Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Near the road's end

That glorious sound that has been missing for so long is back, the sound of thunder. Lightning snakes through the clouds and brightens the overcast sky in a searing flash. Cars swish by through the rain and torrents flood the sky and my ears. I've missed the rain and the sound of thunder. The blossoms on the tree next door are deep pink and stand out as though freshly painted, the backdrop of pale yellow-green leaves brighter and more real now that it's raining. Everything is darker, brighter, clearer with the rain and the air smells like spring. The sun gilded everything moments before but the massed clouds hold the world in a twilight grip, the day hanging between dawn and dusk like the world is holding its breath, eyes half closed, still, but not silent.

This explains my recent lethargy and heaviness, the sense of some impending something suddenly released like elastic pulled to its limits and let go. I feel energized as I always am during a storm with so much electricity and energy in the pounding rain that needles my flesh. I've missed this. I need this. And to think so many people fear this. I cannot imagine why, but probably can't imagine why someone would feel as if the bottom dropped out of the world when looking down from a height the way I do. Then again, they probably haven't fallen thirteen feet from the slender grasp of a rope swing in a tree to a debris-littered jungle floor with only an arm ripped open and a hairline fractured humerus and got up and walked away. I can.

I don't know if everything has its opposite or that there are subtler shadings to the universe where all possible choices and situations and states exist at the same time mirrored in the myriad differences of every person on this planet and every parallel world that moves in all directions from this point. There are degrees of fear and elation, degrees of everything, but we seldom see the pastel and nearly black and white shades because the vibrant primary colors, the brightest white and the deepest black command the attention.

I wished for this rain last night, seeing it in my mind, hearing it with my heart, feeling it with my soul and knowing it would come today and wash the world and wash away the heaviness in me as I tossed and turned in the suffocating warmth of my bed last night. I am separating from this home where I have found solace and imprisonment, happiness and discontent. I know it is time to move on. I have lived here longer than I've lived anywhere since I left home thirty-five years ago and I know my next home, a simple cottage at the edge of the alley, is temporary, too. There is another home waiting for me, a home where I can finally put down roots and let them thrust down into the hard packed skin of earth and drive through the soil like a Methuselah tree instead of the shallow-rooted pines so easily blown down in a violent, ripping wind. I have been transplanted too many times to count since I was born and have finally reached my natural home. There will be one other home, a quiet aerie higher in the mountains, a retreat, a place to re-energize my soul and my heart, to cleanse my mind of the sounds and lives that sometimes intrude and hem me in. At last, I am where I belong and I've had lots of experience letting go and moving on, being pushed or running from one temporary haven to another, but not for much longer. My road is narrowing and coming to an end, not a final end, merely a permanent home from where I can welcome travelers and direct them onward. My mother will be so proud. I'm almost an adult.

Like a long soaking rain, instead of the wind harried storm that blows in and moves on, my life has changed. I have changed. Both are needful and both welcome, but the change is as welcome as it is inevitable.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Thank you, technology

Despite some of the drawbacks of communicating on the Internet and in emails, I am so grateful for them both. You don't really understand what kind of paperwork is involved in moving until you consider all the magazines, books and publishing checks that could be rerouted and maybe not arrive at all. It used to be such a chore, and filling out the form from the post office helped a little, but it doesn't help with changing information on subscriptions, or what to do with all the labels stored up for future use from charitable organizations wanting money. I have a drawer full, a big drawer full. But the post office now exacts a charge, although it is only one dollar, to change the address on line.

That's a lot of money when you figure in how many people move on a daily basis nationwide who have computers and want to simplify things by making changes online -- and yet they are raising the price of stamps again, as if the two cents last year wasn't enough, now they want another penny. This is getting ridiculous. They should learn to spend less money and save more instead of dinging the consumer again and again and again. No wonder more people use email than snail mail. If Scotty could beam my online purchases directly to me and save having to deal with delivery companies and the post office. Talk about reducing the carbon footprint, although I'm sure someone will figure out how that is depleting the ozone or adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere so Al Gore can pick up another Nobel prize for wagging the dog. I digress.

