Thursday, June 07, 2007

It's all about love

I'm awake and going through my usual morning ritual: bathroom, food, email, and writing. I decided to make a post and had something else in mind to write (and I may still get there), but I cruised over to Amazon to see what selections they offer me this morning for my time and button clicking pleasure. I found The Things that Matter by Edward Mendelson and read the synopsis. "In the chapter "Birth," for example, Mendelson demonstrates that Frankenstein is pervaded by fears of abandonment and death."

I've read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and, although fear of abandonment and death are major themes, there are also the themes of love and keeping love at all costs, which, I guess, would also be about abandonment and death, except I see it more as retaining and prolonging happiness and love. At times, love has the birth cycle of a Mayfly, much like the attention span of someone with a bad case of ADD (attention deficit disorder). Other times it is more like a joke I heard years ago about an Aquarian scientist who was as likely to give his wife a bag of salty, fresh roasted peanuts (her favorite) for their anniversary or her birthday or a ruby necklace because he was thinking about her that day, illustrating a love that is both thoughtful and at times absent-minded when focused on something fascinating, and yet still remains fresh and strong with a memory for little details that pop up at odd moments. The scientist remembered her favorite food and the important days, but he also remembered an offhand wishful and wistful comment when they passed a jewelry store months (or more likely, years) before.

Frankenstein wants to keep those he loves around him, protect them from death and from the destruction of the peace and harmony of their little world. He wants love and happiness to last forever, never changing, always closeand, like the little girl whose fortuitous Christmas turkey wishbone wish gave her Christmas every day, creates sadness and horror instead. It isn't that love and happiness don't last forever, but they, like the ocean under the moon's influence, ebb and flow, sometimes stronger and sometimes, like the Aquarian scientist, there but not there. It isn't Frankenstein's fear and abandonment, aptly illustrated by the monster's rampaging when he is driven out over and over because of the horror of his face and form, that so deftly and pervasively provide the warp and weft of the story, but love: Frankenstein's love for his family and Elizabeth and the monster's quest and cell-deep need for love (father's love, family's love, community's love, and a mate's love). At the end of the tale, when Frankenstein's strength and body fail him and he dies, the monster gently takes his father in his arms and carries him out into the eternal frozen landscape to be forever together to be mourned and loved and remembered.

The monster will never die; Frankenstein defeated death, but in the end Frankenstein and his monster are defeated by love: the monster's love for his father and Frankenstein's love for his family and Elizabeth. The monster becomes the embodiment of requited and unrequited love, a monument to the lengths to which we all go to find and preserve, unchanging, love. And there are many kinds of love, which brings me back to what I wanted to write in the first place: love, specifically the love of books and the lengths to which I go to have and hold books.

I don't just want to have and hold them, I want to read them, some of them over and over, and at times I resent having to work because work demands time, time I could spend reading so many books (and there is so little time).

I spend money on books and never regret it, at least not like I regret spending money on clothes or office supplies (both of which are necessary but not unavoidable) or even food at times. Going out to eat is a luxury and one that I happily forego to buy books or cheap food so I can buy more books. I spend a lot of time at Amazon, Hamilton Books, Powell's, Alibris, second-hand bookstores, Barnes & Noble, etc., and a few dollars (I usually buy second-hand books, which make it possible to buy even more books). I found something better. I found book_swapping and after only one day I have traded review books for books I have always wanted or have recently decided to read. Yes, I can get these books at the library, but long waits and having to return them eventually (and usually, with my schedule, all too quickly) make getting books from the library problematic. Add to that my local library is closed for the next five months and I am forced to schedule my browses on Tuesday and Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the cramped and often crowded confines of the book mobile and you see my problem. Or maybe you don't. You don't have the desire to hold and caress and read and sleep with books as I do.

book_swapping caught my eye when I signed onto LiveJournal a few days ago and I knew its siren's call would lure me eventually. I was strong and held out for two whole days before I succumbed and followed the link to a wealth of books and people who love books and books I wanted and books I could trade and books, books, and more books. I have some packages to send today because I have made several successful trades. No more bookmobile. No more time limits on caressing and holding and reading. (Okay, so I'll still have to go to the bookmobile since the other people in the community don't quite have everything I want or need to read, but it's an alternative, and a good one.)

Check it out. If you have books you can bear to part with (many of my review books fall into that category), then you have something to trade for a book or books you've been eyeing. Do a little canny trading. It's worth the effort. After all, there is no truer love than the love of books, something I'm about to teach my grandson, Jordan, who will get a package of special books on his birthday next month.

