"truth, beauty, freedom, but above all, love…"

The infant year begins with a funeral but we have hopes, as one always must, that it will go on from here in a less dolerous fashion.

I was mostly silent in 2005; I hope to be more talkative in '06, even if I have to resort to borrowing words, as I have for my post title. {end credits, Moulin Rouge}

January 1, 2006 in dailiness | Permalink


Say 'Cheese'


May 2, 2005 in dailiness | Permalink


Okay, this is cool

Via Jeffrey at Tinctoris, there's a neat little app called "Sciral Consistency" (Sciral is pronounced starting like "science" and ending like "spiral") that just does one simple thing, track semi-regular tasks. Let's see if it helps this easily distracted procrastinator stay on task.

March 26, 2005 in dailiness | Permalink


White Out

January 23, 2005 in dailiness | Permalink



Persephone coming out of the underworld. It's early, but it feels like I've been underground so long.

As I wait for the new PB to arrive, I'm switching back and forth between the desktop and the laptop I've been using for the past n years. I feel a bit like the main character in THE GOLDEN NOTEBOOK, who tries to tame chaos by separating all her projects and lives and feelings into different notebooks and then in a wonderful kind of breakdown merges them all into the one, golden, notebook. Only in this case, the notebook will be aluminum. ; P

That's a bit hyperbolic for what's going on here, but I do feel a pressure to unify and coalesce, which is coinciding with some sort of seasonal re-emergence. I'm ahead of the groundhog this year, which is unusual.

We start house-hunting in a week, not incidentally. I'm hoping we find something we like and make an offer. That way, this anticipation which has all but paralysed me will have a point, a focus. Instead of thinking of all that needs to be sorted and packed, I can actually begin sorting and packing. That will be a comfort.

January 16, 2005 in dailiness | Permalink



I've been very focused on images lately. I'm trying to sort through a mountain of photos, because that would be a Good Thing, to have them sorted, and I'm trying to extract some of my better compositions, because I've neglected my art. (Plus, I'm keeping my eye open for giftable pics, as well.)

I end up on long sidetracks, as I finally go through about a 150 snapshots of our Florida vacation from three years ago. Most of the shots look just like anybody's Florida vacation. And then there's the odd, special one, that lets you feel the sunshine:


December 18, 2004 in dailiness, work in progress | Permalink


"Misunderestimated" and more

Good stuff around and about, on the perennial topic of "where are the women?": at misbehaving.net here and also here, pointing to Burningbird and HelenJane. Tons of cross-references in these, and interesting conversations as you dig into each.

I recently realized that I have mellowed considerably on the topic of being underestimated. (Or to borrow from Mr. Bush, "misunderestimated".) It no longer enrages me, rather I find myself often privately amused that the underestimating party hasn't bothered to dig deeper.

I'm speculating that this is one of the gracenotes of a woman's middle age (or middle age generally), along with an indifference to fashion.

October 16, 2004 in dailiness, gender | Permalink


My Left Foot

A week ago, I badly sprained my left ankle. I must never before sprained any of my joints—remarkable for one so not-young—because "sprained" does not sound bad enough for the way this injury has felt.

At the time I did it, stepping backwards (while looking for a neighbor's hidden key) off a short flight of steps into a hole in the sidewalk I hadn't noticed until it devoured my foot and caused me to twist and fall, I sincerely thought I had broken it.

"Ow and damn and ow and shit and ow," I may have said. And, "Ow, oh, help, ow!"

Don wasn't far away, fortunately, and I stayed put where I was while we inpected at my left foot. The ankle already sported a swelling, not quite so large as a tennis ball, but larger than a golf ball. "Ow," I said to it. Having children hurt worse, but there were babies to admire afterwards. Bonking my forehead on a beam in the attic hurt worse, but for less time. Most other things that have happened to me have hurt far less. This is the kind of hurt that makes you breathe in a series of hisses. Ow and damn and ow and shit and ow. But not broken, according to whoever read the X-rays at the hospital, if such callow personages can be trusted.