People are talking about minimizing the individual carbon footprint and I do my part. I get most of my bills by email and pay online so there is no paperwork, and yet the phone and utility company continue to send me notices by mail. At least I could change my address by phone or online with both of those. I did my share. Of course they will send me a confirmation by snail mail even though they also sent one by email. Government mentality.

I also changed all of my subscriptions, at least the ones I could remember, online and that saved a lot of time and effort. I'm good to go and go I shall very soon now. The only paperwork I expect from those changes are the magazines going to the new address without being routed through the post office to be forwarded and risk ending up in a plastic bag with an "I'm sorry we ruined destroyed damaged your [fill in the blank]" message printed right on the bag.

Not to fret too much. There was good news last night, and again this morning, but it was followed, as always, by bad news. The picture I sent the magazine to go along with the detailed and very personal questionnaire I filled out is insufficient for publication. It's not 300 dpi (dots per inch) and it's too small and resizing it is not possible. I can size it down but not make it bigger without losing even more resolution. There are two options left for me now. I can either find someone to take a picture of me with my digital camera and end up as I usually do looking more hideous than I truly am or I can spring for a professional digital photo that I can send out whenever another picture is needed, and I've been asked several times today for pictures to go with upcoming books. What happened to the words being sufficient?

I called around and found several local photographers who will do the job but not for less than $250 if I want to have the pictures on a CD or by email. I don't understand why it costs so much. There's a little touching up to do, but that is a minimal charge of $9-17.50, depending on which photographer I choose, but why does photograph that exists in binary code and can be saved to a CD that costs less than a dollar cost more than a package of photos that have been printed and sized and come in different sizes? Technology should reduce the cost not increase it, especially since there is no darkroom time and no chemicals to buy and use and no paper and hardly any time at all to develop the film since it isn't developed. At least I can take it off my taxes as a business expense and this writing business is getting expensive indeed.

I'm not complaining about the writing just the circus maximus that now attends the creation of stories and articles, etc. and the need for the public to see a face with the words. I doubt that Shakespeare or Plato or Aristotle or Guy de Maupassant or even Poe would have lasted in this image crazy time in which we live. On the other hand, Washington Irving would have loved it, especially since he sat for so many portraits, although fewer in his later years.

I told Beanie about my situation and she said, "I know. I don't like having my picture taken either." Beanie is a petite little thing of 43 years who still looks like a 12-year-old boy when her hair is up and she's wearing ball cap. Not everyone, no matter who they are, likes to have their likeness preserved for eternity -- or at least as long as someone remembers how to use the fragile technology we've created. I'd offer to let them use my skull to create a likeness when I'm gone, but the skull will be ash, along with the rest of me, when I depart this particular physical form. Oh, well, I have about a month to save or earn enough money to pay for the digital rendering of my head and shoulders and I hope someone knows how to use Photoshop. If I'm going to pay that much I want my skin tone like blush on a peach, my eyes luminous, my mouth like a ripe plum and my cheekbones sharp enough to cut marble.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Oh, no, Mr. Bill

I love clothes. I love looking at them and mentally designing different looks. I do not want to be the one who has to go trawling through the mall looking at and buying clothes. I am missing that gene. But I have a dilemma. I am scheduled, so far, for four personal appearances to promote Cup of Comfort for Single Mothers and I don't think I can get away with my old standbys. As someone recently pointed out, when I wore them two years ago they were nearly transparent.

I have had the clothes for more than a decade and they have a few holes that I've patched and they're clean, but they are getting a bit thin and the elastic waistband isn't what it used to be: tight, springy, etc. I have added one or two things over the years, but even they have seen better days (I don't know how those stains got on there, except that they went into the washer without them and came out of the dryer with them -- I blame the fabric softener). I do realize that I should be presentable, but I hate shopping. Why oh why can't someone make shopping easier for shopping gene-free people like me? What I need want is a personal shopper with a keen sense of style that won't make me gag or feel the need to commit murder, an eye for bargains and the ability to stay within a limited budget. Somehow I don't think such a person exists.

