Declaring Independence, once again

If you always do what you have always done you will get what you have always gotten.

I’ve been thinking, weighing the options, considering the learned opinions, trying to follow the words of Walt “re-examine all you have been told” (That’s Walt Whitman, by the way). I’ve made my decision. With it, I can, thankfully, bow out and dismiss the circus and farce that will ensue in the next four plus months and concentrate on the real fight.

I will vote in November. I will vote, despite my belief that the process is and has been for a very long time deeply flawed and skewed to the rich and powerful. It is a sham process that gives the general population the illusion of having a say, while the politically elite play their power games and make the final decisions.  Call it political parties, electoral colleges, super pacs or what ever the latest term might be, the fact is, the general public, of which I consider myself part, is being played, mollified and bamboozled by a public performance of epic proportions with little plot and even fewer believable characters.

I will vote for the “presumptive” (and no, I will never be able to forget the use of that word) Democratic candidate. And she will be, always in my mind, “presumptive.” I will never trust her, always suspect her motives, question her values and morals, and shiver with fear when contemplating the Clintons back in the White House. But the alternative is an even larger nightmare.

For all the feminist supporters of Hilary Clinton who are celebrating this great victory for women, I appreciate your euphoria. I maintain Hilary Clinton is just a good ol’ boy wearing a pant suit. She certainly doesn’t exemplify any of my feminist goals or aspirations. I am not sure she cracked the ceiling or was just given access to the sky light by her many corporate and political sponsors. I am sure she is comfortable in any and all the political back rooms. I do hope, at the beginning of her inaugural speech she thanks each and every one of them by name and donation amount.  It would be nice to know who is really going to benefit from another Clinton administration.

Just to be clear, I won’t be voting for Hilary Clinton but against Donald Trump. I will not contribute to her campaign or advocate for her. I certainly don’t support her more of the same policies.

I will support by whatever means possible the progressive movement that brought Bernie Sanders so very close to the democratic nomination and presidency. Yes, I still do believe he is the stronger, more viable candidate, and most importantly the only one who spoke to the issues of inequality and injustice in our society and political system.  Those are the issues that concern me; not the gender of the president.

I believe, as has been stated by many people, over and over, for many years, the United States of America is run by an oligarchy of corporate individuals who among themselves have too much power and wealth to ever willingly relinquish their hold over the country. Until the money-ed ceiling is shattered there will be no significant change in the politics or policies of our government. Hilary Clinton is not going to shatter the floor she stands on, and her corporate sponsors are sure to seal any fissures that might appear.  It will be more of the same; same empty rhetoric, same mediocre public numbing, same corporate gains and privilege. Ho hum, mediocrity serves the oligarchy just fine.

I will continue to oppose all efforts and attempts that further limit the possibility of success and freedom for all the people of the United States and world whatever their gender identity, race, economic status or country of origin. I will use my vote and voice to promote and strengthen the progressive movement at the state and local level, with the ultimate goal of blasting through that money- ed stronghold four and one half years from now. Yes, I welcome a revolution; this country needs a revolution no matter how costly or disruptive it may be.  Why is it taking so long?

That’s it. I have nothing more to say.

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second best time

The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.

The second best time is now. 

That is written on a piece of paper that resides in various places on my desk, depending on the time of day and my activity level.  There is a coffee stain on the piece of paper and the ink has run, but I can still read the words written there.

I read it often. I think of it often. It is attributed to “Chinese Proverb.” I don’t know where I might have read it, but I did write it down. Never doubt the power of the anonymous Chinese proverb writer.

There are so many ways 20 years ago was better than today. There are so many ways now is the right time. There are so many ways what didn’t happen 20 years ago can be rectified today. There are so many ways what happened 20 years ago can be enhanced now. Just because it didn’t happen 20 years ago doesn’t mean it can’t happen now.

Regrets, I’ve had a few. Yeah, and triumphs too. And what I didn’t do 20 years ago still haunts me today. I am correcting that. Doing now what didn’t seem possible then. Doing now what I should have, could have done then, but didn’t. Not setting the impossible as the standard. Not waiting for the ideal, accepting the less than perfect, no longer putting off until some unknown golden, bell ringing, confetti falling moment.

Whatever kept me from planting that tree or doing that thing or being that person twenty years ago no longer matters. Whatever barrier or obstacle or belief or advice or conviction or fear or threat or laziness or ignorance that was can be overcome now. Second best will always be better than not at all.

