Wednesday, February 28, 2007

random late night thoughts...

I’ve been lusting after art on e-Bay again, I’m not sure why. Well, I know what triggered it...a painting that I fell in love with a little over a year ago and didn’t bid on then, has shown up again for auction. This time I’ve not only bid, but I’ve sniped. Dunno if I’ll get it, though. I thought about it awhile, and placed my maximum bid, but I have no idea if my bid will be the winning bid. So far (and it’s been up for a week) there isn’t a single other bid, but that can be deceptive. There are other bidders lurking, out there like me, more often than not.

I don’t like a lot of the other stuff done by this artist, but this painting...there’s something there. It’s small: just: 9" x 12", unframed, oil on board, done no later than the mid-1950's, although I don’t know the exact date. It’s a portrait of a young girl, perhaps 12, at the beach. Her face is sunburned, her expression almost sullen...but oh, so incredibly beautiful. Her blond hair is in braids, with dark blue ribbons at her ears. I’m not sure what it is about this painting that so captivates me, but there is something there. I didn’t bid on it the first time I saw it because I thought it would be odd, and I guess it is odd, to contemplate hanging a portrait of a child, not my child, in my home, and more specifically, in my bedroom, for that is surely where I will hang this portrait, if I win it, to have the pleasure of seeing it every day.

My life as a kid was so spare, have rugs on the floors, vases of flowers, and walls of books, punctuated by the occasional, beautiful painting...I never get over the lushness, the luxury, of that. In the past few years, I’ve bought a number of paintings on e-Bay, and, contrary to what I was warned by one killjoy friend before I began occasionally purchasing paintings in this way, I’ve never been disappointed. A good painting is almost a living thing, so vibrant...I never get over the pleasure of looking at them. All good art - painting, music, writing - feeds something inside us that needs to be fed...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Greatest Discovery...

Peering out of tiny eyes
The grubby hands that gripped the rail
Wiped the window clean of frost
As the morning air laid on the latch

A whistle awakened someone there
Next door to the nursery just down the hall
A strange new sound, you never heard before
A strange new sound...that makes girls explore

Tread neat, so small, those little feet
Amid the morn the small heart beats
So much excitement yesterday
That must be rewarded...must be displayed

Large hands lift her through the air
Excited eyes contain her there
The eyes of those she loves and knows
But what's this extra bed just here?
Her puzzled head tips to one side
Amazement swims in those bright green eyes
Glancing down upon this thing
That makes strange sounds...strange sounds that sing

In those silent happy seconds
That surround the sound of this event
A parent smile is made in moments...
They have made for you a friend
And all you ever learned from them
Until you grew much older
Did not compare with when they said

This is your brand new brother...
This is your brand new brother...
This is your brand new brother...

The Greatest Discovery, by Elton John

I was not quite 3½ years old when you were born, but I have that sort of elephant memory thing, so there are details that I remember quite well. We were living in the country, in southwestern Wisconsin, in a drafty old farmhouse: two stories tall, no central heat, no indoor plumbing.

Mom had told me she was going to have a baby, but I didn’t spend much time thinking about it. I had other things to think about. I was terribly lonely, always; that is my overwhelming memory of that place. The
fact that I had 5 older siblings was no consolation; there was too much of an age difference for me to be allowed to tag along with any of them. My only, constant companion, E, was usually referred to, sometimes with a chuckle, sometimes with a tsk tsk, depending on who was commenting, as my imaginary friend. Even at 3, I preferred to think of E as my invisible friend, as E was quite real to me. And anyway, E wasn’t a child, but an adult male, whom I chatted up all day as I wandered around the house and yard, exploring, always hoping to find something wonderful and regularly being disappointed in that endeavor, in that place.

Mom never learned to drive, but even if she had, we had just one car, so trips into town were few and far between. Accordingly, Mom sometimes ordered things from the Sears catalogue. I had no idea where babies came from, and at 3, no particular interest in finding out, but it occurred to me, one icy afternoon in late January when a large package from Sears arrived in the mail, that perhaps "the baby" was inside that package! I waited impatiently for Mom to open it, and was incredibly disappointed to see that the big box, so full of promise, held nothing more than a very ordinary, oversized, dark blue and white, speckled enamel roasting pan. As Mom sat in the kitchen, with the roasting pan on her lap, I urged her to put the lid on, and then take it off again, quickly, convinced, if she’d just do that, that "the baby" would magically appear. In late pregnancy, Mom was in no mood to humor me. I managed to try it myself, several times, later that afternoon, only to discover it didn’t work for me either.

