsalis, Jane Monheit
  • Dreams Be Dreams, Jack Johnson
  • Number One, Joni Mitchell
  • Paganini - Moto Perpetuo, Bela Fleck
  • All Good Things, The Weepies

Friday, May 27, 2016

On war and a suggested Memorial Day Promise

As Memorial Day approaches, I think it is important to reflect on both the memory of those who have died in battle on our behalf and also on why we fight and die.  As is my habit in reflection, I turn to poetry and the writings of others to help me organize my seemingly conflicted thoughts into something more (I hope) cohesive.

There are wars, usually unbidden, that must be fought.  In defense of something real and something valuable, like preserving lives, and (though the word has, of late, been wrongly worn as thin as a politician's promise) liberty.
Some would have us bow
in bondage to their dreams
of little gods who lay down laws to live by
but all these inventions
arise from fear of love
and open-hearted tolerance and trust  
Well screw the rule of law
we want the rule of love
enough to fight and die to keep it coming
if that sounds like confusion
brother think again
we know exactly what we chose  
Each one lost
is everyone's loss you see
each one lost is a vital part of you and me
   - Bruce Cockburn, from Each One Lost
Cockburn is quoted, in discussing the lyrics above, as saying, ""On the way into Kandahar Airfield from Ottawa, our little group spend a few hours at Camp Mirage, a Canadian staging base in the Middle East. As we were about to board our next plane, we found ourselves part of a Ramp Ceremony, honouring the remains of two young Canadian Forces members who had been killed that day and were being sent home. One of the saddest and most moving scenes I've ever been privileged to witness...this song is dedicated to the memory of Major Yannick Pépin and Corporal Jean-Francois Drouin."

There are, though, wars that are simply wars.  No higher value or need other than a collective someones' greed, or vanity, or beliefs, or hubris.  Where lives don't seem to count and don't seem to matter to those who would direct their actions.
God, damn the hands of glory
That hold the bloody firebrand high
Close the book and end the story
Of how so many men have died
Let the world retain in memory
That mighty tongues tell mighty lies
And if mankind must have an enemy
Let it be his warlike pride
Let it be his warlike pride
     - Bruce Cockburn, from It's Going Down Slow

There are also wars that wantonly scatter life across soil for profit and gain.  Only profit and gain for a safely isolated few, mind you, not to be shared with those whose lives will be torn by the cost of war.
Him seems too little what long he possessed.
Greedy and grim, no golden rings
he gives for his pride; the promised future
forgets he and spurns, with all God has sent him,
Wonder-Wielder, of wealth and fame.
Yet in the end it ever comes
that the frame of the body fragile yields,
fated falls; and there follows another
who joyously the jewels divides,
the royal riches, nor recks of his forebear.  - Anonymous, from Beowulf

Ike warned about the risks of the (to his mind, necessary) military-industrial complex, with its potential for institutionalized war profiteering:
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.  (Dwight D. Eisenhower

There are wars that seem to make no sense, no matter how hard you look for justifiable reasons from any perspective even slightly human.
I do not understand why men make war. 
Is it because when death is multiple and expanding, there
among the odd assemblages, arbitrary and unnamed, there
among the shrivelled mountains, distorted and hollow, there
among the liquid farms and cities, cold and sallow, there
among the splintered bones of children, women, men and cattle
there and only there, the eerie head of power is being born?
     - Juan Filipe Herrera, from War Voyeurs

This then, should be our Memorial Day Promise: that we will always do everything in our power to ensure we spend the very precious capital of life on only those wars where real need is present.  Let us look hard and critically at any cry to take up arms and be certain we can honestly live (if we live) with the memory of our reasons when we eventually face the ghosts of those who rose to the call.

In this way we best honor the sacrifice and memory of those who have fought, and those who still fight, and those who will undoubtedly fight in the future, on our behalf.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Hurrah for the drinking dumping aphids of spring!

According to the calendar on my phone, it's Thursday already and it simply doesn't seem possible this week.  It was Monday only yesterday, I swear.  And the day before, and the day before that, too. Maybe there lies the issue, now I think about it.  It's been a week of Mondays.  Groundhog Day a week late.  This week I couldn't tell the Great Pretender from Mr. Maleable, Monday's Toady, or The Play Yard Bully.   I think I'll recognize the Popular Dude when he gets here, though.  I might even be chanting his name already.
I see a sea anemone
The enemy
See a sea anemone
And that'll be the end of me.
While the vicious fish was caught unawares in the tenderest of tendrils
Underneath her tender gills
     - Andrew Bird, from Anonanimal
Traffic is light and so is the morning as I toddle down the road.  Really noticeably lighter of sky than usual this morning.  Bright sunny days earlier this week, lighter early morning commute, still light when I get home - these are good signs.