Anyway, this has been a week of watching my left foot. The first night it was mainly grossly puffy, with slightly jaundiced toes. By the end of day two, the swelling had subsided a little, and the foot had developed a corpse-blue tinge. On the third day I could see angry red striations up the back of my heel and around the area where the shin bones cap the ankle bone. The foot developed a dark purple stripe--like a high tide mark where the top of the foot merges into the sole. Yesterday it was less corpse-blue and more of a sickly aqua. Today it is gray, with a new yellow swelling like the throat of a bullfrog.

Yes, I've stayed off it. "What an excuse to write!" Pah. I used to like writing in bed. Shudder.

July 9, 2004 in dailiness | Permalink


Still Here

If you've been with me this far, you've grown used to unannounced breaks in the flow of posts. Nothing terrible happened this time around; life was rich, full, hectic.

But, in addition, I built up obstacles to posting, like:

  • I really should get the new design up first
  • I really should have something interesting to say
  • I really should streamline my workflow to make posting more automated

Nothing like a should to scare away any chance of doing good work.

July finds me with a manuscript to tweak and send to a generous editor who offered to read it at home. (Yes, that means the Nordstrom Contest was a nope, but I've rallied.)

July also finds me staring at about six weeks of construction and kerfuffle which will first render the kitchen off limits, and then the bathrooms. While the kitchen we can work around, since the dining hall is open for summer school, the bathroom lack will force us to decamp. I'm hoping that before school resumes in the fall we'll be cooking and showering in spiffy new spaces.

July 3, 2004 in dailiness | Permalink


Have you eaten your carbs today?

I almost missed out on learning that today is Save the Carbs Day. A holiday after my own gastronomy.

Resist faddish behavior. Embrace grains!

Have you eaten your gratuitous carbs today?

May 20, 2004 in dailiness | Permalink



I love being married. Personally, I can't imagine a better way to live, a happier way to be.

What if someone had said, 22 years ago, "No, you can't marry. You two don't match (or you match too well)." Huh?

Good luck all you newlyweds in Massachusetts. May your marriages be happy, and lawful, partnerships for all time.

You can read some marriage stories here, at MarriageFairness.org.

May 18, 2004 in dailiness | Permalink



Jon was writing about feeling fragmented, and that certainly seems...

[insert hackneyed expression here]

See, I can't even finish sentences. (Well, maybe that one.)

I feel like a dandelion puff, right after a child has blown on it.

February 26, 2004 in dailiness | Permalink


Liner Notes

Yesterday was Don's 49th birthday, a matter, if you've been following, of great emotional charge. (I'm hoping he has 49 more.)

I was a bit disappointed in myself. I'd made the family's favorite chocolate pie (doubling the amount of chocolate the recipe calls for), but when we tried to buy him this red leather chair, he decided to wait until it was on sale. I also tried to buy him books, but nothing leapt off the shelves for him. So I had nothing, nada, zip, except for pie and love.

"Write something," he said. He knows I'm miserable when I slack off. "Write me something and post it on your blog."

Well, okay. I set the timer, a trick I use when I can't seem to focus, and wrote something about how he'd endured the inconvenience and irritation of wearing a Holter monitor over the weekend --11 sticky, itchy electrodes and a quarter mile of wire and a sinister black box (well, actually beige) recording his heart sounds for 48 hours.

That's jolly. Not.

While I wrote that, I had the Gin Blossoms going on iTunes and looked over at two stacks of CD jewel cases. I wrote:

I still like albums--vinyl ones, with 14-inch-square cardboard covers. There's more canvas for the cover artists and the type is legible. Jewel cases are just--okay. They fracture too easily and someone thinks they need to be packaged hermetically enough to protect (us? or the CDs?) from anthrax.

On the other hand, the name jewel case suggests something valuable must be in there. And you can stack them so you can read the artist names and titles without tilting your head, which is warp-city with vinyl...

And that's when I decided to brainstorm a found-poem using the artist names and CD titles I could read from where I sat. A poem that employed at least a dozen of these, used this found language in nearly every line, and was at least 16 lines long. And I couldn't change the grammatical contruction or break up any of the found bits (enjambments were permitted). Oh, and it needed to say something. That made sense, at least to the recipient.

