Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fish Story

An invisible pull yanked me into a world
Two-leg Liz & friend
Riviere Brock Nord, Quebec, 1995
of alien birdcalls, whitecaps, treetops
The wide blue wind left me gasping
on the other side of the mirror 
following a hope
so bright it hurt,
that wild swoop upward.
So be it!
I could not have imagined
but now, let it happen—
teach me to breathe air.
In that moment of surrender
I was dropped through the looking-glass
so close by
left to swim the old currents,
my heart too full of sky.

~L.H. 1995

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A blast from a (Suzanne Vega!) past

One thing I know
This pain will go
Step through all that's left to feel
Wait to meet my love, made real 
That's the start of the song "Birth Day (Love Made Real)" by Suzanne Vega on her "Nine Objects of Desire" album. This is a favorite of mine for a lot of reasons I won't go into (yet.)
You can hear it here:
I suggested it a few (OK, maybe four or five) years ago when my older daughter had to choose a poem or song to deconstruct in front of her ?junior? senior? English class. The teacher, Mr. Zorn, was a favorite: a youngish track coach who played in a local bluegrass band and carried a golf club which he would swing hard (SWOOSH!) to make sure kids were listening.

They usually were.
Don't move, don't touch
Don't talk so much
Strip and find the place to kneel
Wait to meet my love, made real

Mr. Zorn's assignment instructions were quite specific: No profanity. No immoral or sexual content. (That was about it.)
I was inspired. I set my daughter on this song. We discussed it. She loved it. She wrote the required paper, took the CD to school and returned for my debriefing.
She was elated. She reported that when she'd handed out the lyrics and Suzanne Vega  began to sing, Mr.Zorn had gotten...tense.

Strap me down from wrist to heel
Wait to meet my love, made real
One thing I know
This day will go

OK, so this is where I admit  I was secretly delighting in upsetting Mr. Zorn as stand-in for English Teachers of the Past--and for kicks, whom I also remembered when he was a kid who square danced at the North Barton Grange twenty-five years before, back with my crowd when I was married to my daughter's father. Mr. Zorn, child of the Zorn farming clan, Men Without Fingers, as they'd seemed to have suffered more than their share of  digit-severing farm accidents...but I digress. 
Mr. Zorn listened and grew nervous as the kids snickered. As my daughter smiled serenely.

Don't touch don't talk crawl the wall
She's a ticket to the future, don't listen down the hall
You can say your prayer to the head of this bed
When it begins at your knees and goes right to your head

Yes. Mr. Zorn broke a sweat. He twitched. He was ready to shut my daughter down, but the song came to its shuddering, presumably sex-and-drugs inspired closure.

Strap me down from wrist to heel
Wait to meet my love, made real
One thing I know
This day will go

Shakin' all over like an old sick dog
There's a needle here, needle there, tremble in the fog
It's a tight squeeze, vice grip, ice and fire
Hot little treasure and the wave goes higher


Mr. Zorn said, "So...what was that about?" Cringing. Shaking his head.

And my daughter said, "That was about...labor and delivery of a baby. "

Oh yes. Such a cool song.

And Mr.Zorn held up his hands while the class hooted. Later, my daughter's paper read, "You got me! A+!"

So,I give you Suzanne Vega and the hallucinogenic drug-trip of having a baby as celebrated by my daughter's clever shock-the-favorite-teacher presentation, stirred up tonight by word association and my need to listen to this song on YouTube. The inter-web is a marvelous thing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Doors: Found Treasure

I admit it. My name is Liz and I'm a pack rat. Scavenger. Collector of others' cast-offs.

What makes my condition serious is that I drive a pickup truck.  Yeah. It holds  a lot.

The last couple years my obsession has been doors. Doors propped beside the road with a scrawled FREE sign taped to them. Doors on their sides in the dewy grass leaned against telephone poles. Even a door hanging in a friend's farmhouse mudroom--a beautiful old wooden door with wavy panes of glass and a latch--and the woman's casual comment, We'll put in a new door there--

Guess who got the old door? Sized down slightly, it's perfect on my goat shed. I even used the old hinges.

