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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Postcard #17: When to Find Lizards (Fresca)

Postcard #17: me to bink
 When to Find Lizards
September 4, 1992




________________
At Christmas 2013, Bink scanned for me this long-lost series of postcards that we had made and sent each other in 1991-1992.

Click to see all 22 postcards

Postcard #18: "Lord Derby petulantly..." (bink)

Postcard #18: bink to me
Lord Derby petulantly... 
fall 1992




________________
At Christmas 2013, bink scanned for me this long-lost series of postcards that we had made and sent each other in 1991-1992.

Click to see all 22 postcards

List of Stuff to Do, Get, Be [Updated]

RANDOM IDEAS OF SOME STUFF I MIGHT LIKE TO DO, GET, BE... 
Written on the eve of my 51st birthday (last year, March 2012)

Reviewed shortly after my 52nd birthday (this year, 2013)

1. Get a desktop computer for making movies. (When I bought this laptop--MacBook Pro--I didn't realize it doesn't have enough oomph for editing anything but short movies.) (I can't do this until I get a job and pay off my credit card bills.)

2013: 
Yes! I got a desktop Apple computer, suitable for heavy-duty video editing! 

I still prefer my laptop, but since I spilled coffee on it last year it's been a bit unreliable.

1a. Get a job and pay off my credit card bills.
2013: 
Yes, I got a job as a nursing assistant and started to pay off my bills.  

Soon after I started work, however, my Uncle Tony died, alas, and left me in his will--enough to pay off my bills AND enough to live on when--alas, again--I injured my wrist tendons so badly I had to quit my job. 

Thank you, Uncle Tony!
______________________________________________________
2a. Make more little movies. 
2013:  
Um... no. Not yet. Though I also bought a new video camera, I freaked out when I encountered technical difficulties right away and haven't touched it since.

2b. Edit some of the footage I already have, like my interview with my aunt and uncle, in their 80s, or video I shot during bink's DVD to ART project.
2013:   
Not much: I did do a tiny bit--editing the interview with Tony a couple years before he died. Still have a lot of old video I would like to shape.


Meanwhile, I uploaded old family films (my father had them transferred to DVD a while back), and took some screencaps.

This is my sister (far left) on her fifth birthday, and three-year-old me.
Our parent behind the film camera had told us to go pick a peony.


Sister picked her flower properly, I pulled mine up by the roots.


And that's all you need to know about the difference between us.   

 ________________________

 2c. Scan old family photos and post them somewhere (for genealogical access?). 
2013:
Yay! Another yes!

I broke down and paid all of $100 for a printer/scanner. (Actually, it wasn't the money that deterred me, it was the size of the thing--takes up half my desk) 
Then I spent about a week scanning photos of my father's parents--immigrants from Sicily in the early 1900s–– & his nine siblings. 

Here's a favorite one: 
my grandparents Rosaria and Vincenzo (aka Sara and James), with other rels, eating spaghetti at the family apple farm they bought after WW2:


Then I posted the old photos on a Facebook page, and I spent some time trying to contact all of my 18 cousins (my father's generation wasn't very reproductive). 
Still can't find two of them... and a couple others wanted nothing to do with it.

The family is full of sharp edges and dull resentments, and it's pretty common that members stay far away from one another. NONETHELESS, I wanted to do what I could to share the historical bits I had, and some of the cousins were very appreciative.
 
3.  Work on creating film scores and capturing sounds. Collaborate with Marz, if she will. 
2013:  
Also STILL TO COME. 
Marz did buy an audio recorder and has been recording musical sketches, so we could have fun putting images & sound together. 

4. Try surfing. I learned last year that people surf on Lake Superior, just a few hours north. But California looks nicer.
2013:  
Still to come.

5. Attend Trek in the Park in Portland, OR. (This year they're doing "Journey to Babel," August 4-26, 2012, but I probably can't afford to go.)
2013:  
YES! Awesome! Even before I got money from Uncle Tony, I'd made reservations to go to Portland. It was lovely--stayed in a great youth hostel and met up with my friend Denise, whom I hadn't seen in 7+ years. 