So, here are the Official Final Draft Stats for "Jewel Case Chanson":

  • Number of possible sources: 30.
  • Number of found items used: 17.
  • Final number of lines: 20.
  • Number of lines with at least 1 found word: 19.
  • Initial time for exercise: about 30 minutes.
  • Total time for exercise, including tweaking: about 3 hours.

Extra credit: Can you identify all 17 references in Jewel Case Chanson? Remember, either the artist name OR the CD title was used.

February 10, 2004 in blockbusters, dailiness | Permalink


Jewel Case Chanson

Small minds -- scattered,
Smothered and covered
With gin blossoms --
Can’t ever draw a big horizon.

For them it will always be
Mozart for morning coffee,
Even in the savage garden.
Even in the rainy season,

I imagine there’s still room
For squares like us
To court and spark
And be struck by lightning.

Come away with me, you
With the human soul
And Cole Porter songbook.
Let it be… naked.

We will never go back
To then, not after burning
The daze and pleasing
The tiger in the rain.

February 9, 2004 in dailiness, snippets | Permalink


Stroke, stroke

Hon, the last thing you said
doesn't make sense.
You've got me worried.
I'm sure your face isn't meant
to go slack and droop that way.
Take my hand, yes this one.
Give it squeeze.
It's okay, I know you can't.
I'm dialing for help now.

They haven't heard of you yet
at the hospital. Our children
are scared. He can't sit
still and she wants to sob.

They let me in but Curtain Area Three
is empty. Oh, you're getting a scan.
The doctor buttonholes me in the hall;
just for a minute I think he has bad news.
How young he is, so sure he knows everything.
He doesn't know you.

There you are. You are you, except
for half your smile, and all
that wire and tubing.
When I take your hand, you push back.
You push back.

January 22, 2004 in dailiness | Permalink


About Time

I have been busy. Busy with the children: their Halloween, their school lives, their exciting, growing-up selves. Ben wrote a new screenplay; Mare has the lead in Guys and Dolls. We've all had something icky and flulike.

Busy turning 45, thinking about what that means, if it means anything, wondering what I'll be when I grow up.

Busy making websites, especially: the author site for Nancy Werlin

Busy with our host girls, who get to go home to their families later this week.

Busy getting ready for the holidays:  acquiring (and teching) two truly lovely white i-Secrets, wrapping the porch pillars with garlands, wrestling with the tree and its lights. Wondering about the meaning of the holiday to agnostic me.

Busy with things that seem too mundane to tell you, busy with things too private and inward to tell you.

Busy. Dishes. Wishes.

December 17, 2003 in dailiness | Permalink


Happy New Year

Contrary to what the calendar says, the New Year does not come in ice, when December slips darkly into January.

The New Year is something that happens in September, when kids and teachers go back to school and everyone is all shiny and new and full of resolutions. The New Year is all about lunchbags, bookpacks, new shoes, sharp pencils.

This year the last few days of August were as perfect as late summer days can be: cloudless azure skies, the leaves on the buckeye tree already crumpling and falling, but everything else still green and crisp and colorful.

September 1 brought abrupt, chilly rain, as if summer had been turned off with a switch. In a way I don't mind; that day in September two years ago was like this year's last few days of August -- cloudless, purest blue -- and yet, as we saw, not tranquil. It seems right, this year, that the transition from the loose, elastic summer-time to the measured, bell-toned school-time be clearly demarcated.

Today is still rainy, but not disagreeable. Students have been moving into dorms all day and our dogs have yipped themselves hoarse greeting all the strangers. The first of three girls who will live with us has arrived from Singapore and is performing the yearly trick of seeing how many belongings will fit in one small room. Piled in boxes and suitcases, her things clearly take up more volume than the room itself contains. Somehow, though, the room is absorbing all those folded shirts and desk lamps and clocks and extra packs of Kleenex and containers of Snack Attack rations and stuffed toys from childhood. The Three Graces, the young lady's mother and two aunties, have been fluttering their small, perfect hands over these objects and the objects have responded by obediently tucking themselves into drawers and closets.

