Books of the Week

No one belongs here more than you.

I stayed up very late and subsequently fell asleep reading Miranda July's short story collection. Once I had cleared my head of the night's dreams, I turned on the bedside light and reimmersed myself in the book(in case you're interested in the dream, I was in France and a man in a light turquoise sweater was kissing everyone goodbye, so I hurried over for my farewell kiss. I didn't want to miss out, but the man acted strange and kissed my left cheek. Hmmm... snubbed by a blonde French man. Even my dreams are pathetic).

The characters, language, and content in July's collection are so original and offbeat that they read true and perfectly normal, as in, truth is stranger than fiction, (even though this is, in fact, fiction, as far as I know, anyway). It makes perfect sense that a former swim team member in a small, small town without a pool and hundreds of miles from any body of water, would feel compelled to teach a trio of octogenarians how to swim, in the dry rectangle of her kitchen's lineoleum; that a middle-aged woman would fixate on England's Prince Harry and devise implausibe ways to meet him, fall in love, convince him to move into her apartment, rather than focus on the here and now bleak reality of her love life. The book so far explicates our basic human need for each other, our quest to be loved just for ourselves by revealing our basest desires and selfishness. You'll wince more than once, but you'll also laugh. Out loud.

You can watch July's quirky author interview on youtube, (fyi:the real Miranda is the brunette).

Books to be read or to be thumbed through this week:

Love's Book of Answers - Carol Bolt
Don't get your hopes up and rush to your local bookstore, tears streaming down your face,offering a prayer of thanks and gratitude that your happiness is about to be delivered for only $16.00 plus tax, (or in my case, $6.95 because it was on sale). The book is more in the augury category than the self help kind. Basically, it's a lot like bibliomancy, sans Bible, as in ask a question, open the book to a page of you choice and receive you sentence fragment answer (Here's a fun link that allows you to do just that).

Fat Broke & Lonely No More - Victoria Moran
Okay, this is a seriously great title. According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, February 1 is supposed to be a fortuitous day to begin a diet. My idea of going on a diet is: consume less and exercise more. Wish me luck!

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Jean-Dominique-Bauby
The story of a man whose indomitable spirit refuses to allow a massive stroke at age forty-three to silence him, by communicating only by blinking his left eye.

Bird Signs: Guidance & Wisdom from Our Feathered Friends - G.G. Carbone
A book with an illustrated deck of cards - something akin to the tarot - which offers wisdom and insight. The first bird I drew from this deck of fifty-two cards was the Blubird/Happiness card that promises I will see happiness again. I woke this morning to a crow's caw, so according to the book, change is on the way.

Poetry Therapy at 8:54 P.M. - Phillip Lopate

We Who Are Your Closest Friends
Phillip Lopate

we who are
your closest friends
feel the time
has come to tell you
that every Thursday
we have been meeting
as a group
to devise ways
to keep you
in perpetual uncertainty
discontent and
by neither loving you
as much as you want
nor cutting you adrift

your analyst is
in on it
plus your boyfriend
and your ex-husband
and we have pledged
to disappoint you
as long as you need us

in announcing our
we realize we have
placed in your hands
a possible antidote
against uncertainty
indeed against ourselves
but since our Thursday nights
have brought us
to a community of purpose
rare in itself
with you as
the natural center
we feel hopeful you
will continue to make
demands for affection
if not as a consequence
of your
disastrous personality

then for the good of the collective

Okay, either this poem makes you laugh out loud in recognition or confirms your paranoid conspiracy theory that everyone is out to vex or ignore you.

It's Time to Get Biblical

"Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth."

I woke up with this on my mind. Actually, I fell asleep with it on my mind, so no wonder I'd wake up with it running through my mind as well. I also woke up with a screaming headache from clenching my teeth together, and although I can't remember my dreams,I'm certain the themes were biblical, as in swarms of locusts descending, the avenginging angel smiting enemies, seas turning to blood, and so on.

I believe Psalm 58:6 is King David's prayer that his enemies will no longer be able to do further mischief, but it is Bret Lott's powerful character Cathedral from his novel Jewel that first comes to mind when I think of issuing invective. Read the link and I think you'll agree.