Would consider going again this year (2013)---for their fifth and last produciotn, they're putting on "The Trouble with Tribbles."

6. Attend Trek Fest in Riverside, Iowa, future birthplace of Captain Kirk. (This year, June 29-30, 2012: might be doable.)
2013:   
ANOTHER YES! 



Marz, Bink & I drove down to Riverside, stayed in the local casino, and Marz even won 1st place in the costume contest!
Wrote about it here: Trek Fest.

7. Go to London again! Maybe for my next birthday, 52 in 2013? (I was going to go for my 50th birthday but walked the Camino instead.) 
2013:
Nope.

Not sure I want to go to London...  
I mean, of course I do! But I think I might rather spend the money to go somewhere I've never been.
After having so much fun exploring Portland, OR, (and even Riverside, Iowa), I think I'd like to see more of the USA. Like Philadelphia, where I could run up the Rocky steps!



Oh, wait! I just learned there is a John Snow Pub (above) in London, named after the doctor who discovered that cholera is waterborne (not airborne, as was thought during the 1854 cholera outbreak in London). 
Relevant to my new research in to history of sanitation, you see...
 
8. Attend a taping of the Colbert Report.
2013:  
Actually, I don't want to anymore. 
I'd had a big crush on Stephen Colbert, but it passed. I think because I was slightly turned off by how he'll do anything for a laugh. Tho when he displayed his unadulterated fanboy love for William Shatner, I felt the old flame flicker again...

9. Make a C-KAPE (Captain Kirk Academy for the Pursuit of Excellence) badge and/or certificate.
2013:
Er ... um... 
*scuffles away*
Why, yes! I did make one. Yes, here it is... I had it right here all along! 



10. Revolutionize old age. I don't know what this means; the phrase just came to me. Maybe I mean my own aging. 
2013:
In process!
I am starting to volunteer at a local senior center---it caters mostly to frail elders, but it also  serves people 50+: that's me! 



I've started running. 
Or, rather, shuffle-trot-walking... 

Suffering a slow-to-heal, disabling injury (I couldn't use my hands for much at all) was an eye-opener: 
there really is an art to aging, which I'm just starting to learn. 
  
11. Choose generosity. Err on the side of abundance.
2013:
Ongoing. 


I decided, for instance, on principle not to unfriend anyone on FB, but rather to block them if they post icky things––like photos of abused animals, or rants about how Obama is a [fill in the blank].

I also sent my bro a Christmas card for the first time in years.  
He didn't respond, but the point is to be as kind as I can stand to be and to keep resentment at bay by practicing its opposite: letting go and moving on.
(Tho' sometimes I'm not sure if sending my brother a card is letting go or holding on too hard...)


12. Let other people solve their own puzzles.

2013:
Ditto: ongoing.

 
13. Learn photo manipulation on GIMP, which I just downloaded here: www.gimp.org/downloads (Thanks, Tintorera!) Aaargh! Already I cannot figure it out.
2013:
I did upload Photoshop Elements (lite) and gave it a trial run... also took a Dreamweaver class at community ed. It's all fairly easy, though futzy, but I realize I just don't love the techie stuff. 
Meanwhile, my new computer makes it easy to add text to and otherwise manipulate photos. It's all getting easier and easier for the non-techie like me.
 
14. Swimming at the YW. Just started... not sure if I like it. Keep going and find out.
2013:
I did keep at it for a little while but found it makes me dizzy!
Really--I think I am prone to this--I've always gotten sea-sick easily, like, in a hammock or a canoe--and I suffered through a 3-month bout of vertigo a few years ago. (Horrible!) 
 
14a. Buy a new swimming suit. Mine is so stretched out, the rear looks like baggy diapers.
2013:
Yes! I bought a cute old-fashioned looking one-piece, with a little front-panel skirt! for $5 at Savers thrift store. So I can at least sit in the whirlpool at the YW and take a dip in the pool.
 
15. I'm tired of my same old clothes. Try some fun new ones. Clothes shopping makes me nervous--could it be fun? Try thrift shops...? 
2013:
After my wrists were injured,  I pretty much went into a slump, physically. So I've gained weight and lost strength---just now starting to come back from that...
But in the meantime,  I've hardly felt like  clothes shopping---besides being plumper (disheartening in the dressing room), I couldn't even unhook my bra behind my back.