Most designers, and I use the term very loosely, design clothes for the hanger. The fact that the hanger has arms, legs and a head does not detract from the fact that it's still a hanger. I understand about designing for a flat two dimensional surface; I have painted portraits and people before and I was pretty good at it, but most people are not made that way, just a small segment of the population that are obviously the offspring of a wire hanger and a skeleton. What I don't understand, is if designers are such geniuses why they cannot design clothes for a three dimensional person with curves and bulges and not make them look like clowns or dressed in cast off circus tents caught in a tie-dye massacre. A true couture genius should be able to design clothes to make every body look good. That would be something to see and something I would be willing to use my hard-earned book money to buy.

No amount of artful accessorizing or draped shawls, tabards and dust jackets is going to change the fact that the clothes are awful, the patterns hideous and the selection more limited than Paris Hilton's common sense. Making a pattern bigger and painting it in neon-bright colors that come with a small generator does not make the clothing look any better. Rather, it calls attention to an otherwise gaudy and distasteful incident that causes traffic accidents and clock stoppage. It definitely won't work for me. Good thing I have a whole day to go shopping after the move so I can find something to wear to the book signing on Saturday. Or maybe I'll remind my co-authors that I am moving this week and need the weekend to pull everything together so I can go back to work on time on Monday. It's only one signing. The next appearance is in June and that will give me enough time to force myself to go to the mall if I can't find something suitable online that will arrive before the book signing. There has to be an easier way to do this, but I'm afraid I'll have to rely on the one person who has seen me through every other difficult and potentially dangerous situation -- me.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Harmony and memory

It's a bright morning, a little too bright after a late night, or rather an early night that turned into a late night when I suddenly woke up at 1:25 a.m. I want to finish the current book so I can write my review and focus on stem cell research (another book to review) and moving some more things today. The apartment is beginning to look a little bare without all the books. I've decided to tear down the computer and move it over to the cottage and set it up since I'm on vacation this week. It will make things a lot easier when it comes to getting close to the windows to clean them and then I can get at that section of the sun room that hasn't been dusted or vacuumed in the three years since I put the desk there. It's not practical to tear apart the computer and move the desk just to dust and vacuum once a week. It's like not moving the stove or refrigerator once a week to clean the kitchen. What I find back there should be interesting.

One thing about moving this way is that it will mean I won't have so many boxes to unpack and it won't take so long to get settled. That's one part of moving I dislike. I like the moving part and the settled part, but since I'm not Jeannie or Samantha I can't just blink or do a little magic to transport everything intact. Either would come in handy when it comes time to clean, too.

I had a short conversation this morning with an old boyfriend back in Ohio. He and I have stayed friends all these years and he keeps asking when I'll come back to Ohio, or he did until he got hooked up with some African women who trawl the International Internet waters looking for suckers willing to part with their money. He likes to play with them without giving up the cash. I guess he's become a miser in his old age.

He retired about five years ago at the ripe old age of 51. He worked for the Columbus Fire Department as an EMT and lead on the bomb squad. When we dated, we spent his days off together (he worked 24 on and 48 off) and I switched my schedule around so we would have the same three days off together. We had a lot of fun together working on and flying his planes, walking his five dogs (something I did for him when he went on vacation or was at the station), working in my yard trimming bushes and mowing the lawn and planting bushes and flowers, etc. We went to movies and dinner and had sleep overs, but mostly at his house since he couldn't leave the kids very long or they'd have the place torn down, not that you could actually tell they hadn't when you walked into the house. We also cooked together. His specialty was green bean casserole. My specialty was everything else, although he did grill meat very well.

This morning he told me one of his dogs, Major, was on a 40-foot leash and he heard this ruckus outside so he rushed outside in his boxer shorts. Major had jumped the fence and was hanging by his left hind foot. He couldn't free Major's leg so he ran back into the house, got the pliers and cut Major free only to find out that Major's right ear was shredded and bleeding like it had been chewed. It had. Skipper, finding Major in a helpless situation, shredded Major's ear. I guess they haven't figured out which one of them is the alpha dog or else Skipper doesn't like Major being the alpha dog and took advantage of the situation to savage his rival. I haven't met these dogs, but I'd say they are very different from the five Rick had when we dated. I should also mention there are now seven dogs and not five, as well as a couple of cats, at Rick's House o' Dogs. Good thing Rick is an EMT or he'd have to pay extra to get his vet to go in on a Sunday and Rick doesn't like parting with money, although his dogs are the exception to the rule. Major is in one of the many cages in Rick's house and Skipper is on the 40-foot leash outside. Neither of them are happy but they're both quiet, by all reports.

