Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Sidestep To the Flashbacks

After writing my last post, I stared at the computer screen until it disappeared and old memories took its place. I was sitting somewhere reading a letter from my dad’s mother. Grandma was begging me to move back to Minnesota. I was her favorite grandchild, much to my mother’s frustration. Grandma bought me a new winter coat but my sister and brother were left out. Money was tight and my mother viewed it as an affront to my siblings.

Anyway, I often daydream about living in the country, safe from the violence and grime of the city that surrounds me. I imagine being able to sit outside at night and being able to see stars instead of the grey glow from city lights. I imagine hearing the breeze rustle through the cornfields instead of the loud speaker from the light rail station. I imagine smelling clean air instead of vehicle exhaust. The list goes on.

But this time, I sat and thought about what my life would have been like had I gone back to Minnesota as a young woman instead of meeting my hubby and having the brilliant yet acid tongued daughter I have now. What would it look like?

The fact is that I’d be miserable. Back in rural Minnesota there was no community college, no stage theatre, no symphony, no art museum, no major sports teams, and no huge library system to borrow books. You had to travel to the Twin Cities – a 3-hour drive one way – to enjoy any of these. Yes, I’d have the internet now but I would not have had the life experiences that led me to writing, or live poetry events, or fountain pens, or great books, or most importantly the people that have all worked together to push me to that constant stage of being curious and wanting to learn more.

However, now that I’ve had all that added to the wisdom I’ve gleaned from my life experiences, I think that at this time in my life or perhaps a bit further down the road, I’d still be happy living a more quiet, safe existence. Someday I hope to have that tranquil place in which I can breathe, think, and write.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Flashbacks

The draft of this post was written on the third floor of the Business Building at Phoenix College. My daughter had a quick assignment to do in the computer lab so I gave her a ride. (I figure that chauffeuring her around is amassing karma for me when she hits it big. That’s when, I told her recently, I want her to keep me in a lifestyle that I’d like to become accustomed to.)



As I don’t have a current student ID, I waited in the hall and within a few seconds of sitting at a curiously convenient table in the boring blonde linoleum floored hallway, I had to pull out my notebook and fountain pen. The flashback memories started hitting me in such rapid-fire succession that the only defense was my writer’s instincts.

24 or 25 years previously, I walked the halls of this particular building while taking math classes from a wonderful instructor. I was working down at the state capitol at the time and knew that I wanted more. This instructor, a high school teacher by day and a college instructor at night said he preferred teaching at the college because the students wanted to be there whereas in high school they had to be there. The college transformed his teaching. I don’t remember the math, but I sure remember him.

15 years ago, I took the same accounting course that my daughter is taking. There are some slight changes of course. They are using computer programs while we did spread sheets, but the principles are the same.

This particular building on the Phoenix College campus has a style that could only be found in a climate such as ours. The middle section has hallways open on one side to the outdoors while the two ends are completely enclosed as traditional buildings are. This provides a long section where tables, chairs, and desks are set up for shady study areas. It also brings pigeons. The pigeon cooing echoed through the inner hallway in a low haunting sound that made me snort with laughter when I realized what it was. (Remember the “Goodfeathers” from Animaniacs? Ha!)

I was laughing at the memory of that great cartoon when another flashback hit. This one stung. It was over 30 years ago. I was visiting my parents who had just moved to Phoenix. Dad retired from the Minnesota Highway Patrol after 25 years of service. Phoenix had been a dream destination of his for most of his life, but he had been tied to Minnesota by his career, his wife and kids, and his elderly parents. A particularly traumatic event in which a fellow officer was murdered on a routine traffic stop made Dad decide it was time to retire and make his dream a reality.

Long story short, he started his life over with Mom and my brother going along for the adventure. One of those adventures was going to college. Dad, a ham radio fanatic for many years, was naturally flowing into computers and there I was, sitting next to him in the same 3rd floor computer lab in the Business Building of Phoenix College while he worked on an assignment. He was learning DOS. Dad died in 2005 and I miss him.

Flashback to 10 years ago, I walked into a room on the ground floor of the Business Building and met Sue Meyn. The workshop was on a list of workshops to attend as part of the "Introduction to Creative Writing" taught by Jim Sallis. I felt so ungifted in his class regardless of his gentle urgings to keep at it. I had some incredible classmates whose writing made my jaw drop with their brilliance. But when I met Sue at her workshop on personal journaling, it solidified in my psyche. I received permission to write.