On the road to Ithaca I  hit the jackpot. I knew to keep my eyes peeled at one woodsy driveway. I'd already scored a big heavy wooden door (with a window and a letter slot!) at that very spot. This time it was a solid wooden storm door, panes of glass almost all intact. The screen insert leaned behind it, unscathed.

Understand, I loathe and detest flimsy metal storm doors. I even whine about the wimpy lightweight wooden screen doors you can still buy at hardware stores. No, this one was exactly like the monster we had on my house when I was a kid, back in the day when doors were doors. (Once, when I was about eleven, I dashed across the driveway and up the steps, reached out to stop myself, misjudged and put my hand through a pane. Even then, the door was kind, maybe sensing my future commitment to salvaging its relatives, and I only received a few little cuts from the shattered glass.)

My new old storm door now hangs on my house. It faces the deck and pond, paired with a gorgeous solid wood door inside. It's not one I found; the fellow who cut the doors to size and hung them for me had it stashed in his barn. He has a bigger collection than I do.

Not long ago my older daughter drove  up to my house . "I brought you a present." She wrestled a tall, narrow bright-red door out of her hatchback. (I'm not sure how she ever got it in there.) "It was lying by the side of the road practically with your name on it."

I am so proud of that girl. She has learned well.

I've dreamed about finding doors more than once. It seems like a good symbol. Access. Intrigue. Advancing. Gateways. I'm open to more. I don't think you can ever have too many doors. I'd like to build a shed made of doors. Think about it: everything would be handy, right inside whichever door. What could be better? So when you see that white pickup truck slow down at the junk pile next to the road, you'll know it's me.

Of course, I love windows too, but that's another story.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

What's Behind Door #2...

Back in the day, I used to watch Let's Make a Deal.

My little sister and I would sit side by side in a big armchair facing the black-and-white TV that had to warm up when you turned it on. I was already horse-crazy, and I didn't understand why it was a sad joke when someone turned down the new car behind Door #1 for Door #2 and found a couple of donkeys or an old plug. Back then I would have sold my soul for a donkey.

But maybe that wasn't really Door #2 for me.
Recently I explained to my twelve-year-old daughter about Door #2, about making a choice to live with the unknown rather go with the familiar.  She wanted to drop out of chorus: the new teacher was ineffective and couldn't keep the very large (eighty kids) class on task. The Dean of Students was repeatedly called in to discipline the students. My daughter was furious both at classmates for being distracted and the teacher for being so inept.

I agreed. The class was even worse than last year, bigger, out of control. But if she dropped out, I warned, she would be put into another unknown class. Door #2. Her best friend had quit and wound up in...Kinesthetics. I said, "OK, but you realize you could be placed in a class with a teacher you like even less."

She waved that possibility away. "It can't be worse."

"It can. I promise you. It can always get worse."

"OK. But I want to anyway."

I wrote the letter; she switched out of chorus and ended up in...Ecology.

Then she swapped with her best friend: Ecology for Kinesthetics--with her favorite teacher.

I was impressed.

All the while, I was thinking about the Door #2 of relationships. Leaving in favor of the known, or (sometime) the known. Or rather, the sort-of known. I've been divorced more than once. I've felt I was throwing myself into a relationship abyss. I was a late starter to dating, and it was an education. 

The very first time, after leaving my one-and-only at the age of thirty-one, my Door #2 was  both the idea that there could never be such a thing as True Love--and also the desperate belief that there had to be something better, that a truer love existed.

Another time it looked as though I'd  thrown my lot in with Door #2 prematurely, inappropriately, without a solid future in the works. Actually, I was very aware of that Door #2. It was myself, finally free (at forty) to figure out who the hell I was when I was alone.  What I learned was priceless and grounded me enough to start writing about my childhood and eventually to choose to have my inoperable left leg amputated. At this time I had no partner to hold my hand. It taught me to lean on friends and relations. And to depend on myself.