Storm

When awake in the middle of the night, unable sleep, take a stand on the balcony and be the thunderstorm.
Be a tantrum of the atmosphere. Shake your fists and stomp your feet with the rumbles and grumbles of thunder. Shriek and cry, fling your arms like the wind whipping through trees. Light the sky with the temper in your eyes. Let fury at circumstances beyond you flash. Let the tears stream, the anguish flow. Shout away the unfairness.  Growl and gnash , sling and slash. Sluice away the anger, the pain, the frustration,  the aloneness, the uncertainty with the rain. Abandon constraints. Expend the hoarded reserve. Hold nothing back.
And as the storm moves away, let the remnant rain soothe you calm. Quiet with the light; weak and spent, released and alive.

Restless mind syndrome

Not quite four in the morning. I’ve been awake over an hour, lying in bed cataloging the aches and pains, the racing heart beats and respirations. Sleep is unlikely, and while I yawn, there is no chance I will quiet.
I’ve moved to the deck. I’ve coffee in my third favorite mug. Two street lights and the light of this screen and I can see the street wet from the lawn sprinkler over spray, the red sedan parked across the street and the bronze glow of the city skyline.
But the sounds. Crickets,  trilling away invisible and loud. The drone of air handlers on top of nearby buildings. The clatter of vehicle wheels over the expansion joints in the overpasses. The hum of tires on pavement, the rev of car engines.
A large white dog, shepherd variety, slinks along the edge of street, sniffing at the bushes. No sounds to be heard as it disapears under the lilac hedge.
Just me and that dog and the drivers of those distant, invisible but audible cars. Coffee has gone lukewarm. From the deck below the smell of cigarette smoke. One more awake. Who else is out there, passing time until dawn?
Do the crickets stop their  sounds with the light? Or does the noise of the day drown them out? When does deep night become predawn? What are they (we) thinking, the ones awake while others sleep?
Have another cigarette invisible night watcher. I am heading indoors, shutting the door, silencing the night again.

An explanation

April is the harshest month.  March wasn’t much better.

I haven’t been present much in the past week.  In the past month, maybe longer.  I haven’t been much more than a rote machine, doing what needed to be done as quickly and efficiently as I could muster.  There were promises and expectations, obligations and duties to attend to.  I tried to do it all.  I tried to make it work.

There were successes.  There were stumbles.  There was regrouping and worrying and there was laughter and companionship and most of all there was cooperation and understanding.

The thing is, I am feeling all used up.  So this morning, after writing my morning page, and half way through my daily cup of coffee I wrote this explanation.  It is an appeal, really, an appeal to give me some more time, allow me to move at a slower than normal speed, maybe even to let go and drift a bit,..

I must be getting old.  I don’t have the resources I once had.  The past month, the constant activity in preparation for AWP, the bout with the flu, the upcoming relocation have all taken out of me, mind, spirit and body, all that I had.  I feel like an empty husk, the core dried up and the remains just barely holding shape.

It takes longer to recover now. The enthusiasm and energy store are depleted and the demands continue. Right now I have enough built up daily to get through the day.  Then, around 5 p.m. I am exhausted, my body aching, my mind blank, and my motivation focused on only one thing, rest. I know there is much to do, much that has to be done, obligations and promises to keep, and I have no interest, no incentive to do any of it.  My body and my mind crave only sleep, oblivion, unconsciousness.

Like I said, I must be getting old.  I don’t recover as fast as I once did.  I am stuck in a sort of languid state.  I can reach for something I want, but I can’t touch it. It is just out of my grasp, and I can’t, I don’t have the strength or the stamina to keep trying, keep reaching.

I sound silly, I feel suspended.  I don’t know how else to describe it. The spark is gone, the fire unlit, the kindling damp. The very possibility of a fire, warmth, energy to survive is unlikely.  The necessary heat and drive equally low.  The wood has to dry, the spark has to be restruck.  That is going to take time.

I am feeling old and worn.  Around me everything and everyone races by in a whir. The activity makes me dizzy.  It makes me tired.  I am an obstacle everyone goes around without noticing it.  I am the rock in the river that is continuously submerged by the water racing along and around it, rippling and gurgling in protest of the obstruction in its path.  

It is going to take some time, maybe a lot of time, to get back the energy and enthusiasm I enjoyed. Time and patience and a lot of sleep and dreaming.  A lot of long walks and meanders.  Some time on a park bench or a log just staring at the river, absorbing the suns’s warmth, hearing the birds more than the traffic, seeing the trees bud, the flowers emerge, the world reawaken.  