Two more girls move in tomorrow and we will have a full house: four Firkes, two dogs and three students. We are not a dorm, but rather a hybrid -- a private faculty residence, plus students.

Last week's faculty dinners and cookouts began, along with the buckeye tree, to signal the change of seasons. For Don, autumn doesn't usually start to have savor until he's taught his first class, which won't be until Saturday. For me, the new year starts today, with this annual ritual where our house, which all summer has seemed full, somehow opens itself to receive more. Like the house, I have to perform the same trick.

September 3, 2003 in dailiness | Permalink


Postcard from the Black Bass

—June 19, 1982


A honeymoon is one occasion when decorum begs me not to write, "Wish you were here."

Behind this Inn, however, a greensward ribbon cleaves river and canal and you'd have liked the man we met today.

Imagine this—four Borzoi hounds careen toward us; a man behind strains to hold them two per hand. When their leashes snarl he lets them go.

All veer for the canal, plunge in, then double back, arcing up the bank.

Their profiles wet are lean as weathervanes.

And though he doesn't say so in these words, we guess tending the amber herd along this slender pasture is his work and family both.

Just setting out, we've no idea what lies ahead—what beauties, distances, what patient lengths.

June 19, 2003 in dailiness, snippets | Permalink


Apropos of not much

There's something to say about forgiving ourselves for what we were or have been. There's a tendency (in youth, she says sagely) to draw hard lines between our present and past selves. A little further along it becomes easier to feel affection for the silly, earnest people we have been. And to admit, grudgingly, that our present selves will come to seem equally faulty.

June 12, 2003 in dailiness | Permalink


Soothing the Bear

At the risk of jinxing what I have, I do solemnly declare that I love being married.

This is not a new marriage. It will be 21 years next month.

Naturally, my pleasure in it has everything to do with who I'm married to, but also, I suspect, with the paradox of feeling utterly free within a construct. Poets who write in forms know what I'm talking about, as do those who follow the forms of an organized religion. In The Philosopher's Diet: How to Lose Weight and Change the World, which is both a good diet and good philosophy, author Richard A. Watson talks about the efficacy of living within the demands of some kind of form. I rate myself a notorious resister of forms, being an almost-prose poet, a disorganized agnostic, and an abandoner of diets, but somehow the form of marriage agrees with me.

Earlier in the week, when I was feeling quite foul, Don made me laugh as only he can. ("No, he's Fawlty." "Faulty? What's wrong with him?")

Yesterday, when he was feeling, in his words, "like a bear" (and growling like one, too) I eased his day by receiving it, as is our married-folk custom. In the construct we've built, "Tell me about your day," isn't small talk. For both of us, it's "How do I know what I think until I hear what I've said?" It's the Weltys' whistling duet, up and down the stairs, that ties the different refrains of our days together.

(An online notebook is a kind of form, too. But that's a different story....)

May 15, 2003 in dailiness | Permalink


Monday, Monday

A whole day wasted on depression and hiding from myself and my work.

I did the things I had to do: made child lunches, got kids off to carpool, did the 90-minute afternoon carpool loop, walked/fed the dogs, etc.

I didn't do any of the "should do's" — answer client email, read the passages that a group of us in my newsgroup are analyzing, continue tweaking of some online materials...

I think the bottleneck is with the client email. Not the clients. The clients are lovely people: interesting writers with good things to say. No, it's a certain assignment I used to think was really important, but which always leads to some unanswerable questions. Well, not unanswerable, exactly, I just don't like the answers. Giving them makes me feel like a fraud, even though it's not my fault some of this material is so confounding.

I'm in the midst of a materials shuffle for this (the Dramatica Basics) course anyway. An updated interface and a slightly different flow through the material is almost ready. (I've said this before, then found more stuff to tweak. It would probably help if I had lower standards and no aesthetic sensibilities whatsoever. I did please myself beyond all reason last week by teaching myself how to make a treeview menu for the course syllabus....)