16. Write some fiction, which I've not done since high school. Try super short pieces (flash fiction) first.  
2013:
No movement on this. 

I haven't even written nonfiction for almost 2 years---hardly even e-mails--just posted images with 2-line captions on Facebook (a kind of writing: how can you entertain/inform people in a few words?).

Just recently I've started to blog again, which makes me happy. 
So... the jury's out on this one.

17. Wash the shower curtain.
2013:
You may think this is a piffling task, but I resist and even resent the physical upkeep of certain physical items.
Shower curtains are one of them.


HOWEVER---yes, I took down and washed the Finnish Marimekko poppy curtain! AND I replaced the clear plastic liner.  I even bought a new shower mat at Ikea.


18. Keep blogging. I just started again and it's a lot of work--I'd forgotten how much time and energy it takes. But I like it better than almost anything... at least, once its done.
2013: 
Only recently have I had the time, desire, and energy again. 

Primarily I have been spending my energy on Marz for the past 20 months (a good thing!). Then, being injured kind of got me down.


Here I am, left, at my desk.

What's that you say? I'm not "writing" judging by the computer screen?


Well, we writers are always writing IN OUR BRAINS, if not onscreen...
  
19. Write my own book. Not sure what that'd be, but none of the books I've written are really mine--they all were written on contract, under constraints, for young readers. 
2013:
Nowhere close.
But, I have just accept another nonfiction book contract––

 for a YA (young adult) history of sanitation. 

It's been two years since I finished the history of social networking book. I drove myself crazy with that one, but I'm thrilled to be researching something new––and a relatively easy topic, too. 

Also, I'm volunteering to write some online newspaper articles.
We shall see...

 
19. Start a visual journal. It's been ages since I've made physical art––marks on paper––and I want to.
20. Buy some fresh oil pastels and some other art supplies. 
2013:
I'm putting 19 and 20 together.
Ongoing:
around Christmastime I started watercoloring postcards, and for my birthday Marz gave me a set of Yarka watercolors--made in Saint Petersburg.

 
21. Try out new-to-me local hiking paths. I liked being in good walking shape after Camino, but I'm tired of walking around the lakes I've been walking around for 30 years.
2013:
Uh... Not exactly, no, not really---being a nursing assistant was so physical, I didn't want more exercise, and once I was injured, I didn't feel like exploring nature.

But I sort of did some equivalent stuff.   

For instance, Marz and I took the Greyhound bus to Duluth and biked on the 5-mile(?) trail from the Willard Munger Inn (loved it!) to the Buffalo House, where we ate sweet potato fries, artichoke dip, and chocolate thud cake (my name for it). 

Here's Marz in the Duluth bus station, heading home:

I did explore my city more, though (see #22). 
 
22. Move to a new city with cooler summers. (MAYBE. Not sure. Check places out.) Winters here are harsh and long but don't bother me all that much. The hideous humid hot summers, though, those really get to me. It would be hard to leave all my connections here, though... But the Internets make it much easier to keep in touch.

2013: 
A-ha, yes, I did look into relocating and decided I don't want to. I came back from Portland, specifically, liking the Twin Cities MORE. 

I started taking field trips around town and taking photos, which I turned into the "What I Like in the Twin Cities" photo series.


I also went farther afield than usual. Through investigating setting up a videography business,
I took classes in parts of the cities I've rarely gone--specifically U Ave. in Saint Paul––and scouted around.

(My favorite find: The Best Steak House, near the state capital.)

Also, since Marz moved here July 2011, I've been inspired to show her places I like, which means revisiting places I haven't been in years, (like Seward Café, where I worked when I was her age), and also going with her to places I haven't been or doing things I've never done--like jumping off the bridge into Lake of the Isles (right), or attending a couple hearings at the Capitol.

_____________________

So... wow! I'm pleased. Because I was kind of depressed this past winter, I felt like I'd done nothing at all. Turns out I was wrong.

Since I did so many of these, my new Thing to Do is...
make another list! 