More recently, I faded out of one relationship in favor of another that was enticing. It seemed to promise a future. Instead it became untenable. Over several years, it did not work. And when it ended I was prepared to be single, independent, solitary for the rest of my life.

But the surprise was waiting. This time, Door #2 was a previous relationship. It caught me by surprise. It's familiar but different, this time around. It's fresh, deeper, soulful. It's a humbling, sobering lesson. It's made me rethink what I know about relationships: that maybe I still know very little. Door #2 has kicked me in the butt in a way that's wonderful and still makes me feel stupid for overlooking it.

And here I am. Glad to be here.

And because I've been listening to this song nonstop for hours, who knows why, I'm posting this link to a song called "I Think I'll Get My Hair Cut" by an unknown-to-you singer named Jona Lewie with whom I fell in love in 1980 when I was in England...something about the piano chords in this particular song relaxes me. 

Be well. : )

Monday, September 3, 2012

Christian (creationists without) Science

Bill Nye the Science Guy has been  making wonderful headlines lately.  Fed up with the right-wing Creationist crusade to deny teaching evolution in schools, he made a short, succinct video:  "Creationism Is Not Appropriate For Children."

His point: We need kids to study science. We need engineers. We need rocket scientists and brain surgeons. And we need "scientifically literate voters and taxpayers."

As a former Christian Scientist (third-generation, dyed-in-the-wool, prayed-for-my-life in childhood as an untreated bone disease destroyed my knee) I admit I get a huge kick out of the corner the Creationists are eagerly painting themselves into. If they get their way and teach dinosaurs on the ark or whatever it is they believe, they'll gradually weaken our whole pool of future scientist-candidates.  They've overlooked the fact that our lives and theirs rely on earthly inventions, experiments based on observation, and consistent results that can be reproduced.

For instance, say, oh, the whole field of medicine...

Now, Christian Scientists reject the reality of material science too, but in an all-encompassing way. In this religion, everything mortal becomes a symbol of a spiritual idea. Nothing is real except their spiritual god's universe.  Nothing. When they reject science, you have to give them full marks for consistency.

When I was a little Christian Scientist, I read the bible and Science & Health  and said Mary Baker Eddy's prayer for the little children before I went to sleep at night: Father-Mother-God-loving-me-guard-me-while-I-sleep-Guide-my-little-feet-up-to-Thee. Everything that seemed material or mortal was unreal; God's spiritual world took care of us. We didn't need medicine. Or at least, we never used it.

(Disclaimer: Mary Baker Eddy tacitly approved eye glasses and dental work, so my family went to the dentist and wore glasses. I never questioned the absurdity of that logic. I supposes if Mary Baker Eddy had had twentieth century kidney dialysis, Christian Scientists would be allowed that, too.)

For all practical purposes we ignored a hundred years of medical advances. We had faith in our religion. We'd throw out baby, bathwater and all, and live with the results even if it killed us. Screw science--we had Divine Science. If we'd ruled the world, science would have died out with us happily waving goodbye.

Thankfully, most Christians don't live that way. I think most people understand where their scientific advances come, maybe from kids who love science and get to study it?

But hey, Creationists-Who-Go-to-Doctors, what do you say? Ready to Christian-up? Put your necks on the line? What are you waiting for?  You can start anytime. You're already behind in that race to oblivion.

Just leave your kids out of it, OK? Nothing fails like prayer. I should get that printed on my prosthetic leg.

Postscript: the other wonderful story about Bill Nye making the rounds of the inter-web this week, where he supposedly "blasts Todd Akin" and fires f-bombs left and right, was a hoax. It was an article by the satirical site The Daily Currant.  I know. *sigh*  I wish it were true, too.