In Dramatica's lexicon I am being very female-minded at the moment. (Thinking in intuitive widening-circle patterns instead of connect-the-dots logical patterns.) As a way of categorizing problem-solving, it's a bit reductive (well, more than a bit) but also descriptive. Because I do tend to work on everything at once, nudging it all along some sort of progression, so that when it does see the light of day everything is marvelously connected and lots of contingencies are already accounted for. The trouble is, it can take an awfully long time to nudge it all out where it can be seen by the light of day and in the meantime it can sit around in big scary piles of amorphous undone stuff.

However, I think I have talked myself into being able to tackle some tiny part of it. Whew. Someone was once nice enough to tell me my "wheel grinds slowly, but exceedingly fine." I hope that's true.

May 12, 2003 in dailiness, distractions | Permalink


Young Man with Bass Guitar

I close my eyes and I see a lean dark silhouette. His left hand is deftly making the changes and his right thrums the heck out of his first Fender Squier. The awkward auditorium lighting makes the tuning keys especially bright and the fall of mop-hair over the eyes a dull gold. (At some point during this past year, he has grown shoulders.)

He's got the audience clapping the beat. He ups the amp, lets the tiniest bit of distortion creep in. I want to keep that grin on his face.

April 29, 2003 in Music, dailiness, snippets | Permalink


Behind the Counter

Steve, over at OnePotMeal, has really outdone himself today with "Twenty-five short films about Cumberland Farms." I think we all, at some time or another, work a job that is both tedious and in-your-face. One of mine was:

Dry Goods

By ten the shop is preened:
each bolt propped in its niche,
loose ends all wrapped and pinned,
each thread-cabinet slot rigged
so new spools drop fast after old.
The cashier says, "People really make
a mess of their money," and strops
a bill across the counter's edge.
She makes each president-filled oval
do a crisp right-face in the drawer.
There's nothing else to do.
The bell above the street-door
jolts us all into identical
looks of "May-I-help-you?"
The customer stands blinking
while the bleached noon outside
yields to our dim calico twilight.
Measuring lengths of grosgrain
for hair ribbons or hatbands,
my thoughts tuck under them-
selves like a flat-felled seam.
I guess I may quit tomorrow
or keep this job for years.

© 1988,1998 LGF.

April 22, 2003 in dailiness | Permalink


Sabine Farm

My sister asked me a few days ago if I'm planning to polish and publish any of the pieces that appear here on Wild Keys. My answer at the time was, essentially, of course.

But I find myself rummaging through different aspects of the question. I don't take it as an oversight (the pieces have just been published — here they are) but as a statement about their worth: that, knowing me as the lifelong in-print aspirant that I am, Martha wonders if I intend to "do" with these things.

What indeed. Some are tiny slices of larger projects that might someday be print-published works. Some continue thoughts that were started in works that have already been print-published. Since publishing in the traditional sense is only partly within my control, my focus lately has been on everything but publishing. And as I get more and more connected on the web, I find myself caring less about the formality of publishing and more about participating in the larger conversation. I feel less fussed about the ownership of my words and more interested in what got me writing in the first place:

I want to get down (write/tell/show) what it (life/consciousness/dailiness) feels like.

So it caught my attention yesterday when Mark Bernstein pointed out this article which argues that an ideal economic "ecosystem" for the artist is one:

...which looks to a mixture of the traditional amateur, performance, patronage, and commission forms of payment.

Both Mark and "How Does the Artist Get Paid?" author Dan Bricklin raise important issues, but instead of drawing conclusions I am reminded of "The Sabine Farm," a poem in Anthracite Country (which I rate as one of the best single volumes of poetry ever), by Jay Parini:


You spoke of Horace on his Sabine farm...
... Through confident, warm years,
with kingly patrons tending to his needs,
he dug the perfect furrows of his perfect odes.

I know a few of us would surely prize
that farm. ...

My friend, we follow in the Roman colter's
wake but in our own ways, not really farmers,
but poachers on the farm Maecenas granted.
....Caesars in their private jets
want nothing of us now. ...
I pay my debts, as you do, with a shrug
and turn to cultivate the ground, protected
by the barbed-wire fencing of our prose.
Unpatronized, we groom this inward land.