All this makes me a little nostalgic. Rick and I were always chasing after one of his dogs, but there were a lot fewer dog fights. One of his dogs like to hump everything, including a hole in the ground when Kodiak wouldn't stand still long enough, but the dogs didn't fight with each other, just with other neighborhood dogs. We mostly chased after Peanut, the little beagle escape artist who only escaped when there were rabbits or groundhogs or moles nearby, which was most of the time. For a little dog, she was strong and nearly pulled my arm out of the socket a time or two when she scented game. I learned to keep her on a short leash and hold the leashes of the other four dogs in my left hand since they weren't nearly as rambunctious.

I guess it's normal to feel nostalgic about the past even when I know it will never be the same. I know what's back there and I miss some of it, but I'd never leave Colorado for Ohio, not even for a house with a $38/month mortgage. My parents' mortgage on their $12,900 house with a double lot was more than that. I think they paid $142 a month. Don't ask me how I know; I just do. My grandparents had a four-bedroom, two-bath house and they paid $74 a month. That was a lot of money back in the 1970s when minimum wage was $1.65.

It's amazing how much I remember, like making more than minimum wage and buying my mother a pair of half-carat diamond earrings for her birthday with my wealth. Diamonds were cheaper then, too. The car payment on my 1973 Silver Vega Hatchback was $65 a month and the rent on my first apartment was $50 a month. I remember an electric bill that was about $8 for the month and it seemed like a lot, but then I could buy two weeks' worth of groceries for $30 and it didn't take much to fill the gas tank on my car since gas was 30 cents a gallon. It's more than 10x that now.

Everything changes, and not always for the better, but any change sometimes is a good thing since it shakes up the ant farm and keeps us from getting stale and entrenched in those deep ruts we make by following a routine that is only distinguished by the day of the week. For me, it's time to find a new routine and a different rhythm, one that will hopefully bring me back closer to a natural rhythm uncomplicated and unfettered by anyone else's rhythms.

I'm reminded of the sign above the door at Plato's school: music of the spheres. It's all about balance and harmony and it's not just for music. Like the rhythm of unlabored breathing, a pure and uncluttered energy. The harmonies and music of rising and setting sun and its trek across the sky, the rise and fall of light and shadow, heat and cold. The body needs those rhythms to stay in balance so the mind, like the body, can remain in balance and be productive and open to all the possibilities of living. When everything is in harmony the petty daily problems melt into nothing, receding into the background into white noise and dissonance that can be dealt with at leisure when mind and body are armored against their assault. But it's not a battle. Rather, it's a dance, sometimes a passionate tango, sometimes a sedately romantic waltz and sometimes it's a frenetic frug that vents the pent up heat and mental and emotion debris.

Even battles are dances as enemies move close, engage and whirl away to engage again or drop away, lobbing explosive invitations from a distance in time and space until ultimately battlers pair off or dive into a mosh pit of myrmidons to be trampled or emerge victorious. It's all connected, a dissonance like Beethoven's crashing chords giving way to softer lilting passages of peace after the breathless surge of clashing cymbals and throbbing drums that mark the cacophony of battle enjoined.

It's all part of the music of the spheres: asteroids careening drunkenly or deliberately drawn to the magnetic grave of the sun or one of the planets, clasped to a bosom until both are changed. Planets dancing around stars in a Highland or Virginia reel of seemingly complicated steps that are really quite simple. Birth and death and the journey in between where all is an essential part of all at the beginning, middle and always at the end, drawn like moths to a flame. Fireflies dancing on a warm summer night winking in the dusk and lighting the late night darkness until they fade with the morning light, connected by time and experience in an unending spiral dance to be forgotten in the rush of the larger pattern and sneaking out when all is silence and the mind is open to the haunting refrains of the past.