And the surest sign I've seen yet that winter is in retreat and spring approaches from stage left?  On Tuesday I parked nose-first under a tree for an early meeting off-campus and came out to find aphid droppings all over my windshield.  The pitch is flowing, the aphids drinking and dumping, the machinery of growth is starting up again.

By Shipher Wu (photograph) and Gee-way Lin (aphid provision), National Taiwan University - PLoS Biology, February 2010 direct link to the image description, CC BY 2.5,
By Shipher Wu (photograph) and Gee-way Lin (aphid provision), National Taiwan University
Today's full playlist:

  • Anonanimal - Andrew Bird
  • It's a Heartache - Rod Stewart
  • I Will Always Love You - Dolly Parton
  • Anyhow - Leonard Cohen
  • Andalucia - Pink Martini

Monday, February 1, 2016

Key change up, increase strings and background vocals, pick berries

Monday, fairly dry and dark, like a good merlot. Traffic is heavy, as traffic goes for my little back roads commute.

Something I read somewhere this weekend (someone's tweet, maybe?) referenced dialing in a Tony Orlando & Dawn "station" on Pandora, so I decided to give it a whirl.  I looked up Tony Orlando & Dawn on Google Play, selected the "radio" option, and quickly lost myself in a stream of nostalgic music.  Often campy, always melodic, some with notions about boys and girls that wouldn't sit well today, it was an era for background singers and key changes.  One of this morning's songs had at least 4 key changes in it (and I may have missed one).  Each change was into a higher key, to up the energy level of the song.  By the time the song ended it felt like the singers were on tip-toes.

I still had my phone set to that "station" so I let it run for the drive in this morning.  Yes, I was that guy conspicuously singing out loud to himself in the little red Fiat you passed, or followed, or sat beside at the light.  Deal with it.

Most of these are time and place songs for me.  They were popular tunes in my youth, when every individual year was an epoch unto itself.

Afternoon Delight takes me back to a strawberry patch somewhere in rural Whatcom County.  It was a top-40 tune one summer in my youth, one of the summers I picked strawberries as a summer job.  A big old (and I mean old by the standard of the day) ex-school bus would pick us up early morning.  We'd bounce around dozing in our seats while the bus lurched and ground its way through gear changes and the engine whined, the cabin filling with exhaust fumes sucked back in through any of the fogged over windows that were cracked open.  Mornings were chilly and afternoons were hot, so we'd wear layers of clothing.  My sack lunch would contain a soda pop can I'd put in the freezer overnight, all bulging and misshapen from the expanded frozen soda within, so it would still be cold-ish by mid-day when we broke for lunch.

Someone always had a small transistor radio with them, and top-40 tunes played loudly over the rows of berries while we picked.  Hunched uncomfortably (I was a tall and gangly kid) over the low rows of berries, nose full of the sweet smell of warm ripe strawberries and dust,  knees sore from kneeling in the dirt and soaked through from morning dew and also from blood-red juice from where they'd inadvertently landed on over-ripe berries that had fallen to the ground, I would listen to the same selection of tunes over and over and over again all day.  Two tunes in particular stick with me from that summer: Having My Baby, and, Afternoon Delight.  I hated them both by the end of summer.  It took me a long time to reacquire a taste for strawberries, and I still can't say I really like Afternoon Delight.

Honey places me in the back seat of a '66 Ford Country Squire wagon, black with wood paneled siding, my back and legs sticking to vinyl seats covered in that those clear plastic knobbly seat covers that were so popular back then.  I don't know why that song takes me back there, but clearly I must have heard it a time or two from that seat.

Billy, Don't Be a Hero is just getting started as I back into a parking spot on campus.  Just as well, as many more seconds and I would have hit the skip button on my steering wheel.  I never liked the contrived-story songs (and Honey also falls into that genre).  You don't hear many songs of that sort any more, at least none that I can think of.  They've been replaced by the contrived "like" or "share" this story to show you care stories on Facebook, I guess.  Skippable, in either case.

A good tune list in the main, for a Monday.

Today's Full Playlist:

  • I Like Dreamin' - Kenny Nolan
  • Rock Me Gently - Andy Kim
  • Lady Willpower - Gary Puckett & The Union Gap
  • Honey - Bobby Goldsboro
  • Afternoon Delight - Starland Vocal Band
  • Daydream - Tony Orlando and Dawn
  • Billy, Don't Be A Hero - Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The fitful alternations of the rain, indeed

The fitful alternations of the rain,
When the chill wind, languid as with pain
Of its own heavy moisture, here and there
Drives through the gray and beamless atmosphere.
     - Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Fitful Alternations of the Rain
The rain this morning was fitful, yes, but of alternations, less so.  A steady torrent of large obsidian agates hit the windshield and flare across its surface before being swept up in the next pass of the wiper blades. The sort of heavy rain that plays tricks with the many sources of artificial light that penetrate the early morning darkness: headlights, tail lights, street lights, porch lights, store signs, bike reflectors, etc.  The light gets bounced around by the palpable volume of falling rain drops, making peripheral vision a kaleidoscope of sparkling distractions.