April 16, 2003 in Weblogs, dailiness | Permalink


Stable Mom

I've become a Stable Mom. Like a Soccer Mom, only with horses.

The day-to-day fallout from this is not too bad: the stable is only a few miles from our house and there are worse things than having muck-boots littering the front hall. (Ice hockey equipment, for instance, as I know from our years in the dorms, generally takes up more space and smells much worse.)

When I was growing up my parents couldn't have afforded riding lessons and I'm not sure we can either. By having relatively little actual experience with horses, I was able to retain a romantic view of them. Now that I know them better, I realize I didn't really miss anything. I like animals and animals like me, but I'm not a horsewoman.

With Mare, it's different. In the year and a half my daughter's been riding, she's absorbed the ethos of the barn, which is to eschew nail polish and helplessness and instead cultivate a cool indifference to muck and pride in being able to toss a hay bale nearly as big as you are. In the barn, you earn respect by coming early and staying late, by doing the most work, by literally Windexing the floor of your favorite horse's stall.

In the barn, your glory is getting to braid manes and tails or paint horse hooves. You find an old horseshoe and paint it a pretty color and mount it over your favorite horse's stall. You take to wearing t-shirts with the barn's logo on them; you get to order one with your name embroidered on the front and the word "staff" on the back. And, finally, you get to show.

A horse show starts days before the actual event. Every bit of saddlery and tack gets oiled or washed. The lint trap of your mother's dryer fills up with hair. If it's warm enough, the horses get a bath under the hose. It's not unlike a car wash, except the horses can kick and or slap wet tails at you.

The day of the show, which begins before dawn, every inch of the horse gets curried and brushed. Crumbs of sleep are gently swabbed out of his eyes. His nostrils get cleaned with baby wipes; his anus gets wiped with baby oil. His nose gets powdered. His chestnuts, the hard horny knots on the insides of his legs, get anointed with Vaseline. When he's finally brushed and braided and tacked up, the rider can attend to her own toilette.

Jods. You gotta have jodhpurs. They must fit tightly, so the judges can see air between you and the saddle when you post. Boots, clean black ones. A white shirt, with a funny backwards collar like a cleric. You must wear a pin in the front of this, even if it's only a humble safety pin.

A smooth-fitting jacket and a black velvet helmet completes the ensemble but you're not done yet. If your hair is long, it gets bundled into a pony tail or a bun; if short it gets caught in a hairnet and tacked sternly behind your ears with bobby pins.

(No, you tell your mother, you can't possibly eat anything.)

Several hours after your arrival at the show grounds, the first event begins. Showmanship. You lead your horse in through the gate and watch the judge. When she nods you trot forward, taking care not to appear to be pulling your horse. You stop on your mark and smile. The judge walks all around the horse; you carefully shift from one side and then the other, never standing between her and the horse. She nods at you and makes notes on her clipboard.

After everyone in the class has gone there's a pause while the judges score the event. Chances are you'll get a ribbon, but what color?

Throughout the day, you'll walk or ride through the gate into the ring. Walk-Trot. Canter. Equitation. Pleasure. Each class has it's own name; sometimes the judges look more at you, the rider, sometimes more at the horse beneath you. It's always over too fast.

Lest you get too stuck on yourself, you'll be reminded it's not all about you. There are other girls from the barn to cheer for. The horses need water, flakes of hay; they must be unbridled and allowed to graze, they must be tacked up again. At the end of the day, the trailer rumbles home decorated with rosettes. It needs mucking out, the horses need food. Every saddle and bridle and pad gets hung on its own peg. The hundreds of tiny braids are picked out and the manes and tails brushed smooth.

You kiss your favorite's whiskery nose before you go, then go back once more and fling your arms around his neck. You leave him a rosette: he worked hard, he earned it.

The blue Danish, your very first one, you take with you, retaining your grip on it even as you fall asleep in the car. At home your mother straightens the boots you leave in the hall and refrains from asking you to walk the dogs. She looks sunburned, how did that happen? You fall asleep again at dinner, your head in your plate. You dream you are a horse and your hair is made of ribbons.

April 8, 2003 in dailiness, snippets | Permalink