Spread the love. It is all about love after all.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I sold another one

I am on a roll. I woke up a little while ago (happens when you go to sleep at 8:30) and decided to check email (it's instinctive). I had a message from Colleen Sell of Cup of Comfort books. She bought Apache Attack for Cup of Comfort for Horse Lovers. I'm so excited. I have several other stories out for other anthologies, but this is the latest acceptance. Horse Lovers will be out in spring 2008, about the same time as Single Mothers. More money in the pipeline and more books on the shelves. I could get to like this kind of email news.

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Psychic Viking Attack

I was working on a story when a stray thought pounced on my writing energy and strangled the muse. It happens sometimes. A piece of dialogue or a description or even something someone said a day or two ago will come back and bring friends. This particular thought brought memories of a guy I knew whose presence made people feel uncomfortable, especially, but not exclusively, women. I told him on several occasions he was bleeding sexual energy and needed to learn how to control it better so that his overriding sexual neediness wasn't broadcasting. He didn't know what I was talking about so I explained . . . on several occasions . . . in detail . . . with sock puppets. He still didn't get it. He claimed that to control his sexual energy was the same thing as being dishonest about who he was. He just didn't get it.

What was happening was akin to psychic Viking attack: raping, pillaging, and insulting neighboring people. He was only interested in being true to himself and honest about his emotions but his honesty was personally and psychically damaging to those around him and sensitive people were afraid of him. Some felt discomfort but the really sensitive people who didn't know how to shield themselves became nauseous and ill.

I'm all for being honest about who and what you are, but there are certain ways that being honest about yourself can be socially unacceptable. Bleeding psychic energy into someone else's space is like a smoker blowing smoke into the face of a nonsmoker while riding numerous floors in an elevator. At least he could have asked if he could invade people's spaces but he didn't. Instead he chose to broadcast his sexual energy to everyone around him, and he wondered why people didn't like him. Oh, there were some people who put up with it and talked behind his back, but didn't have the guts or honesty to tell him to his face he was being intrusive and obnoxious.

There are those who wear their hearts on their sleeves and whose faces give away their emotions, but they are relatively harmless on the psychic energy broadcast scale, like barely receiving a station in your own town with the antenna pointed in the right direction and optimum atmospheric conditions. And then there are those who are the equivalent of a ghetto blaster with dual quad speakers turned up to full volume in a locked closet, making your ears (and chakras) bleed. The worst part is that you haven't agreed to be locked in the closet to be assaulted but rather have been forced to endure the torture. Anger, repressed rage, pent up sexual need, depression, grief, and any number of powerful emotions unwittingly broadcast in this manner can make being in the same space (or even within a five-block radius) feel uncomfortable at best and violated at worst. I foresee a time when people entering a restaurant or business or even someone's home will be told to check their emotions at the door or be barred from entering.

Even though it seems like the guy was being real and honest and true to his emotions, sometimes it's best to shield yourself to keep from viciously violating other people's spaces. It's not a bad idea to learn how to shield your emotions, but it's a better idea to deal with them and let them go before they prove as toxic to you as they are to everyone around you.

FYI: If your energy is making someone uncomfortable, off balance, nauseous, dizzy, or physically ill, it isn't a good thing. That is the sign of negative energy. If you broadcast strong energy and people want to get closer to you, you're charismatic. It's like getting close to a warm fire on the hearth when you're freezing cold. Making people uncomfortable and ill and making them feel warm and welcome is like the difference between a raging, devouring inferno and a welcoming fire and it's easy to tell the difference. Time to balance your chakras, cleanse your aura, and get to the root of the problem.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, June 04, 2007

For Father's Day

Father’s Day is a few weeks away, but I won’t have to find a gift for Dad this year. He died on the first day of March, the day I returned home after seeing him for the last time. He’s gone and I am just beginning to realize what that means. My father is dead.

The funeral arrangements went quickly and smoothly without too much fuss, but no one talked about what to do with all his plants. There are so many. Flowers, bushes, and trees grew for him the way they did for no one else. He had a gift, plucking a twig or a leaf and sticking it in the earth so that it grew. They didn’t just grow for him; they flourished, spread profusely, riotously, gloriously, abundantly, happily.

Dad started an English ivy plant when I was a child, pinching a few leaves off a neighbor’s plant, tucking them in his pocket, and thumbing them into moist, rich earth when he got home. The ivy sprouted and grew in a small hanging pot, racing over the edges of the planter and down in bright green garlands like the arms of a floral octopus, entangling drapes and sheers, curling around pictures and over china cabinets and chairs, and the wagon wheel chandelier that hung from the center of the room, crisscrossing and weaving in and around the spokes and rim of the wheel until it was a living leafy Rose Parade imitation. “One of these days,” I told him twenty years later, “that plant is going to wrap around your neck and pull you right into the pot and consume you.”