Three weeks later, I was quite upset when I woke one morning and found that Mom was gone. Dad said she’d gone to the hospital "to have the baby". In an attempt to amuse me and perhaps distract me from missing her so much, he took me to a neighbor’s farm, where I was allowed to help bottle feed some baby lambs. I still remember the thrill of feeling a baby lamb tugging hard at the bottle I was holding, but I also remember the awful hives that began to erupt almost immediately after I'd touched their fluffy coats. In a short time, I was covered in eczema. Coincidentally, I lost most of my hair.
Poor Mom. When she came home from the hospital, I was almost bald, and covered in an oozing red rash.

After what seemed like forever, but in fact was probably about a week, Mom came home. You were in her arms, but I couldn't see you because you were completely and tidily wrapped up against the winter cold in a soft blue baby blanket. Mom walked through the kitchen and into the living room, where she laid you down in your bed: a big dresser drawer lined with an old quilt. She got you settled there, then she called me to come see you.

I heard you before I saw you: you were making throaty little snuffling sounds. Curious, I knelt on my knees beside the drawer, and bent over the edge to see you up close. My first impression was that you smelled great. Also, you were very pink. You were still swaddled up in that soft blue blanket. The satin edge was cool, and wonderfully smooth to touch, and I felt a wave of envy, running my fingertips lightly over the edge of that lush blanket.

Then I saw that you were looking right at me, staring intently, and I was transfixed. As you studied me with your big baby blues, Mom told me to hold out a finger. She said that you’d grab it if I did. I didn’t believe her, so I pointed a finger and held it in the air in front of you, right above your tightly closed fist, just to prove her wrong. Mom said, "Touch his hand," and I my surprise, your fist flew open. For a moment, your fingers waved dreamily, randomly, like the tentacles on an anemone...but the moment your fingers touched mine, you grabbed on, curling your entire hand tightly around my finger, and holding fast, with a grip like a vice. I laughed out loud, surprised and happy at the magic of that contact, of that moment...

...this is your brand new brother...

Happy Birthday, Dave

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Living vicariously, part II: Brother, can you spare a dime?

It’s Sunday night, and I wish it weren’t. I don’t have to work’s President’s Day, and I happen to have the day off...but I feel like I’ve squandered my 3-day weekend already. The truth is, I’m tired of that idiot job, no matter how well it pays. I can’t afford to chuck it, but driving around this afternoon, I thought about it...what if I sold everything, and went off and lived somewhere in a trailer...and had some small job that wasn’t so stupid...could I do that? No, I don’t think I could. But sometimes I think about it. It never ceases to amaze me that when I was doing work that mattered, I barely made a living wage, and now that I’m doing something absolutely meaningless, I’m paid more than I ever could have hoped to make, working with kids...

Last week, Thursday I think, it was so cold here...below freezing, which is unusually cold for Dallas in mid-February. It was still dark outside, and maybe 27 degrees, at 6:00 AM, as I pulled up to 7-11 and dashed inside to get a cup of coffee to drink in my car, on my way to work. As I stepped out of my car and walked toward 7-11, I heard a voice say, “Ma’am, can you spare a quarter?” Startled, I looked up and saw a young man, tall and skinny, standing huddled against the cold, outside the store.

A little frightened, I ignored him, and hurried into 7-11, where I got my coffee. When I came outside, he was still standing there, shivering. He couldn’t have been more than in his early 20's. Tall and skinny as he was, he reminded me of my son, Chris. I gave him a dollar, and some unsolicited advice: “You’re not going to do well here,” I said,
“This is a really Republican neighborhood...”

he said, taking the dollar, “Thanks, I guess so,” and he walked away quickly. He was wearing sweats, and it was way too cold to be out wearing just sweats. I felt like a jerk, giving him just a dollar...what would it get him? Barely a small cup of coffee at 7-11...I overthink these things always, I know, but there’s a part of me that thinks I should have given him $20, and a part of me that thinks I should have brought him inside 7-11 and let him pick out some breakfast. I don’t pat myself on the back for having these thoughts, because I didn’t act on them, and I’m reminded that the road to hell is paved with good intentions...but I wondered why didn’t he have a coat, or a warm sweater, and where did he come from, in my neighborhood, out in the cold at 6:00 AM? I don’t believe anyone with a warm alternative would willingly have been standing outside in that cold, at that hour, on that morning. There’s no regular bus service through my neighborhood, so it’s not like he was riding a bus and got off and ended up there...maybe he had some junker of a car parked around the corner somewhere, but still...