What Is Left

acrylic on paper

This little painting is from a series of leftovers that I completed forever ago. By leftover, I mean leftover paint. I hated washing unused paint down the sink, it seemed sad, a loss of possibility, so after working on one of my paintings, instead of discarding the paint that was unused, I created mini abstract paintings and monotype prints. I had forgotten about them until I found this one tucked inside a book. I'm pretty sure I affixed them on greeting cards and gave the rest away.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what is left: life, relationships. etc. My first thought centered on the body, so of course I immediately thought of Sally Mann's "What Remains" photography collection. Be forewarned that these photgraphs are of the body in various stages of decomposition. They are unflinching and brutal and wholly fascinating. I love her work! I chanced upon the book when it first came out, and my immediate reaction was, "who photographs decaying bodies?" An hour or so later I pulled myself out of her images. Check Ovation tv's schedule for the "What Remains" feature on Sally and her work, or have your local library order it in for you. I haven't watched this, but found a link for the feature on youtube,(my computer is being difficult so you'll have to google it).

Poem Therapy at 9:23 A.M. - Siv Cedering

It's been a month and two days since I sliced through my right hand's ring and pinkie finger, and twenty-three days since the reconstructive tendon and nerve surgery. I'm into the second week of physical therapy, which is excruciating and each time I present my hand to Sam for a Dark Ages session, I can't quite believe that it's me in the chair running my feet in place, pressing the bridge of my nose in a vain attempt to disassociate myself from the pain. The truth is, it is me and I want a do-over. Who doesn't? I would have made the casserole earlier, would have never tried to cut that red pepper, would have said "why don't you ride you that horse to Hell!", out loud. But I did and I didn't, so here I am. Even so, a do-over is a great idea, (although not terribly original). Think of all the pain and suffering that could be allieviated by hitting the rewind or undo button. The film The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has already explored this idea. If you haven't seen it, check it out. Kate Winslet and Jim Carey are superb and their characters remind us that many times it's the dark places that temper and soften.

Ros, my cranial sacral therapist never lets me get away with anything. Her b.s. detector is dead-on, so I don't even try to dissemble, deflect, or dodge. I've been afraid of going to see her since I hurt my hand, mainly because I knew she'd ask and I'd tell her, and of course I did. I told her almost everything. Almost. She said it looked like all of my organs were trying to move up under my ribcage for cover, and this made me laugh. Since the accident, I've been a wee bit of a hypochondriac. I've always felt impenetrable, bullet proof, but lately I've been absolutely certain that the dull pain above my heart, the little glossy bump on my pointer finger is a portent of doom.

The sky really has been falling lately for a lot of people I love, but I've always thought that's just how life is. Enter injury: "Hey, the sky is falling everybody! Take cover! I really felt like Chicken Little. I didn't want to leave the house or drive or cook or go back to work or even read a book. This past Saturday is the first day I've felt like me.

Ros said that I looked clear, much clearer than I have, and asked me exactly which day I knew, which day I made the decision, (the one I've been dodging and also have been trying to make for forever). I told her I'm pretty certain it was Christmas Day in transit to my sister's house.

The right hand is the ability to give. The pinkie finger represents details.

I found this poem today:

Siv Cedering


When I fall asleep
my hands leave me.

They pick up pens
and draw creatures
with five feathers
on each wing.

The creatures multiply.
They say: "We are large
like your father's

They say: "We have
your mother's

I speak to them:
"If you are hands,
why don't you

And the wings beat
the air, clapping.
They fly

high above elbows
and wrists.
They open windows
and leave

They perch in treetops
and hide under bushes

their nails. "Hands,"
I call them.
But it is fall

and all creatures
with wings
prepare to fly


When I sleep
the shadows of my hands
come to me.

They are softer than feathers
and warm as creatures
who have been close
to the sun.

They say: "We are the giver,"
and tell of oranges
growing on trees.

They say: "We are the vessel,"
and tell of journeys
through water.

They say: "We are the cup."

And I stir in my sleep.
Hands pull triggers
and cut
trees. But

the shadows of my hands
tuck their heads
under wings
for morning,

when I will wake

three strands of hair
into one.