He stroked the variegated green leaves with one thick, gnarled, arthritic finger and smiled the kind of smile shared between mischievous fathers and impish children ignoring, just this once, discipline and rules. “They love me.”

Every one of his plants performed for him, secure healthy children certain of his approval, outdoing themselves to please him. In every corner of the house and the enclosed front porch in the winter and the palisade-fenced yard in spring, summer, and fall, a rain forest jungle of green wreathed faces followed him like bright-faced sunflowers tracking the sun, filling the air with the soft sweet kisses of perfectly blended perfumes.

Dad’s floral family of adopted and fostered plants thrived, like the avocado seed stuck with toothpicks I nurtured in a juice glass on a narrow kitchen windowsill nearly thirty years ago that now bends beneath the ten-foot ceiling like a polite giant among pygmies. Elephant ears are not nearly as wide or large as the leaves on the floral namesake standing amid the wild profusion of domesticated nature under Dad’s tender care. Delicate irises, snobbish aristocratic roses, fragile orchids, clowning day lilies, pregnant raucous peonies, humble violets, promiscuous lilacs, and seductive exotics sheltered beneath hoary black walnut, youthful peach, wide-eyed cherry, and sour-faced crabapple trees bordered by fat royal purple grape-festooned arbors and inquisitive flowered weeds. All received the same attentive care and all bloom despite their superficial differences, temperament, and abilities.

Only two plants defied Dad watchful, loving care: African violets and a five-year-old bonsai rose tree we gave him one year for Father’s Day. He embraced their uniqueness or kept close track of them among his far-flung adopted, fostered, and biological children, and yet they faded and died as though unable to live up to their idea of his expectations.

Gem-bright African violet blooms brightened and stretched when he smiled. Fuzzy leaves uncurled and reached out, spreading to fill their clay homes, eventually needing bigger and bigger pots. Then suddenly they faded. Not even resuscitative grow lights in the warmth of the enclosed and protected front porch coaxed their return. Dad was heartbroken. He didn’t give up, but tried again and again, pruning, repotting, layering sand, gravel, and charcoal, giving them every advantage. For a while, they brightened and raised their drooping hearts only to wither, weaken, and disappear. Sad and disheartened, he let them go, always ready to welcome them back.

The bonsai rose was older, a preteen full brilliant possibilities, anxiously looking forward to a stable home far from its rootless wandering life in the back of a hippie-painted van. My baby sister and I rescued him and brought it home. The bonsai rose stayed with me for a couple of weeks. I fell in love with his perfect tiny white flowers and miniature glossy green leaves. I knew he belonged with Dad. Reluctantly, I took him it to Dad’s house Father’s Day Sunday, carefully packed and dressed. Dad’s smile of childlike wonder made it worthwhile giving up the bonsai rose’s company. “Reminds me so much of Japan.”

I wondered if the bonsai reminded him, too, of his first child, the child his Japanese wife and her family took when she left him. That was long before he married Mom, adopted me, and had two more daughters and a son.

Like the memory of that marriage and the joy at the birth of his first daughter, the bonsai rose faded, leaving nothing more than a tangled brown husk of twisted branches and desiccated roots. Every Father’s Day I teased him about the bonsai rose. Dad smiled and laughed, but a ghostly shadow of sadness clouded his clear blue eyes. There were limits to his gift, limits to love. Dad felt like a failure.

Dad gave us all so much: intelligence, tenacity, an adventurous spirit, and an easy, friendly smile. We don’t share the innate gift or encyclopedic knowledge necessary to care for his orphaned floral children. Though Dad’s plants weathered the moves from the city to the country to the suburbs, where the city reached out and engulfed Dad’s palisade fenced sanctuary, and, finally, back to the country again, I wonder if they are resilient enough to withstand losing him. Without his ever-present smile, his easy laughter, his gentle touch, despite gnawing arthritis, his unfailing attention, or the way he talked with friends and strangers alike, how will they survive? We can give them nourishment and water, sunshine and shelter. We can tend them and see to their physical needs, but Dad gave them more. He gave all his children—adopted, fostered, and biological—so much. He gave us a piece of his boundless generous and loving soul. Maybe that is enough and how we will all survive, maybe I do have a gift after all.