Reminds me, though I'm not precisely sure why, of a lyric from a Bruce Cockburn tune that wasn't part of today's playlist:
Ice cube in a dark drink shines like star light
Starlight shines like glass shards in dark hair
And the mind's eye tumbles out along the steel track
Fixing every shadow with its stare
     - from Night Train
Thursday has arrived and spirits are raised a bit by his coming, even though we know his ruse.  The joke's on him this time, though - today really is my work week's Friday.  It will be a long Thursday, with an evening board meeting, but then a day off to work on some community projects I've not been getting to lately.  Good stuff.

A great, short, mix of tunes this morning, too.

Today's full playlist:

  • In The Days Before Rock 'n' Roll, Van Morrison
  • Use Me While You Can, Bruce Cockburn
  • Carpool, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
  • Who Painted the Moon Black, Hayley Westenra

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A thousand dreams blur my vision

Tuesday, no.. wait, it's Wednesday.  As I back out of the drive the soundtrack shuffle kicks off with Confusion, so at least there is symmetry for the drive in to work.  It's still dark, but warmer this morning (6° C, 42°F - it's all relative), so I crack open the "sun" roof a tad.

Monday was, or would have been, my mother's 81st birthday, the first she wasn't here to celebrate.  As luck would have it, this past Sunday I was sampling "new releases" of music and saw that Enya had a relatively recent album out.  I started to sample some of the tunes and hit the second track on the album, So I Could Find My Way.   Apart from a simple but incredibly beautiful melody hauntingly sung, the lyrics simply broke me open from the opening verse:
A thousand dreams you gave to me
You held me high, you held me high
And all those years you guided me
So I could find my way

How long your love had sheltered me
You held me high, you held me high
A harbour holding back the sea
So I could find my way

So let me give this dream to you
Upon another shore
So let me give this dream to you
Each night and ever more
    - Enya, from So I Could Find My Way (link to YouTube video of a live rendition)
The parent/child relationship is, of course, always complicated.  There is no single model of what that relationship holds.  I was fortunate, though, to have a mom who did love me and who, especially in my formative years, did everything she thought was best to enable my success, whatever form that would (or wouldn't) take.  So, yes, this verse did speak to me.  I have no idea if Enya was thinking about a lost parent when she wrote this song, and others may see different voices or faces in the lyric.  For me, this past weekend, though, the song was very prescient.

Fast forward back to this morning, and Cockburn also sings of love:
See you standing in the door against the dark
Fireflies around you like a crown of sparks
You blow me a kiss that blurs my vision
Blurs the human condition

You're the ocean ringing in my brain
You are my island ripe with cane
Catch the scent of strange flowers when you pass
Fluid motion like the wind in grass

It's your eyes I want to see
Looking into mine
Got you live on my mind
All the time
               - Bruce Cockburn, from Live On My Mind
December marked 34 years with my own beloved partner-in-life, and she still blurs my vision!  I am very fortunate.

Today's full playlist:
  • Confusion, ELO
  • Live On My Mind, Bruce Cockburn
  • Federal Funding, Cake
  • Flamenco Sketches (Alternate Take), Miles Davis

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

More little knots to untie

Tuesday, any day.  Early morning phone call while I am in the shower, voicemail waiting.  My cousin's voice, letting me know that, " passed in the night."
I do not deny that a man who reaches a certain age
can no longer hope
that those from whom he came will remain
still alive with him, as my mother once
     -  Avot Yeshururn, from Memories Are a House
Mom passed away in April of this past year.  Her younger brother, my uncle, passed away this late fall, and this morning her older sister, my aunt, passed away.  All three siblings passed within 9 months of each other.

I know I've posted this quote from a Margery Allingham novel before, but it is worth reposting whenever there is grieving over a lost loved one:
"Well, you know, it's an evil thing, this attempt to reverse the process of mourning." The Canon stepped back on to his own territory and became a different being. "Mourning is not forgetting," he said gently, his helplessness vanishing and his voice becoming wise. "It is an undoing. Every minute tie has to be untied and something permanent and valuable recovered and assimilated from the knot. The end is gain, of course.  Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be made strong, in fact."
     - Margery Allingham, from Tigers In The Smoke
I have such fond memories of my aunt.  Big family Christmas Eves in a small house, all those summers just outside of Winthrop, dancing with our son in a hospital parking lot one time when mom was in the hospital, her quick sharp sense of humor.  All knots to untie and from which to reclaim something precious.
Such are the little memories of you;
They come and go, return and lie apart
From all main things of life; yet more than they,
With noiseless feet, they come and grip the heart.
     - George McClellan, from To Theodore
Traffic was very light this morning, the commute was extra short, the playlist short as well:
  • You've Never Seen Everything, Bruce Cockburn
  • Peace Memory, Pat Metheny
  • Killing the Blues, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
  • Blue Skies, Landon Pigg