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Glass Quilt

[The completed article--the first I've written for the online paper, the Twin Cities Daily Planet (no lie):
"Embedded: With the Mosaic Quilting Project" ]
This is a bit of the blurb I volunteered to write about this local mosaic project:  
More than 300 pairs of hands, six months of workshops, and countless little pieces of glass... and another community mosaic is ready to go up in Minneapolis.
The ten "glass quilt" panels will be mounted on the outside walls of the MLK Park building. Each of the 4" x 4' designs is based on traditional quilt and textile designs from different cultures.

A slideshow will illustrate some of the 1,500 hours volunteers spent cutting and pasting glass pieces into patterns. Volunteers ranged in age from 2 to 96 years old.


ABOVE:
1. One glass bead waiting to be cut and and glued into a southern African pattern. 
Thin set mortar will hold the mesh onto a backing board. 

2. Volunteers smear grout on top of the mosaic to fill the spaces between the glass pieces, then wipe the sticky gritty stuff off.

3. The final buff with old T-shirts reveals the completed pattern.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Put the Blame on James!

Happy Shatner/Kirk Birthday!

Here he is, hamming it up with his version of "Put the Blame on Mame"--you can see his resemblence to Gilda:


By the always wonderful Mortmere

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Chocolate Tofu Pudding

I made this chocolate-tofu pudding yesterday--
easy & creamy and not tofu-ey at all.

I served it with sliced banana, as you can see, but I like it better by itself.


CHOCOLATE TOFU PUDDING

1 block (12 oz.) silken tofu (silken is a smooth kind of tofu, not a brand)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

Blend until smooth in a blender.
Refrigerate 2 hours (at least---it takes a while for the chocolate to take over the soy)


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Notes on Gilda: Tungsten & George Macready

For my birthday, I went to see Gilda, part of a Columbia Film Noir Classics series at a local movie theater.

Somehow, I'd managed never to see Gilda before, and I was amazed at how boring the on-the-surface plot is:
something about an international cartel supplying tungsten for lightbulb-makers.

Tungsten has the highest melting point of all metals... "often brittle and hard to work with," and the frontman for the cartel, Ballin Mundson, is a very cool character indeed.



George Macready plays the scar-cheeked Mundson, who marries Rita Hayworth's character, Gilda.

Not that she's attracted to him at all, except for his money.

Isn't this a great shot of sexual disinterest?



I'd thought his scar was meant to imply that the sword-carrying Ballin had been in a duel. That fits the mysteriously German-ish character (the movie, released in 1946, seems to hint at Nazi connections).
But it just so happens that the actor had been scarred in a car accident when he was a young man.

The under-the-surface plot has a much lower melting point (if that metaphor makes any sense)---before Ballin marries Gilda, he picks up Johnny (Glenn Ford), a drifter.

They light each other up and become... very close... and when Gilda appears, she ignites a love/jealousy triangle.



Macready plays a different film noir husband––the childish psychopath Ralph Hughes––in another classic Columbia noir(which I'd seen as part of the series): the low-budget My Name Is Julia Ross (1945).

Hughes has killed his wife in a fit, and his scheming mother (below, Dame May Whitty, the lady of Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes) arranges to gaslight another young woman into thinking she is the wife.



The plot is far better--it's a better movie.

But it lacks the incandescent Rita Hayworth, so really, there's no comparison...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

To My Running Teacher

I'm a little sad, a little annoyed that the teacher of the Women's Running Class turns out to be someone who thinks "going slowly" means training to run a 10K race instead of a marathon.

She'd told me the class is for all levels of runners, including beginners.

But I should have known she didn't mean beginners like me, when on the first night I told her that I'm not training to run any race, and she gave me that 404 error message look:




And yesterday she sent an e-mail saying that for tonight's class––our third––we will practice Hill Running.

I keep running into this: 
young athletic women teachers whose imaginations just can't seem to stretch to include not being young and athletic. 

I thought about it overnight:
should I push myself and go? maybe running up and down hills isn't really as hard as it sounds? Maybe that burning feeling in my shins has nothing to do with exercise?

This morning I e-mailed her:
Dear Running Teacher,

I won't be in class tonight---I 
woke up last night with my shins on fire. Seems that following the running schedule you've set up for the class is too much, too soon for my old bones.

