Archive | August, 2012

Ordinary Days

29 Aug

Today just sailed by without a trace. It’s one of those days that I wish I had a little something special in it–like a box all filled with the packing materials but I haven’t found the gift yet. Granted not every day can be spectacular special day–I need some days to be ordinary to make others special I guess.

I wonder at all the stories in the world, how they’re mostly filled with achieving things or losing things. What about the days where very little is achieved or lost? Kurt Vonnegut once had a speech about how our stories don’t prepare us for the ordinary. How the expectations of miracles at every turn cheapen a good solid ordinary day.

And what’s wrong with ordinary days anyway? My fourth grade teacher once said that the ordinary days will be the ones that we remember best. I don’t think that’s all the way true–memories have a way of clustering around events rather than nothingness. Maybe what she meant is that ordinary days are what we would remember with the greatest fondness.


28 Aug

When I was in Christian boarding school, one of the proctors came up to me and asked me what I believed in. He wanted to know if I believed in God. Only in Christian schools does a person go through this on a regular basis, as if belief in God would evaporate as soon as the mind wandered onto something else. Well I was in a bit of a cranky mood that day and I said I believed in luck, not because I believe in luck particularly, but because I wanted to be a bit of a jerk. Well his eyes bugged out and he shouted that it was the stupidest thing he’d ever heard.
To me, spiritual belief is the most personal thing in the world, more personal than sex, or any secret. I think this because it’s so very easy to make someone else’s beliefs sound stupid. I mean, belief is always a case of faith, there’s no proof, that’s a part of the package of believing in the first place. I don’t have to base on faith things like apples are red (usually) or squares have four corners, or gravity pulls me towards the earth rather than away from it. Those things are reasonably true. Faith requires a gap of not knowing, a space where there is a big old question mark, and no matter how smart you are or how much figuring you do there’s no way to fill it.
We fill in the gaps all the time. We don’t know what other people are thinking, yet we presume we do. We work from day to day with gaps of information, but like an eye fills up its blind spots, so do we fill up the world. Very likely not the real world, as if a person could conceive of such a grand thing, but our own versions of it. A thousand rules fill our heads that govern how we see things, what we notice, what is normal and what is not. We don’t question them, we hardly even notice them, we have faith that they fill in the gaps enough for us to function.
I am not advocating for God or against him, I’m just saying there’s a whole lot that we don’t know, and isn’t it wonderful more than not.

Late August Clouds

27 Aug

Right now I’m enjoying the fruits of late summer. Tomatoes are best in August. On my way home I passed by this strange tree with bright orange berries just splayed out like Christmas gone backwards. Crabapples so heavy that the trees are bending down. So lucky to be away from the drought. Cracked land, cows with bony hips, sad farmers. It’s a thing that comes now and then, but it sure is unpleasant. Lucky we don’t live in hardscrabble times where a lost crop could mean people starving.
Time, tide, and television wait for no man. Lovely bamboo hedge right across my window, a grand line of trees, standing stiff like soldiers at attention. Growing like a song from the ground up. Grabbing for the sky.
A sense of direction. Aren’t there times in life where we’re lunging forward, and others where we are still. Years that follow one another as orderly as an accountants books? I remember the old style accounting books with the green covers. Big and heavy. Yellow pages.
I wanted to fill each line up with something, not math, but a real something. Like descriptions of beetles, or the ways wind can feel, or different flavors, or something.
Clouds, of course they are ships, that’s too simple to be stated. Sometimes fleets roll by on their round hulls, going from whoknowswhere to whoknowswhere, and as they develop, grow, drop water, shrink, develop again, I wonder what it would be like to follow a cloud, wonder how long it takes to drain dry. Would we see them shrink, or would they melt away like hard candy, imperceptible until they are gone?

Thoughts about thoughts

26 Aug

I’ve been thinking about thoughts. It’s common belief that all our thoughts are in language. I’m not so sure that’s true. Certainly language is our means for expressing our thoughts, just as I am typing my thoughts on this blog for you to read, however, is this how they live in my head? Full sentences? Each idea building on the last? Of course not.

My thoughts are more often than not unworded, unless I feel the need to put them into language, or if I’m thinking about talking to somebody, or doing something with language in them. My thoughts are also scents, images, vague emotions, watching from the back of the cave. Sometimes I imagine my thoughts are a great wheel turning and spinning, connecting this thing to that thing. Lost scents and tunes and memories that just turn and turn throughout the day, bringing something new up.

My mind is like a junk drawer, that knows that the smell of this day reminds me very specifically of the paisley pattern on my second grade teacher’s dress, and how, when she looked down, her own dress would reflect on her glasses. And that day where the wind went so hard that the hayfields sounded like a huge ream of paper tearing in half. I’m describing them now, but none of this is in words in my head, just images, sensations.

I imagine other people’s minds must be very clear places. Like a workroom, a white workroom without a speck of dust on it. Everything is orderly. I don’t know if I would enjoy that kind of mind.

News Stories that are Always There

22 Aug

1. Ten billion reasons you should be terrified right now.
2. Buy this right now!
3. Celebrities are stupid.
4. This Killer is Really Bad
5. Wacky Person does things their own way.
6. Politician caught with pants down!
7. Nothing is ever going to get better.
8. Today’s kids are ill-educated, disrespectful, and violent.
9. Every place is dangerous so you might as well stay home.
10. Why are people watching so much TV?
11. Stay tuned, there’s more after this!
12. Smart people are boring and you can’t possibly understand them.
13. An extremely simplified and dumbed down version of some important topic!
14. Manufactured controversy.
15. This common thing is bad for you. Not just bad–really bad. It’s the most horrible thing ever. Throw it away NOW.
16. Horrible people who don’t care about anybody but themselves.
17. What is the world coming to?
18. Mrs. X thought she was having a normal day until…
19. And now Mrs. X is horribly maimed and is sending a plea out for America to pay more attention to…
20. The weather (which is usually inaccurate)

I am glad

21 Aug

1. I am glad that it’s late August and the weather is so mild and pretty.
2. I am glad that my office mostly gets along.
3. I am glad I am employed.
4. I am glad all my family is healthy and well.
5. I am glad that Emily came up to visit.
6. I am glad that I get to go to New York in the fall.
7. I am glad that people seem fascinated by the Mars probe and got excited about the Olympics.
8. I am glad for my partner, who is wonderful.
9. I am glad for big fat books to read.
10. I am glad that I am healthy.
11. I am glad for lasagna today.
12. I am glad for creativity and making art.
13. I am glad for the possibilities to learn and find out new things.
14. I am glad I am in Oregon.
15. I am glad to be safe.
16. I am glad it’s peak vegetable season. So delicious!
17. I am glad for dreams.
18. I am glad for meditation.
19. I am glad for yoga.
20. I am glad for candles.


20 Aug

I have lately been fascinated by Confucius, mostly because he’s one of the wise old sages whose sayings are completely relevant today. Not only did he come up with the golden rule centuries before Jesus, but the rest of his statements mostly rest on very sound sense. He is not a mystic, fundamentally being unconcerned about the hereafter, but is more concerned about practical order in today’s world. He’s well worth listening to.

Unfortunately, in popular culture his wisdom has been denigrated into pithy fortune-cookie sayings that really don’t do him justice. He believed in stability, taking care of the old, infirm, and the very young, in constant study, in cautiousness, simplicity, and sincerity. Most importantly he believed that the world that we have inherited is not written in stone, that even just one individual acting out of reflective intelligence will infect the rest with a sort of better way.

And here has my favorite quote, which is just gorgeous in its simplicity:

“Only after Winter comes do we know that the pine and the cypress are the last to fade.”