Bear with me.  I am feeling old, not done.

Among the many lives you’ll never lead….

It’s the first line of a poem by Kevin Craft.  I read it yesterday and it still reverberates in my brain.  How many lives will I never lead…

I won’t ever be a mother.  Too late, no interest, no regrets.  Very glad it is not an option any more.

I won’t ever be a wife.  Again, no interest, no regrets. Committed relationship without the trappings and traditions that bind and restrict.  Argue as you will, 27 years in a single relationship without benefit of legal, religious or social sanction and I believe my point has validity.

I doubt I will ever be a ballet dancer.  Grace is not a natural state, not for me.  Although I am learning to move smoothly and with control, the pirouette and leaps are beyond my ability.  There remains great joy in moving, treading my own path, following my own star, making my own way.

I would like to learn to fly a plane.  No, I would like to fly a plane.  Actually a glider.  Or a hot air balloon.  I want to be up high, floating, looking out and down and seeing what the birds see.  I would really like to be a vulture, making those lazy circles, swooping and soaring, catching the thermals, feasting on roadkill.

Nothing glamorous in my goals.  And when I really think about it, except for a few minor irritations and some very possible aspirations, I am pretty satisfied with my life.  Where I am, what I do, who I know (thank you all, friends ), how I choose to make my way in this world, these are all good.

At this point in my life there doesn’t seem much point in wondering what might have been, worrying about what might be, or even wishing for something else.

I am pretty content to keep walking my path, stepping as lightly as possible, to the music I hear, seeing what I can see, delighting in every moment that is what it is.

Those lives I’ll never lead?  Maybe next time.

“The Way It Is”

First Sunday of the new year. I have done my outdoor chores, clearing the sidewalk and patio of the light snowfall from last night. It was cold, but dressed warmly and moving around other than a little chill to the cheeks I was comfortable.  It was quiet outside, as it almost always is on Sunday morning.  The inhabitants of this street are rarely outside, rarely loud or disruptive, very urban aloof and neighborly nonchalant.  Scraping the sidewalk and hearing that grating plastic against concrete I was aware of the time (after 9 a.m.) and how far sound travels in the cold quiet of Sunday morning.  That’s just the way it is.

Now I am working on year end/ year beginning tasks, those back up and move forward tasks that while necessary take up so much time.  Perfect opportunities for multi tasking or multi computer use.  So I type this on the web machine while the main computer copies and compiles all the necessary information to back up if I ever need to do that.  Ever practical and prepared.  Occasionally that is the way it is.

The thing is, the back up concept isn’t really one that ever gets much attention, certainly not in this world of forward always face the future onward and upward. Seriously, how often does the past get recalled, much less relived?  The cynics with the world view of time probably say too often, all the time, when does it ever not?  But on the personal level, except for that year end letter to enclose in those holiday cards or that silly bland totally useless facebook year in review thing does anyone really look back, examine, evaluate, or consider where they have come from, what they have done, what experiences are most memorable, what affect their past actions have on their potential and thus far unrevealed future? Who can say what the future will be? Maybe that is the way it is.

I spent part of yesterday moving my basic information from the 2014 calendar to the 2015 calendar.  Yes, I still maintain a physical paper based calendar, where I keep notes, projects, deadlines, appointments and plans.  Each week gets a two page spread.  Reality rules on the left page (ironically subversive in that mind divisive theory) and the probable and potential exists on the right page. It works, keeping me on track while floundering in the possibilities.  Or feet on the ground and head in the clouds.  In my world that is the way it is.

In working on these end and beginning tasks I keep coming back to the whole time construct.  And it is a construct.  Perhaps a necessary construct, but as artificially determined as distance or space.  Past, present, future. Then, now, someday. Before, now, after.  This is about all I can comprehend of the time continuum.

My calendar uses generally accepted units of time, days, weeks, months, and years.  Of these basic units the only two that provide any meaningful use to me are the week, about the largest unit of time I can comprehend and the day, which I generally define as the now.   Beyond a day, and certainly beyond a week there exists only fantasy; hopes and promises.  That is the way it is.