My neighborhood is filled with people who would look at that kid and say,
“He’s young and able-bodied; he could have a job.” In theory, that’s so, but...if you don’t have any money, or a place to do you get yourself together to apply for a job? And if someone is 23 and living on the street, I think it’s fair to say that they may have more obstacles to finding a job than I could probably imagine.

I got into my warm car, with a full tank of gas, and a radio that works...and the fact that I’m disenchanted with this job, and that the commute is a bitch, and that I hate having to be up and out at that hour suddenly didn’t seem so important after all...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Living vicariously...

My friend, Sherri, is one of the most adventuresome people I know, and she takes fabulous trips a couple of times each year. Her most recent trip was to The Galapagos Islands, and her pics are so terrific I'm posting a few of them here. Don't these make you want to go there?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Thoughts on Valentine's Day 2007

Happy St. Valentine's Day! These are some of my favorite quotes about love.

From one of my favorite poets,
e.e. cummings: Love is more thicker than forget.

Uh-huh, I'd have to agree with that. About the same time I first read cummings, when I was 17, I came across Edna St. Vincent Millay's wonderfully romantic, Love is Not All:

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;

Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink

And rise and sink and rise and sink again;

Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;

Yet many a man is making friends with death

Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.

It well may be that in a difficult hour,

Pinned down by pain and moaning for release

Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,

Or trade the memory of this night for food.

It well may be. I do not think I would.

And also at about the same time, I first read Yeats hauntingly beautiful Song of the Wandering Aengus:

I went out to the hazel wood,

Because a fire was in my head,

And cut and peeled a hazel wand,

And hooked a berry to a thread;

And when white moths were on the wind

And moth-like stars were flickering out,

I dropped the berry in a stream

And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor

I went to blow the fire a-flame

But something rustled on the floor,

And someone called me by my name:

It had become a glimmering girl

With apple blossom in her hair

Who called me by my name and ran

And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering

Through hollow lands and hilly lands,

I will find out where she has gone,

And kiss her lips and take her hands

And walk among long dappled grass,

And pluck till time and times are done

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.

Auden knew a thing or two about love, and wrote beautifully about the pleasures of having someone to love (from

...but in my arms till break of day,
Let the living creature lie

Mortal, guilty, but to me

The entirely beautiful...

as well as the sorrows of losing a loved one (from Funeral Blues)

He was my North, my South, my East and West,

My working week and my Sunday rest,

My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;

I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

And of the myriad poets who have written about the joyful feelings of being in love, I especially like what Robert Burns and Christina Rossetti had to say:

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose
That’s newly fprung in June:

O my Luve’s like the melodie

That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

Robert Burns, from
A Red, Red Rose

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a watered shoot;

My heart is like an apple-tree

Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit;

My heart is like a rainbow shell

That paddles in a halcyon sea;

My heart is gladder than all these

Because my love is come to me.
Christina Rossetti, from
A Birthday

Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Dylan Thomas also wrote eloquently about the joys of loving another:

How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach...

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, from
Sonnets from the Portuguese, No. 43

I am a draper mad with love...
Throw away your little bedsocks
and your Welsh wool knitted jacket,

I will warm the sheets like an electric toaster,

I will lie by your side like the Sunday roast.

Dylan Thomas, from
Under Milk Wood

And then there is Shakespeare:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments.
Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds...

Sonnet 116

Take his body,
and cut it into little stars

He will make the face of heaven so fine

That all the world shall be in love with night
from Romeo and Juliet

Dorothy Parker took a cynical view of love:

By the time you swear you’re his
Shivering and sighing

And he swears his passion is

Infinite, undying

Lady, make a note of this:

One of you is lying!

And then there's Ogden Nash:

I love you more than a duck can swim
And more than a grapefruit squirts,

I love you more than gin rummy is a bore

And more than a toothache hurts

As a shipwrecked sailor hates the sea
Or a juggler hates a shove,

As a hostess detests unexpected guests

That’s how much you I love!

To My Valentine

Then there are the joys of physical love.