Monday, January 11, 2016

Music scattered all over the streets

Monday, and the music was scattered all over the streets.  Every turn on my side-streets-route into campus this morning brought a whole new genre of music with it.  The tunes crossed times, faiths, styles, tempos.  It shouldn't have gotten along nearly as well as it did.
Once, in the city of Kalamazoo,  
The gods went walking, two and two,  
With the friendly phoenix, the stars of Orion,  
The speaking pony and singing lion.
   - from Kalamazoo, by Vachel Lindsay
One song hails from an album titled Dub Qawwali, which features the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan singing songs in a devotional Sufi tradition dubbed over a raggae (almost hip hop?) beat.  Nusrat, a Pakistani singer, apparently sold more records than Elvis and his music is best known to American audiences as part of the Dead Men Walking soundtrack.  The album certainly has its beauty, though the structure of the music isn't as immediately accessible or comfortable to my ears as that of, say, Henry Mancini.
Everybody wants to rule the world
Say that you'll never never never never need it
One headline why believe it?
Everybody wants to rule the world
Thank you Tears for Fears for reminding me.  I listen to music to avoid, among other things, the endless cycle of non-news silliness and affrontery of the presidential election.  What a comic farce the whole thing continues to degenerate into.  Reminds me of a delightfully insightful poem by George Bradley, Some Assembly Required. It starts out:
Standing in line at the SuperSave, it all falls  
Into place, Princess Di and the aliens and diet  
Tips from outer space, King Tut and King Elvis,  
   Out of the subfusc air, the rank urgency of dusk,  
   Among the heavy odors of differing dungs,  
   Acrid signatures of urine, the bold perfume of musk . . .
and then, later, goes on:
Attention, shoppers, there lies a veldt within us each,  
Its grasses rustle with intent, and on that plain  
Was born the fine suspicion that has carried us so far,  
   To behold the unassuming fact and comprehend design,  
   To look upon confusion and construct its plot and act,  
To leap at merest notion found floating in the mind . . .  
Has brought us to these sheltered aisles under thin gray light,  
Where in boredom and abundance we seek our narrative,
Whatever tale comes now to kill us and can creep.
Whoops!  As Patrick Cassidy pulls me softly back to the real world I wonder how I made those connections out of an old light rock classic.  It's not only the music that's scattered this morning, I guess, and I can live with that on a Monday.

Today's full playlist:

  • My Morning Jacket, Wordless Chorus
  • Henry Mancini, Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet
  • Tears for Fears, Everybody Wants to Rule the World
  • Patrick Cassidy, Three Carolan Pieces: Kitty Magennis
  • Gaudi with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Tera Jana Kere Rang Lawe
  • Merl Saunders, Jerry Garcia, It's Too Late (She's Gone) [Live]

Friday, January 8, 2016

The grace of space

Friday, the popular dude, is taut with the potential energy of cold and wrapped in the gothly black of deep winter this early morning.  He strides with confidence into the room of week-weary souls who are still tired from the recent spate of holidays and from the effort of breaking the heavier gravity of a warm winter bed.

Traffic is a bit lighter than usual, I think. Though I follow a truck towing a utility trailer full of garbage cans and scrap, moving at a crawl because their load is unsecured and (I assume) afraid to go fast enough to create a slipstream strong enough to lift and toss the contents of the trailer, just far enough to lose the honest pace of the morning commute.

In the hand of the cloud
Liquid as time
The heron's wings well
Know the grace of space
   - Bruce Cockburn, from Feet Fall On the Road

I've been listening to some pre-selected "stations" on Google's Music Play service the past few days, but this morning let the phone shuffle from my own entire library.  Fridays feel even better with comfort food and the familiar.  One song follows another, having to skip only once over an audiobook track that made its way into the mix, as I move from 4-way stop to stoplight to roundabout to campus entrance on my way in.

Stoplights edged the licorice street with ribbon,  
neon embroidering wet sidewalks.
  - Roberta Hill, from Leap In The Dark

Today's calendar looks only lightly dusted with predetermined things, so I can seize this rare gift of space to wrap up several loose ends and projects before following the popular dude into the weekend.

Further recommended poetry for a dark winter morning, though not specifically applicable to my here and now:  Winter Journal: Disseminate Birds over Water, by Emily Wilson

Today's full playlist:

  • Feet Fall On the Road, Bruce Cockburn
  • No Better Place, Fountains Of Wayne
  • Your Secrets, Belle and Sebastian
  • Write About Love, Belle and Sebastian
  • Don't Think Twice, It's Alright, Donavon Frankenreiter
  • Myrkur, Sigur Rós