After most of this had been spread onto my notebook, I looked up to see my daughter. She had been standing in front of me for a few minutes, she said, waiting for me to finish. Being a writer herself, she has the ingrained instincts to know when something must be written. Thanks, Kid!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Just Sitting Back and Observing

I've been in one of those pensive moods that I find myself in periodically.  Rather than spout off the first bit of gibberish that comes to mind, I sit back, listen and watch.  However, I haven't been actually sitting on my tush, either.  I just finished re-working the home office.  I couldn't tolerate the tiny desk any longer and was trying to figure out a way to get a bigger desk for very little cost.  As chance would have it, one of the tenants in the building where I work passed away and her husband was cleaning out her office.  Lo and behold there was the perfect desk.  Free.

But it stayed there because it was too big to fit through the door into my home office.  Sigh.  So, my hubby graciously offered to swap desks.  I now have a nice, big desk and he's got my tiny one.  He doesn't use the home office much anyway.  His work station is in the dining room.  All over the dining room.  Okay, it isn't even a dining room anymore.  It's the chaos room.  I just lower my eyes and walk passed it.

Here's the incident that pretty well sent me into this current state of pensivity (if that is a real word).  When I was down in the tenant's office looking at the "perfect" desk, I looked into the boxes that were piled here and there.  Odd cassette tapes, candle stubs lying beside their overturned holders, an assortment of papers and old software manuals, and other odds and ends.  Is this what is left of us when we are done on this side and move across to the other?  Is this what we boil down to: scraps of STUFF that complete strangers paw through?  Yes, it is. 

I didn't exactly feel all that sad because I only saw the lady occasionally over the last year, but I felt distinctly weird.  And I'm now kind of glad that I didn't take her desk.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

New Moon Tonight!

We all have heard folklore and “facts” regarding the full moon, but since tonight’s sky will carry the new moon I thought I’d do a little research to find what is said about the dark moon. Here’s what I found after a quick Google.

Facts
The most dramatic tides occur at new Moon and full Moon, when the Sun, Moon and Earth fall in line with each other and there is a strong focus to their gravitational force.

The Chinese New Year is celebrated on the second New Moon after the Winter Solstice.

The Honey Moon is the closest new moon to the beginning of summer. The Harvest Moon is the closest new moon to the beginning of autumn.
Weather
A few days after full or new moon, changes of weather are thought more probable than at any other time. –Scotland

Observations collected from 1,544 weather stations in North America from 1900 to 1949 reveal that heavy rain occurs most frequently on the days immediately following the full and new Moon.

If the new moon appear with the points of the crescent turned up, the month will be dry. If the points are turned down, it will be wet.

New moons can also indicate bad weather. Sometimes, when a new moon occurs on a clear night, a faint, golden outline of the full moon can be seen as a continuation of the bright crescent. Traditional folklore refers to this as the 'Old Moon in the New Moon's arms', a phenomenon created by earthshine — the reflection of light from the Earth back onto the surface of the moon. Old customs take this to be the sign of a storm or misfortune; as one old ballad goes:

Late, Late yester' ev'n I saw the new Moon
wi' the old Moon in her arm
and I fear, I fear, my dear master
that we shall come to harm.
Another omen claims that if the new Moon is high in Northern latitude, it brings cold or unpleasant weather, but if far south, it presages a period of fair weather.

Add the date of the first snow and the number of days past the new moon to get the number of snows for the winter.
Fortune
Almost every culture believed that if the new moon came on a Monday, it was a sign of good weather and good luck.

The new moon in Cancer spurs you on to do renovations in the home. Changes are positive and your home will look much improved.

Disappointments in love may occur during the new moon and the best way around them is to put yourself in someone else's shoes.

Upon seeing the new moon, bow to her and turn over the coins in your pocket. This will bring you luck in all your affairs.

The English had a saying: that if a member of the family died at the time of the new moon, three deaths would follow.

It is lucky to see the first sliver of a new Moon "clear of the brush," or unencumbered by foliage.

It is lucky to move into a new house during the new Moon; prosperity will increase as the Moon waxes.

It is unlucky to see the first sliver of a new Moon through a window; you'll break a dish.

It is unlucky to point at the new Moon or view any Moon over your shoulder.
Magic
BANISHING   Releasing the old, removing unwanted negative energies, wisdom, psychic abilities, scrying, reversing circumstances.

NEW BEGINNINGS   Weight loss, goal setting, planning, cleaning, personal cleansing, starting new ventures, new beginnings, love, romance, health, or job hunting.