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.
The Bible,
Song of Solomon, 1:2

And one of my absolute favorites, from John Donne:

License my roving hands, and let them go
Before, behind, between, above, below.

O my America! My new-found-land,

My kingdom, safliest when with one man manned,

My mine of precious stones, my empery,

How blest am I in this discovering thee!

To enter in these bonds is to be free;

Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.

Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee...

Elegy XIX, To His Mistress Going to Bed

Still, one of the most beautiful things I've ever read about love is this anonymous quote from the 16th century:

Oh western wind, when wilt thou blow
That the small rain down can rain?
Christ, that my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again!

ROME - They died young and, by the looks of it, in love. Two 5,000-year-old skeletons found locked in an embrace near the city where Shakespeare set the star-crossed tale "Romeo and Juliet" have sparked theories the remains of a far more ancient love story have been found.

Archaeologists unearthed the skeletons dating back to the late Neolithic period outside Mantua, 25 miles south of Verona, the city of Shakespeare's story of doomed love.
Buried between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago, the prehistoric pair are believed to have been a man and a woman and are thought to have died young, because their teeth were found intact, said Elena Menotti, the archaeologist who led the dig.
"As far as we know, it's unique," Menotti told The Associated Press by telephone from Milan. "Double burials from the Neolithic are unheard of, and these are even hugging."

And finally, from Rodgers and Hammerstein:
Hello young lovers, whoever you are,
I hope your troubles are few.
All my good wishes go with you tonight,
I've been in love like you.

Be brave, young lovers, and follow your star,
Be brave and faithful and true,
Cling very close to each other tonight.
I've been in love like you.

I know how it feels to have wings on your heels,
And to fly down the street in a trance.
You fly down a street on the chance that you meet,
And you meet -- not really by chance.

Don't cry young lovers, whatever you do,
Don't cry because I'm alone;
All of my memories are happy tonight,
I've had a love of my own.
I've had a love of my own, like yours-
I've had a love of my own.
Rodgers and Hammerstein, from
The King and I

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Nora, The Piano-Playing Cat

Check this out!

Leo The Champion (insofar as sleeping cats go)

Well, he doesn't play the piano, but I'm fond of him anyway...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Decisions, decisions...

So the deal was, I accepted this contract gig in Fort Worth, a little over an hour’s drive away, because the money was good and it was work I could do without taking it home with me at night, psychologically, I mean. That was a problem, in child psychiatry, or in adult psychiatry for that matter; I always worried about my patients. But I don’t have patients, doing what I do now. There’s a ton of work, all detail oriented, and a fair amount of writing, so the days fly by. The commute was/is a drag, but the contract was for a year...for six months, actually, renewable, and on February 1st, I was renewed until August, so I figured, a year...I can do anything for a year, and when the year is up, there’ll be another job, closer to home...

OK. So far, so good...but Thursday night, just after 5:00, my boss called. With absolutely no notice, she said, “We’d like to hire you permanently. Are you interested?”


This job pays well...the company is so posh, it can afford to pay well, and it’s a good place to work; it consistently makes Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies To Work For, and I know plenty of people who have tried, unsuccessfully, to get hired by this of course I said yes, depending on what the offer is, I’m interested...

But...what if the offer’s really good? The sensible thing would be to move to Fort Worth...but I don’t know if I want to move to Fort Worth. I have friends and family within 5 minutes of me, living in this neighborhood in Dallas, and I love that. Last weekend, on the spur of the moment, A and I stopped by to see Katharine, Brenden and Xander, then A, Kath and I went out for a pizza, after which Kath and I ended up going to the Sears Outlet Store to look at clothes dryers, as mine seems to be dying. After I’d recovered from sticker shock at the price of dryers, even refurbished ones, Kath and I sat in my car, in front of her house, and talked for 30 minutes or so, just catching up...and we had such a good time. And this past Wednesday, at a little after 7:00 AM, as I was running into my neighborhood 7-11 to get a cup of coffee, Chris called and said he wants to have dinner one night soon, and though we both work long hours, because we live close to each other, he can call me up whenever he’s available, and we can go out for Thai food on a moment’s notice...and I’ve been thinking about how, when the boys are in town, their friends come over and everyone hangs out at my place, and how much I love that.

I’ve been planning to sell this house, but I’d planned to stay in the neighborhood, or at least to stay in Dallas. Fort Worth is only an hour away, but...what to do?

Maybe it’s time to look at a Prius...