See, I really need a class for Old, Out-of-Shape, Overweight Nonrunners.
One that starts with super basic information, like, say... 
how does my leg attach to my body? (Really!) 

You said that tonight's class would start with a nice, easy 1-mile warm-up and progress to Hill Running.

Your "1-mile warm-up" is my entire workout.

I saw this graffiti when I was walking (slowly) across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. 
It reminds me not to push too fast, too far, as I've often done in the past, to my regret.

So, for the time being, I'm going back to WEEK One's schedule:
Jog/Trot 3 minutes + Walk 2 minutes x 5 = 25 minutes

Thanks for your help---the two classes I attended did help get me started, and THAT'S THE MAIN THING!!!

My best, Fresca
_______________
When I was younger, I would not have thought of stepping away from the class and going back to what I think will work for me.
I just would have slunk away and given the whole running thing up as a failure.

Now, I do feel a kind of tangled up emotionally (resentment mixed with shame), but I don't want to give up running, which I'm loving, so I'll try another angle to see if that works.

This is an example of what Marz calls rearranging the furniture.
She pointed out to me that wherever I go––to coffee shops, for instance––I feel free to move chairs or tables around to suit myself.

I didn't use to know this was allowed.
Or, rather, it wasn't a matter of "allowed" or "disallowed"; I didn't even question the placement of furniture.

Gradually I figured out that often you can move stuff around.
Or, if not, maybe you can move yourself.

Like this baby rhino in Warsaw:
Sometimes bars (or furniture arrangements) are just ideas, . . . optional ideas.

Sometimes they are real barriers, whether physical or not, and you just have to work with that.

The trick is to figure out which is which.

It's been hard for me to let go of the idea that teachers are all-knowing (in their fields), even though I've discovered many, many times how untrue that usually is. 

I feel lonely and a bit lost, stepping through those bars.
Who will help me?

But, you know, there are a lot of teachers.
I just have to keep looking for the one(s) I need. 

In the meantime, 
shuffle 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes...
trot 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes...
lumber 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes...
jog 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes...
run 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

...and, the 43-Second Father

This is my 82-year-old father, Daniele, hamming it up on a recent trip to Paris
(Bed sheet provided by his French friend Paule––you can hear her and my sister laughing in the background).



He is reenacting the Declaration of Lyon that he made up––
speaking as an imaginary Christian thrown to the lions–– to declaim in the Roman Amphitheater of Lyon:
"My citizens, listen to me.
It has been four years since we assassinated four lions with four weapons in four days: 
the first with a sword; the second with a halberd; the third with a bow and arrow; the fourth and last with a dagger. Let this be a lesson to all antagonists: do not tread on us!"

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Running, Week 4: Nice and Easy


I love this photo Marz took of me this morning, but it's a little misleading:
I put on a burst of speed for the camera––normally I do not achieve such lift.

I am getting more comfortable though:
today I jog-trotted for 5 minutes, walked 1 minute.
Repeated that 4 times and felt fine.

Along the route, a group of runners coming toward me said good morning. All the years I've walked on the trails around here, no runner ever greeted me before.
I really liked it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Holy Crocodile!: Bee Inspired!

I love seeing images artists draw from, so I'm really enjoying the Artist's Sources series bink has been posting on her blog Holy Crocodile!

She's posting pictures she looked to, to illustrate her new book Holy Crocodile!: Stories of Saints and the Animals Who Helped Them. 

The other day she posted this––one of my oil pastel drawings (from 1995):
"On the wall of my studio is a pastel drawing by my friend, Fresca. It combines a quote from St. Ambrose with images of bees. ..."


I drew it when I was writing my senior thesis, "Saint Ambrose and Death," and I noticed that Theology about the weirdness of gGod sometimes sound like modern Physics.
I'd had no idea she had been inspired by it!

This is the cover of her new book--officially released March 1:
(She used the pen name Caroline Cory.)
If you want your own copy, you can order it at Amazon: Holy Crocodile.



Sunday, March 3, 2013

Almost 52...

If I don't write more or less first thing in the morning, I usually don't write at all.

