Friday, September 30, 2016

11 at night

It was 11 at night, 1975, I was wearing a parka, the wind was blowing, there was snow mounded here and there in the grad center parking lot. The moon was full, the night was quiet, clouds like translucent silk floated swiftly across the shining face of the moon. I stood there, my face turned up to the moon, my feet safe but cold in crepe-soled hiking boots. The sky was black, and ice hung from the bumpers of the parked cars.

My mind was empty of thought. The guitar performance ended an hour ago and the network of intricate sound and varied timing was a key that opened the lock to a dormant part of that mind, wordless, letting me hear at another level, and see another dimension of the freezing sky and I still need no words for what I learned. A door to a universe expansive Godness was open, and I absorbed all that my teaspoon of brain and heart could hold.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

'Be-eeee Good!' E.T. the extra-terrestrial said to the teary-eyed little girl who had helped save his life.  

(Little girl - hmmph. E.T., old and wise, was smaller than she was!) 

He boarded the disc-shaped spacecraft that was flashing colorful beams of light. It quietly lifted up, and away.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Connecticut Yankee

Mark Twain is perhaps best known for his children's books, Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. Some forty years ago or so, I read one of his adult novels, A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court, the story of an American of the late 1800s traveling back in time to England to experience Medieval life. The only part I now remember is the Yankee saving his own skin by predicting a darkening of the daytime sky. The sun then blacked out on the day he predicted. The people were astounded. 

How was he able to do that? The event was a historically memorable solar eclipse that the Yankee had learned of during his life in America.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Monday, September 26, 2016

'Soap opera is daily serial melodrama that originated in the United States on radio and then became popular on daytime television in many countries. Soap operas received the name because soap manufacturers first sponsored them on radio. For many years, a number of critics considered soap operas, though popular, to be a low type of mass-market entertainment. However, many critics have re-evaluated soap operas, assessing them as one of the few original American art forms...'

(quote from The World Book Encyclopedia
2015 edition
Volume So-Sz

During the 1960s, soap operas were on daytime TV, the same time each day from Monday through Friday. On Monday, the episode summarized and provided some closure on the previous week while opening up a new storyline. Friday episodes were 'cliffhangers', leaving the audience anxious to return to the show come Monday. 'The Guiding Light', 'As the World Turns', and 'General Hospital' and 'The Edge of Night' are four that were very popular across many years, social phenomena. Many a homebody refused to miss a single episode of their favorite soap.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

the sun

what if the sun 
were not a ball of fire
but a sphere of light?
How would such light
translate into warmth
on a place like earth?

Friday, September 23, 2016

autumnal equinox 2016

the feast
of vegetarian pig
is over
the glass of white wine
the sun
melts orange
from behind a bank
of steel gray clouds
it glows across
the quiet valley
of cedar trees
and gnarly oaks
brushing all with gold
i listen for druids
or angels
and hear the rumble whine
of an air conditioner
from the house nearby

of equinox past
and equinox future
and equinox on this day
the sun,
so slow to set,
hastens pace
in blazing silence
touches the far horizon
and sinks
to a fine point of light

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

grackle's planet

grackle flies by
a blue and white planet
on his shoulders

turtle calls up to him
from the floor
of the creek below

that looks so heavy
my shell is strong
let me carry that planet for you!

grackle circles wide
and sails back to the creek.
he lands next to turtle.

the planet eases off
the bird's shoulders
and turtle holds still
waiting to bear its weight

but the planet rolls instead
into the creek bed.
grackle pushes and nudges
with his beak
but cannot roll
the heavy sphere onto
turtle's back.

turtle wades
around the planet
steering through the shallow water
with his flippers

it starts to rain
the grackle and the turtle
stand watch
side by side

the planet does not wash away
it rocks and sways
and rocks and sways
in the creek current

the planet gets wedged;
creekweeds and stones
secure it to the floor
and it grows still

it does not budge
home now
a planet on a planet.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The dashboard, door handle, and steering wheel of your car left out in the sun are too hot to touch. The pavement is hot. Sometimes it gets, as the colloquialism goes, hot enough to fry an egg.

Before you take your shoeless kids and dogs outside to race to the car, or feed the birds and squirrels in the parking lot on a 100 degree summer afternoon, or drive a horse and buggy around the town square to give visitors a tour, try removing your own shoes and socks and stand on the heated surface for a few seconds. Well, maybe not that long. Ouch.

We usually wear shoes, so it's easy to forget our companions' feet can blister from contact with the burning paved surfaces around us. This summer, I've seen dogs and horses in pain, and since they are speechless, thought I'd put this into words.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

family triangle

There is a generous amount of discussion about how a child feels and behaves when a new baby brother or sister arrives. Some children are pleased and excited, some are not, and almost all experience some jealousy regarding the attention the new infant receives. The older child is accustomed to receiving lots of notice from the parents, and now he or she has to share that attention. It's not unusual for signs of sibling rivalry to show up.

What is discussed less is the nature of the family before the second baby, when the family consists of only the parents and one child, what a family triangle is like. This is an interesting system in and of itself, whether another child ever arrives or not. When another child does arrive, though, there are adjustments for everyone, not just the firstborn, as the triangle takes on a new geometric shape.
There is a generous amount of discussion about how a child feels and behaves when a new baby brother or sister arrives. Some children are pleased and excited, some are not, and almost all experience some jealousy regarding the attention the new infant receives. The older child is accustomed to receiving lots of notice from the parents, and now he or she has to share that attention. It's not unusual for signs of sibling rivalry to show up.

