winter wind

a swirling
bellowing flower
opening


The year after I turned twenty, the university I attended put on a Shakespeare festival. Sitting in the audience was one of the formative artistic experiences of my life.

Sadly, these performances have disappeared from the university’s meticulously kept theatrical archives, possibly because they did The Taming of the Shrew as one of three plays, and are now ashamed to admit it. However, I really don’t know why. Their records go back decades before that; and that year looks suspiciously thin on listed performances.

Great theatrical performances change us in ways no other art form can. It’s similar to movies, but more intimate and tangible. Elements of virtually all of the other arts are present, as well.

Measure For Measure was one of the plays I saw as part of that festival, and its exploration of sexual harassment and double standards for people in power made a tremendous impression on me. Because it has a happy ending, it is classified as one of Shakespeare’s comedies; few of his tragedies, however, are more disturbing.

The main thing I noticed about The Taming Of The Shrew was how well the joking innuendo came across almost 500 years after being written. I didn’t take the plot terribly seriously, as this play is truly a comedy, in the modern sense.

As You Like It was magical in every way. The performance I saw combined music, dance, scenery, and costumes in a brilliant manner. That play has a lot of famous dialogue, which, placed in context, increased exponentially in meaning for me. When I heard a setting of Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind sung by my youngest daughter’s high school chorus, I was taken back in memory to seeing this play in college.

For those of you involved in producing art, of whatever kind: you never know how it will effect people, or for how long. When the winter wind of life blows, it is a very good thing to have the experience of great art to warm you.

Back Roads

The roads I daily travel
May rich or lacking be,
But if they’ll get me home again
That’s good enough for me.

I have been on the back roads
For what seems like a while,
But every road is good enough
That gets me that last mile.

A muddy road’s as good as any
Road has ever been
If it will take me back to where
I’ll see her face

Again

unseen

a prairie ghost
that blows unseen,
a soul set free
but in-between,

a spirit on
the clouds that pass,
a shudder in
the rippled

grass


A large part of romance is mystery. Who is this person? Where did they come from? What will they say or do next?

The same is true of the romance of traveling. What’s around this corner? Who lives there? What’s on the other side of those mountains?

I have been fortunate to travel all over the United States, and the variety of terrains is mind-boggling. Some of the individual locations are indescribably spectacular. Westerns, as a movie genre, derived much of whatever grandeur they had showing the rest of the world places like Monument Valley, Arizona.

A lot of westerns also use prairie scenery, notable for filling up the widest screens. To many people, prairie land is dull; to me, it’s full of mystery. It also has a timeless quality. In every direction one sees possibilities worth exploring.

The desire to explore is one of the handful we are born with. You are never really old so long as you still want to explore. It’s one of the things young adults do way better than older ones: get in a car and go, look for out of the way places, forget about the GPS for a bit and see what’s out there. Enjoy the mystery of discovery.

People who love to travel to see terrain are often faced with an attitude from others I call “the urban so what”. You know how it goes: you excitedly say you saw wild buffalo in a herd out on the prairie, and they say “so what?” Or you talk about being on the edge of the Grand Canyon, and they say, “sounds cold.”

You don’t get that if you tell them you went to Paris, because wanting to be where people are needs no explanation. The prairie is the ideal place to go if you want to go where the people aren’t, which I usually do.

Adulthood need not mean loss of wonder. The trade-off appears to be prioritizing exploration versus convenience. You have to get up and move, get out of your comfort zone, run some risk. These are typically not the virtues of age.

But our innate desire to do things the easiest way is conquerable. Maybe then, if we overcome this desire, we can see the land, rather than stay home and look at pictures of the land.

Much of what remains unseen is only that way because it lies unvisited.

Schrödinger’s Cat

So, I was here watching Schrödinger’s cat,
Now it’s both dead and alive:
How it has managed this, I do not know.
Somehow, though, it did contrive

So both to be and to not-be at once
Putting poor Hamlet to shame:
So the old Law of Non-Contradiction’s
Broken, and I am to blame.

So in the middle of Animal Rights
Physics, and Theater too —
I’ve violated immutable laws
What’s a poor blogger to do?

 

Connection Out Of Anything

Our differences can separate
Though distances be small —
But you can build connection
Out of anything at all

A conversation starter kit,
A picture on the wall —
Yes, you can build connection
Out of anything

At all


You can’t tell just by looking at it, but the old train car in the photograph above is being used as a bridge. Here is another view:

I stumbled on these pictures on the Internet, and was excited to see they were taken Georgia (where I can easily go see the place myself, since I live there), only to realize they were taken in Georgia, the country, not Georgia, the state in the southern United States. From what I can find, the bridge is a Soviet-era legacy.

Bridges are another “old technology” in the family of old technologies I discussed here the other day: so are trains. I love old technologies, because human ingenuity in problem solving is part of what connects all of us.

Overcoming connection barriers is one of the primary purposes of technology. Both trains and bridges were ways of connecting people who would otherwise have found connection difficult-to-impossible. Train bridges themselves are fascinating, although I will forever see images from “The Polar Express” any time I even think about train bridges.


Connections. In life, we make them with others, sometimes only once, sometimes just for a period of hours, or days, or weeks. Sometimes, even very short ones can be intensely memorable.

I’ve been around blogging a few years now, and it is much the same as the rest of life: people come, stay awhile, then leave. A small few stay over a longer period of time, but lives and their vicissitudes simply take people off in new and different directions. That doesn’t make the connection any less real or important.