But this morning I went running first, then got talking with Marz...
Now it's 3:20 p.m. and I'm at the coffee shop and not much feeling like writing but kinda want to anyway.
Hence, this.

I felt like a fraud writing I went running just now, because really I trot-walked for about 25 minutes.
But! I found permission to say so.
Look:
“If you run, you are a runner. It doesn't matter how fast or how far. It doesn't matter if today is your first day or if you've been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run.” --John Bingham
You could apply that to writing too.
If you write, you are a writer....

I don't know who John Bingham is, so I just looked him up in the library catalog, and this book is on the shelf right now:
An Accidental Athlete: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Middle Age 
I think I'll pop on the bus and go downtown and check it out.

Here are a couple runners wearing impressive rhino costumes for a fundraising race Running for Rhinos.

My birthday is in a couple days.
I always like to do some life review around now.

To begin with, I'm happy in general, which is the best, most amazing thing!

That's largely due to living with the Marzipan
... even though this morning she went running with me and ran off soooooo fast-- just because she's 30 years- and 30some pounds less than me, not to mention 3 inches taller---leaving me in the dust--and taking the one house key with her--
 which you might think would be disheartening, and which indeed might be, but is, luckily, more than offset by her gift to me of BRIGHT BLUE running pants (so she can spot me even from miles away?).

My work life is in shambles, rather...
I don't have one, to begin with, since I quit my nursing assistant job in August, after pulling my wrist tendons (both hands!)--a condition called:

So then I was going to start a videography business, but I found out I have no entrepreneurial drive. (I also found out how to spell entrepreneurial! so the time wasn't altogether wasted.)

Thanks to my Uncle Tony (r.i.p.) leaving me in his will, however, I've been able to afford to hang out until my hands healed.
(thankgod, thank Tony)
The O.T. said 8 to 12 MONTHS for full healing.
Here at 7 months, my hands are almost completely strong again---though I still can't pick up the iron skillet and turn it over or unhook my bra behind my back.

So, once again, I need to get job hunting. Not sure what.
Jobs I have ruled out:
heavy lifting
business ownership
marathon running

OK, the library closes in an hour so I'm going to sign off.
All for now!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Last Phone Call



I stayed up late last night finishing Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer.

The novel is about a search, and reading it involved me in the pleasure of seeking, even though it's not a particularly pleasant search.
 [*footnote]

Some of it also turned out to be related to something––some kind of forgiveness, or relief––I guess I've been needing (kind of without knowing it).

The main character is a little boy, Oskar, who has lost his father in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Oskar finds a key hidden in his dead father's closet and sets out across New York City to find its matching lock.

He's seeking an ongoing connection with his father--this is obvious enough to both the character and the reader.

What slowly unfolds is that Oskar is also seeking relief from the weight of a secret:
On the morning of 9/11, he was sent home from school. Alone in the apartment, he listens to five phone messages from his father trapped inside the WTC.

Then the phone rings again, and Oskar can see on caller ID that it is his father's cell phone.

Oskar hides the recording of his father's messages and never tells anyone else about them, wanting to spare his family pain.

Throughout the book, the reader is gradually let in on the first five messages.

[SPOILER ALERT]

At the end of the book, in great distress, Oskar finally tells an old man––someone he thinks is a stranger––about the calls. This is the first time the reader, too, hears the sixth call:
"The  answering machine went on....
"There was a beep.
"Then I heard Dad's voice." 
Are you there? Are you there? Are you there? 
"He needed me, and I couldn't pick up. I just couldn't pick up. I just couldn't. Are you there? He asked eleven times. ... There are fifteen seconds between the third and the fourth [times he asked], which is the longest space. You can hear people in the background screaming and crying. And you can hear glass breaking, which is part of what makes me wonder if people were jumping.  ... 
"And then it cut off."
Oskar asks the stranger for forgiveness:
"Do you forgive me?"
"Do I forgive you?"
"Yeah."
"For not being able to pick up?"
"For not being able to tell anyone."
He said, "I do."
___________________________________

My Secret Phone Call 

Forgiveness for not being able to tell anyone?