OTHER   Beauty, health, and self-improvement; farms and gardens

Dark moon occurs either side of the new moon. The new moon is between the last of the waning moon and the beginning of the waxing moon. The new moon has the power of in-between, a time which is not a time, similar to midday, midnight etc. If doing a Dark Moon rite, the active part of the ritual should be a good 45 minutes out from the actual new moon as the energies can be erratic. In addition, the waning moon allows you to calm down and tune out.
Miscellaneous
Wood cut at the new moon is hard to split. If it is cut at the full moon it is easy to split.
Lunacy grows worse at full and new Moon — taught the famous 16th century physician, Paracelsus, referring to a disease that had been recognized since Classical times, and which became official under British Law in the mid-nineteenth century.
So, a little bit of fun for everyone. For myself, I like the part where it signals cleaning and planning. I’ve been doing both today and I’m feeling pretty darn good about it, too.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Public Service Essay #1

I wear granny panties. Okay, I don’t really wear big huge granny panties, but just regular ones that cover my butt. My entire butt. Why am I coming out and publicly stating my underwear choice? This is a public service essay addressed to women out there.

While I’ve been thinking this for many years, it came to a head not that long ago as I sat in the lobby of a well-known Scottsdale resort. Being of the writerly persuasion, I can’t help but watch people. I actively listen in to other people’s conversations, too, so be warned. I don’t want to hear any whining about Big Brother, either. If you talk in public, it is public.

Anyway, as I sat in this lobby, I saw women of the younger/youngish generation walking by me. My teeth started to ache. On their feet were shoes that must have come from an online BDSM store. Pointy toes that would not pass airport security, platforms, and heels so high they come under the heading “screw me big boy.” They walked passed me in bone-jarring loud clunking strides that in no way conveyed the adjective “sexy.”

No, these women were not high-class hookers. These women topped their short, short, short skirts with blazers and brass name badges that proclaimed their employment at this resort. They held their head high and carried clipboards with pride. They just couldn’t carry any form of beverage and hope to keep it in the cup.

The next thought was of course, the rest of the outfit. Under those non-skirt skirts could only be, of course, thongs. And when laundry day has passed by, dental floss. I shuddered. I spent a good portion of my life pulling my underwear out from my crack and these women are intentionally cramming theirs into it.

If I had to wear clothes like that, I’d be terrified to drop anything in a crowd. How could you gracefully bend down to pick up something that is 3 inches lower than the sole of your foot and not reveal your ass to the world? We won’t discuss the physics of getting back up again.

Folks, I’m proud to say I’m over 50. I’m proud of this because when you hit that golden milestone, your gift is the realization of what is truly important in your life. For me, that is comfort over fashion. I have lived uncomfortably for most of my life and that is now over. I wear socks in my sandals. I wear generic jeans. On weekends, I wear a sweatshirt instead of a bra.

Women, please step back and take an objective look at yourself. We’ve been pushed and brainwashed by the media and fashion designers into totally ridiculous costumes. And we let them! Sexy is an attitude, not something you pull from your closet.

Friday, March 5, 2010

An unexpected gift

Last Wednesday evening, my hubby and I rode the light rail down to the Phoenix Art Museum. Thanks to SRP (Salt River Project is one of our electric companies here in Arizona) admission is free on Wednesday late afternoon to closing. This evening, however, we were there to hear Francine Prose, an American writer of note, give a reading and book signing. While I have not read any of Ms. Prose’s books, I have heard of her work. One of her more recent books is Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife. Tall, slender, and poised, Ms Prose read one of her short stories entitled “A Simple Question.” The audience was transported back in time and place to Nazi Germany and into the life of Vogel, a good German jeweler and his encounter with Herman Goering. Fantastically good story.

The event was sponsored by Arizona State University, Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and the MFA Program of Creative Writing and thus the audience was filled with students, both formal and informal. All ages and both genders, too.

When the Q&A began, so did the meat of the evening. Ms. Prose told us of her life-long fascination with the topic of World War 2 Germany and all it encompasses. I nodded with a smile, as I am currently obsessed with a particular subject that won’t let go of me, either.

The jewel of the evening was a question I did not hear, but the answer alone was worth the whole evening for me personally. It was one of those casually said statements that jolt your insides and leaves a great gift behind. Paraphrased Ms. Prose said, “Writing is when you are not yourself.”

If you read my post on losing my notebook, you will remember that I agonized over someone reading it and thinking that I was what I wrote. I’d had this gift of leaving myself behind when I write all along, yet I felt ashamed that I did. I saw it as something dark inside me. But if Francine Prose can stand before an audience of 200 people and proclaim that this is not only all right but necessary to the act of writing, then I am finally free to let go and in fact – GO!

Special thanks to ASU for bringing Francine Prose to Phoenix. For more information on upcoming Visiting Writers, see their website at: www.asu.edu/piper.