The old calendars, those  records of days and weeks, projects conceived and projects completed, are still around but rarely viewed.  Just like as I turn the page in my calendar each Sunday evening to display the new week, once those old calendars are filled they no longer have a lot of purpose.  Done, completed, whatever the outcome it is over.  Regrets? Triumphs?  Success? Failure?  Doesn’t really matter, what is over is over, done.  Perhaps what happened last week or last year was built upon and remains the basis of what is done today but it no longer exists.  That is just the way it is.

Time is a tricky thing and it is easy to get hung up in the immense spans in can be said to encompass.  But really the only significance time has is now.  This moment, this minute.  Really every day is the start of a new year. Think about that. Each time I wake up there is the potential to completely change my present, and my presence in the world.  Every single moment I can and do make a choice on how to spend that moment.  I can decide who I want to be with, where I want to be, what I want to do and most importantly how I want to spend this unit, whatever unit I chose, of time.  Pretty heady stuff.  A whole different way to look at control and choice and time and life.  And that is the way it is.

And now, because I can never let an opportunity to share this poem go by, my favorite poem:

The Way It Is by William Stafford.

There is a thread you follow.
It goes among things that change.
But it does not change.
People wonder about what things you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen, people get hurt or die and you suffer and grow old.
Nothing you do can stop times unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

When it is just a job, a paycheck, a means to the end

Yesterday I accepted a job.  Today I get to pee in a cup.  If it turns out well, no drug residue, I will begin working next week.

See, that is all it is.  Working.  Hourly pay for doing menial everyday tasks at a retail establishment.

It will pay the rent. It will relieve the frantic stress of trying to figure out where the monthly check to the landlady is going to come from.

That is all.  And in a way, it is huge.  That huge oppressive bulk of worry is lifted. In exchange for feeling lighter I will work 2-3 shifts each week.  It is doable.  It is enough.

It means I will stay in my lovely living space, on my quiet friendly block in the charming city of St. Paul.  It means I can continue doing what I love, what keeps me striving, what captures my interest and what I believe I was meant to be doing.

Sure, I could say that is writing.  And it is, in part.  But more generally, more honestly, it is creating.  I find great satisfaction in writing, I find even more satisfaction playing with paper and even more satisfaction fashioning a chapbook from a manuscript into a work of art.  A complex and complete whole, cover, text, title, theme, expression.

Yes, that is my occupation.  It is one I relish.  One that gets me to my desk every morning.  One that provides me with tangible proof of my own abilities.  One that surprised me everyday.  One that keeps me searching, keeps me learning, keeps me interested.

So, next week I start working at a job.  Just a job, a paycheck, a means to the end. Meanwhile I will continue to pursue my vocation, my passion, my joy.

Trust me, it is enough.

Landscape of Ghosts

I am going to gush here, and blather, and ooooh and ahhhh, and sigh, and, well, enthuse about a book, an author, and a photographer.

The book was published 21 years ago. The author (editor?, collaborator?) died a few years ago.  The photographer is still alive, still photographing and has a pretty big connection to the Capture Minnesota Project of TPT television.  I found the book at the latest half Price Book store sidewalk sale.  I paid three dollars for it.

The Author is Bill Holm, and as far as Minnesota Authors goes he rates right up there with Paul Gruchow,  Louis Jenkins, and Robert Bly.  What sets him apart, what makes me eager to read anything he has written, is his cantankerous contrariness.  A curmudgeon of the highest order, with a huge and gentle heart, and a wicked, sly sense of humor.  To read his poetry, or his essays is to be enlightened and entertained but mostly to be made aware of the foilbles and follies of this human life.  With no offense, and only the greatest of admiration of both parties, Bill Holm is the Grumpy Cat of the human world.  Who better?

So, Bill Holm is approached 20 some years ago by the photographer Bob Firth to produce a book, a picture book, of amazing images of the detritus  of rural Minnesota.  Again, who better?

Here’s how Bill introduces this book: “Here is a book full of pictures of stuff nobody wants to look at and of essays on subjects no one wants to read about.”

I’ve already seen the cover, the frontpiece and I know there is more to this book than that statement.  The ultimate contrarian is speaking here.  Then Bill, as he continues on in  this introduction pays Bob Firth, what I would think as a photographer, is the ultimate compliment.  Bill says, “Bob Firth is not Norman Rockwell; he has a jeweler’s eye, not a peddler’s.”

I can see this statement hand-lettered on fine parchment, framed in ornate gold amid the photographs Bob Firth prizes enough to hang on his wall.