Poem Therapy at 1:27 P.M. - Muriel Rukeyser

Muriel Rukeyser

In the cave with a long-ago flare
a woman stands, her arms up. Red twig, black twig, brown twig.
A wall of leaping darkness over her.
The men are out hunting in the early light
But here in this flicker, one or two men, painting
and a woman among them.
Great living animals grow on the stone walls,
their pelts, their eyes, their sex, their hearts,
and the cave-painters touch them with life, red, brown, black,
a woman among them, painting.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts, the only museum in the world dedicated exclusively to recognizing the contributions of women artists:

Women Artista in History, a website to showcase the work of women artists down through the centuries:

Women Artists: Self Portraits & Representatios of Womanhood from the Medieval Period to the Present:

Get Smart in 2010

The Daily Beast's 25 Ways to Boost Your Intelligence in 2010 offers everthing "from a brilliant lecture series to a must-have Google Alert to an applied-physics videogame. The Daily Beast interviewed the world’s smartest minds to find new breakthroughs and products aimed at boosting intelligence." Reported by Constantino Diaz-Duran and Gabe Oppenheim.

I especially like the suggestion to learn a language via Skype.

Three Reasons to Turn that Frown Upside Down

I found these links reading "100 Reasons to Crack a Smile" in Blueprint's 2006 Summer Issue.

Reflections of a Sinistral

I've been learning the ropes of being left-handed for eighteen days. My handwriting has always been something akin to madwoman scribbles across a page, but now that I'm writing lefthanded, it looks like a child is recording her night visions in my 2010 dream journal. Years ago when I was first grappling with my own history and also my secret desire to be a writer, I read pretty much every how-to writing text and completed the assigned writing projects. One in particular, was to write with your non-dominant hand to stimulate new nueral pathways in the brain, access the dormant inner child, and reveal the shadow lurking in the psyche. I don't remember much from this other than Tinkerbell presented herself as my shadow, and I, (or she) wrote a quirky, nonsensical rhyme that admonished me to lighten up, literally. I have the poem on my other computer and will post it later. I also remember that Tinkerbell lived in a shoe, I believe it was shaped like a boat. I suppose it's comforting that Tinkerbell is hanging out in a shoe boat somewhere in my pysche. Ahoy! I'm curious to see what emerges, what ocean I set out on for glorious adventure.

For the the past hour I've been watching starlings ravage the few wizened apples left in the tree outside my bedroom window. It's been a frenzy of black flutterings in and out of branches. At the moment a lone wren is feverishly beaking an apple while a waxwing flits from pine branch to pine branch. I envy birds. I envy the tree, too. And I envy my dogs. Ellie and Harley are curled into each other, asleep in front of the fireplace. Earlier this morning, after coffee and gossip with my father, Harley brought his water dish to the foot of the bed, dropped it and looked to me, knowing I'd fill it with water, pat his ragamuffin head as he drank, then dutifully scratch his belly afterwards. Ellie, Harley, and my daughter's cat Rouger, know I exist to fulfill their needs, just as certainly as I knew as a child my parents existed solely for me. I remember the shock of learning that my parents were people, filled with desire and ambitions for their own lives.

I suppose my envy, or rather admiration for the animal and vegetable world is the particular gift birds, dogs, trees, flowers, etc. have for taking life as it comes, for living in the moment. But living in the moment is a herculean task for the average human.

Since my surgery last Monday, I've spent my days propped on my bed, doing very little other than sleeping, looking through books, texting, talking on the phone, watching the world from my bedroom windows. I've never had stitches or surgery before. Well, I had staples from my c-section, but that was just part of the deal for bringing my daughter into the world. I've been trying to make sense of how I did this to myself, glean some meaning, not only from this, but my father's cancer and the rest of the swirl that has presented itself lately. I always try not to take anything personally. I tell myself whatever presents itself is an opportunity to learn from, (of course this is when I'm in my posing as a zen initiate brain while the frenzied beserker Viking brain is sleeping off a serious hangover). Life is random and shit happens. But, for me, hurting my hand is a wake up call to gratitude. So is the reality of my father's cancer. His health puts a cap on time, real time, finite time and asks how will I spend it. I know what this means, but I really can't process it. I want to be grateful. I really do. I don't want to be angry or scared or even get close to the reality of loss or grief. I'm not ready to face it, so I'll focus on my own small problems, but I believe I can gird up for when we meet with his doctor on Monday.

The world has much to offer. And here is the opportunity to live in the moment rather than waste a second. The thing is, I'm not a bird.