Blogging allows us to connect with people we would never otherwise have met. From this November’s National Blog Posting Month (“Nano Poblano”, as it’s called around here), you need only see the fabulous Julie Burton’s “Meet Oyiwodu, from Nigeria” for as wonderful an example of this as you could find.

Of the many blog posts I read, the majority of the ones I enjoy the most are ones where people just talk about their lives: their work, their loves, their disappointments, their heartaches, them. Their lives. A leading feature of posts of this type is that their authors are frequently apologetic about making them. They seem to think a better sort of blog takes a more detached tone, and writes about more important subjects than everyday life.

In short, their unstated view is: “real authors” know all, and are above it all.

To that view, I say, “piffle”. That’s right. Piffle.

Sorry for using such strong language.

A blog is a sort of technological extension of the author, one that allows for more intimacy than many other literary technologies allow for. It doesn’t replace more conventional types of connection, but it can be a better substitute for less efficient ways to make literary connection.

I sometimes think that blogs are where “the lost art of letter writing” went. Something that used to connect us, turned into something else that now connects us.

Kind of of an old train that got turned into a new bridge.

For The Birds

the aging birdhouse sits,
its former dwellers gone,
this lonely spot’s forgotten now,
for everything moves on.

the builder’s hands at work,
the careful markings drawn,
but none remember who did what,
for everything moves on.

creation, though, is good,
our souls to build upon —
for we who see can take this forth,
for everything

moves on.


Among my late father’s many, varied interests were birds. He loved seeing them, and sketching what he saw. He also could imitate them, and frequently did so.

I wondered, in my youth, if birds considered this sort of thing mockery. Or if he sounded to them like he had an accent.

About that same age, I heard the girl’s chorus at my school sing “Ladybird”, a setting of a Hungarian folk song by composer Zoltán Kodály. The lyrics were

Ladybird, O fly now,
Up into the sky now,
Hark to the drumming!
Now the Turks are coming!
Hurry, hurry will you
Or they’ll catch and kill you!
Pickle you in brine,
Tie you up in twine,
Trussing you to toast you,
Griddle you, or roast you.
Take you to the tower,
Grind you up in flour
Listen!
Hear the Turks a-coming,
Mustn’t let them catch you!
Fly! Fly! Ladybird, O Fly now!

I wasn’t quite sure what a Ladybird was, but I was now aware that they lived a life of imminent peril.

My parents told us a story years ago about going out to see the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds”. Not only were they gravely unsettled by it, they suddenly noticed how many birds there were, everywhere they went. In large groups. Planning something nefarious.

Perhaps revenge against the Turks. Or my dad for his bird impressions.

The Way Of The Sun

I colored pictures as a very small child, and the sun was either there or it wasn’t, a kind of decoration in the sky, a marker to tell day from night.

A little later, I learned that the sun moves: that it rises in the east and sets in the west. I remember a book where the sun was depicted as Helios, god of the sun, making his way across the sky in a fiery chariot.

I even learned that the path of the sun marks out the location of the zodiac, even though I wasn’t quite sure how, since I never saw them together.

Much we learn, as children and otherwise, we take on faith.

I learned still later that, without the sun, plants won’t grow; that biological cycles always begin there.

Still, as a teen, the sun was primarily a thing I used: to get a tan, to give my friends and me light to play ball. It also frequently disappointed me, not being visible exactly when or for as long as I would have wished, or sometimes, sticking around too long.

My scientific knowledge of the sun’s importance went up as the intensity of my feelings about it went down. If I drew a picture of daytime at eighteen, for instance, the sun might not even be in it. After all, me seeing the sun depended on which way I happened to be facing.


As I leave this hotel towards the nursing home where my mother lays dying, I turn onto a road called Vía Del Sol — the Way of the Sun. The desert lays around me in the early morning light.

As a child, a parent is just there or not, a thing you kind of take for granted.

You learn later that your parent’s life had motion: that they started as children, but, with time, they grew up, and eventually, became your parent. They are your first heroine and hero, larger than any myth could ever be.

You even learn that much of what you do is predicated by your parents via heredity or environment, even though you are not sure exactly how that works, seeing as how the former is only superficially visible, and the latter is so pervasive as to not be noticeable.

Finally, you learn that the cycle of life itself starts with parents and children, and continues when those children become parents, and so on.

Still, as a teen, or a young person, you come to see parents primarily for what they can do for you: can you go to the beach with your friends and get a tan, can you stay out late playing ball. All too often, their answers are not what we’d want, and that may become our focus.


The sun is a star. However, it is our star, the one so close it seems completely different than all the others.

Stars have life cycles: they begin, age, and, eventually, end. Throughout the observable universe, stars in each of these stages can be observed.

It’s hard to imagine life without the sun, though, right? I mean, it’s there, it’s always been there, even in your childhood drawings, a yellow circle on a light blue background.

My mother was a girl, like other girls. She grew up near Niagara Falls, met my father, had my sister, my brother, and me. She was a mother, like your mother, like countless other mothers. But she was our mother, which made her different to us.

Today, watching her labored breathing in a nursing home bed, her hands clutching convulsively at her blanket, eyes occasionally opening to see me, I realize again what I already knew: that her course is nearly run, her part of the cycle of life nearly spent.

That the sun has nearly set.

But you see, the way of the sun is this: that we think it moves, while all the while, we really moved around it. That the life we’ve enjoyed, and the warmth we felt, were in large measure derived from it. That it was no less present, just because we became less aware.


Love carries us along the edge
Of what we have, and who we are:
Love lights the only roads we know,
And whether we be near, or far,

We ride the breeze that love provides,
Within it’s warmth and glow —
Until we reach our journey’s end,
And go where we

Must go