This struck me as weird, when I read it.
Would you really need forgiveness for that?

Then I remembered the last phone call I got from my mother, before she killed herself.

I always tell people that the last time I talked to my mother was on Thanksgiving.
I'd called her––(I was relieved when I got my phone bill after she died to see that I'd called her regularly)––and we'd had a blessedly good connection.

This had become more and more rare over the past dozen years, as she'd become a crazy-making master of invitation and rejection.
It's like she was being courted by Death: sometimes she wanted to go and didn't want anyone to hold her back, and sometimes she felt just the opposite.

That Thursday, however, it was like talking to the fully engaged person she used to be.
I always tell people that we talked about radiance, that she told me,
I've realized that what really matters in life is radiance,
meaning the radiant quality of people she admired like Bishop Tutu.

And that's true, that is what we talked about, and that was the last time we talked.
But that wasn't the last time my mother called me.

A week or so after Thanksgiving, she called and left a message.
I didn't call back.

She called again and left another message:
Why don't you call me back?

(Are you there? Are you there? Are you there?)

I didn't call back.

A week later my sister and brother called and said our mother had shot herself.

Why hadn't I called her back?

I suppose, in part, for the same reason Oskar didn't take his father's call:
panic in the presence of death, almost an animal instinct.
And partly (unlike the character of Oskar) because I was worn-down by the long haul of loving a suffering parent, and I wanted a break.

I don't know that I need forgiveness for that, exactly...
I do wish that hadn't been the last call––we never know when something-or-other is the last something-or-other.
And I deeply regret that my skills at dealing with people in burning buildings hadn't been better.

I do know I never told anyone about that last phone message.
I've carried it as a shameful secret.

And now I've told it. 
__________________

 From among my mother's things

Chase's Improved Spectacle Case

DIRECTIONS.

    In closing the Cover, press a little behind of, or on top of the INNER END, where the friction takes place, and not at the outer end.

Patented Aug. 30, 1881


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*Footnote

The pleasure of reading Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close––which seems it shouldn't be pleasurable since it's such a sad and painful story––lies partly in the pleasure of participating in a search, I think.  (After all, I didn't know it would end in the bittersweet relief of reconciliation.)

The search reminded me of what Temple Grandin calls SEEKING in her book Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals. SEEKING, Grandin says, is a pleasure in itself.
She calls it a Blue-Ribbon emotion:
one of the core emotional systems that drive animal (including human) behavior.

She also names RAGE, LUST, and PLAY as blue-ribbon emotions, which are familiar enough. I wouldn't have guessed SEEKING, but it sounds right to me.

Grandin writes:
"SEEKING... 'the basic impulse to search, investigate and make sense of the environment'... is a combination of emotions people usually think of as being different: wanting, looking forward to, or being curious about something... 
"...SEEKING is a very pleasurable emotion. If you implant electrodes into the SEEKING system of an animal's brain, it will press a lever to turn the current on. 
"SEEKING feels good."
Stories, even hard ones, are kind of like scavenger hunts, don't you think?
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For more info on suicide prevention or help if you are struggling:
"The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
Outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

Friday, March 1, 2013

When a home changes hands in a dream


[Marz took this photo of me asleep (on our new orange couch).]

Since my mother's suicide in 2002, I have repeatedly dreamed of going back to her old apartment--the one by the lake, where she was happy for a few years, not the one she died in. 

It's always a bittersweet visit:
she's always dead in this dream (not necessarily the case in other dreams), but her apartment is a curiosity cabinet, still full of wonderful little things for picking up: objects of milk- or sapphire-colored glass, smooth river rocks, or something woven from wool picked off barb-wire fences.

Wicker baskets on the floor are full of clippings and handwritten letters, books and magazines, places to read marked with ribbons.  

Sometimes I take a few things for myself.

Last night I dreamed I was there again, and for the first time in ten years, the landlord was also there, getting the place ready for new renters. 
I was amazed, but I also wondered why it hadn't happened sooner. 

Most of my mother's things were gone.
Knowing it might be my last visit, I took a knife whose blade folded up, like a switchblade, into its blue stone handle. (Not something she ever owned.)

If a home changes hands in a dream, is it forever?