Yes, I would love to emulate Bill Holm, or at least have his talent for understated exactness. I am already acquainted with  photographers with the  jeweler’s eyes.   Now I have this wonderful book, 21 years old, and not aging a bit, to prod and inspire me to see and write with that eye.

Did I mention Bill uses the words of other poets and essayists in this book as well?  The first poem in the book is by Tom Hennen.

Love of Other Things

It’s easy to love a deer
But try to pick out insects and scrawny trees
To care about.
Love the puddle of lukewarm water
From last week’s rain.
Leave the mountains alone for now.
Also the clear lakes surrounded by pines.
People are already lined up to admire them.
Get close to the things that slide away in the dark.
Think of the frost
That will crack our bones eventually.
Be grateful even for the boredom
That sometimes seems to involve the whole world.
Sometimes just the grass.

Yeah, it is that kind of book.  Words and images that individually impact, and when brought together, surpass admiration.

As of today I have read the introduction and this one poem, and looked at seven amazing images.  I want more; I could read more, look at more, but for once I will exercise restraint and look forward to savoring my next foray into this world of, as Bill, quoting Robert Schumann,  calls it, “ruins and eagle feathers.”

The book is out of print, a few copies are probably lying around in used bookstores, most of the real treasures are usually found there.  Sort of fitting, given the title of the book, the subjects of the photographs, who wrote it, and where and how it was found.

At this point I would add a picture of the book cover, because visuals are most convincing, encouraging the leery and the weary to pick up curious books like this.  But I can not find a cover image to post.  So, instead I will add a link to the Capture Minnesota page of Bob Firth’s photographs.   http://www.captureminnesota.com/users/bobfirth

One last quote from Bill.  This is his dedication to the book;

To
Kathleen and Lawrence Owen and
Norma and Elmer Suderman

my teachers
thirty years ago, and
my friends ever since, who have fed me ideas, dinner, stories, music,
and the strong notion that both your work
and your life improve with love, humor,
paying attention in everyday life,
and practicing a firm spirit
of
contrariness.

 

To Life: the ultimate collaboration.

Okay, I’m done.

 

Exhaust pipes and dryer vents

It has been a little over three weeks since I moved into the city. There has been much to explore, consider, experience.
I am in St. Paul, downtown, Central Library, second floor, non fiction reading room or some such title.
Outside it is gloomy and windy. I would make a comment on the weather reflecting Christian religious traditions, but really, been there, said that.
I rode the bus to get here. I left my house and walked to the bus stop on Randolph. I watched the bus pull away from the curb without me. 20 minutes to wait for the next. Or I could walk. So I did. Saratoga to Victoria. Down Randolph. With IPod and audio book.
I walk a lot. 1.5 miles to Whole Foods on Grand. 1.3 miles to Kowalkskis on Grand. 1.6 miles to Half Price books on Ford Parkway.
I walk for the exercise. To get outside. Because I am bored, restless, impatient.
Saturday mornings most of those joining me on the sidewalks are attached to dogs. Big dogs, little dogs, singular dogs, plural dogs. I am glad I am not a city dog. Leashed and hurried along, following the scent and deposits of all those dogs that just passed hurried and leashed. No time to dawdle, linger, run, roll in the grass, dig up the ground, sniff or chase. Why even be a dog. Might as well be a cat.
I walk somewhere, anywhere, every day. I walk residential streets, big and little houses in rows, long rows, with little gaps between the houses.
There are two things I smell as I walk the streets of St. Paul.
One is diesel fuel. Buses, trucks, and cars, every corner, every streetlight, every major intersection. I have gotten on buses fueled with bio mass diesel. I have ridden an electric hybrid bus. The buses might not stink environmentally, but there leave behind a distinct smell.
The other thing I smell, on nearly every street, at any time of the day, drying clothes, or those dryer sheets meant to make clothes smell fresh, clean, dried in the breeze. Yes, everywhere the dryer vent exhaust hovers along the street. Once out that vent all those clothes perfumes smell the same, hot, and dry not quite scorched.
No where, so far, have I seen those clothes driers made of poles and lines, where clothes are attached with pins. Maybe in one or two of those fenced back yards where maybe some little dog growls and snaps frantically as I walk by, there are a few rugs or rags hanging from sagging lines attached to rusty poles, but they are invisible, hidden and most likely forgotten.
This is what I know so far. Buses still smell and clothes aren’t dried outdoors. Now it is time to go back outside and walk some more.