What is discussed less is the nature of the family before the second baby, when the family consists of only the parents and one child, what a family triangle is like. This is an interesting system in and of itself, whether another child ever arrives or not. When another child does arrive, though, there are adjustments for everyone, not just the firstborn, as the triangle takes on a new geometric shape.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Ostrich and Lark

'Every day, all day,
over the cicada's drone,
a drizzle of buzzings fell,
and a downpour of birdsong.

'Hornbill, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Diederik,
Mousebird, Whydah, Canary:
from gray-light-come to last-light-gone,
the fancy-dressed suitors of the veld
warbled their rain-shower jazz.'

(a couple of poetic paragraphs from the book Ostrich and Lark, by Marilyn Nelson and illustrated by San artists of the Kuru Art Project of Botswana, 2012)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

poetry within lyrics

Some of America's most unrecognized poetry
is tucked within the lyrics of our songwriters.

for example
from Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel
in the 1960s:

'What a dream I had
pressed in organdy
clothed in crinoline
of smoky burgundy
softer than the rain

'I wandered empty streets down
past the shop displays
I heard cathedral bells
tripping down the alleyways
as I walked on...'

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

'Do we throw away the apple core?' he asked his dad. 'I already ate the good part.'

'Are you kidding, Son?' said Dad. 'Give me that apple core! It is the BEST part. Inside this apple core are seeds that might make trees that can grow for a hundred years or longer. Thousands of apples for you and your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren could come from these little seeds.'

Dad shook out two of the seeds, and set down the core. While he showed the seeds to his son, a squirrel came up behind him and carried away the apple core.

'Dad! Catch that squirrel! He's taking away the BEST part!'

They watched the squirrel leap up a pine tree and stare down at them, holding the core in his nimble little fingers.

Dad stared back and thought for a moment. 'Not to worry, Son. You and I can plant these two seeds. Squirrels are wonderful farmers. He'll take care of the rest.  There may be apples not only for us, but for his great great great grandchildren, too.'

Monday, September 12, 2016

Muppets and Rogers

The news today from the Muppets who live on Sesame Street is that: You Are Important!

You have something special to offer in your time and place and current physical shape that is all you. You may not know it yet. (You may envy this person and that cat.) Your family and colleagues may not know it yet.  But: You Are Important!

(And, as Mr. Rogers has always said as he puts on his sneakers and sweater, he likes you just the way you are.)

Saturday, September 10, 2016


When I was a kid in the 1950s and 60s, lollipops, also known as suckers, were abundant. There were Dum-Dums on paper sticks with paper wrappers, a small sphere of hard candy made only of sugar, and varied flavors and food colors. There were Safety Pops, wrapped in cellophane, that had a string-like loop for a handle. The loop was less likely to cause an injury than the sticks. The candy itself was transparent and came in a number of colors and flavors. Dum-Dums and Safety Pops were relatively small compared to the white disk on a stick you might find at a carnival. It was striped with a rainbow of colors, was opaque and had more sweet substance to it.

Lollipops were given at the completion of classroom projects, at special celebrations, and just for an afternoon treat. They could be found, bright red and green, in Christmas stockings. I remember toddlers with red or purple saliva running down their faces as they cheerfully followed older siblings around in the yard.

The magical thing about lollipops that we rarely acknowledge is how quickly they can relieve pain and distress. Nurses gave them to children at the doctor's office after surviving vaccinations and tetanus shots (injections). A child runs up wailing because of a bleeding brush burn on the knee. Give him or her a lollipop as you clean the wound, and crying and moaning stops almost immediately. A little sugar can be very comforting.
Almost everyone who has a few birthdays under their belt has experienced a crisis or distressing event in their lives. We have great successes, and happy events, and also pain at times. As a psychologist, I have helped clients process emergencies as they occur, and helped them find ways to seek comfort and weather grief.  Of interest is I also came to observe that clients sometimes suffer on the anniversaries of such events. Without awareness, they might report a kind of depressed state of mind had occurred for a few days, with no reason evident to them. Over the course of the session, or perhaps a week or two later, something would click. That was the week their father had died, or the very date they had experienced a serious injury. Our inner wounds heal, but come the anniversary, they fester a bit, consciously or unconsciously. They call for some attention. We acknowledge what has been lost, through thought and/or action, seek the comfort we need, and move on. The pain fades once again.

This same process can occur with communities as well, as a University of Texas psychologist and professor, Dr. Pennybaker, has written about. The whole village grows sober or anxious as the date of a past major hurricane or fire approaches. This kind of anxiety will gradually lessen as the years pass, but initially can be a true annual disturbance, with return of the fears and agitated state that arose with the event, and some of the defensive behaviors that resulted. Memorials, prayers, letters, newspaper articles, commemorative public parks and libraries, are ways we handle such situations as a whole. Ideally, we also take care not to stimulate overreaction.

Perhaps I write this now because of my own physical awareness of the approach of September 11th. I extend my sympathy for all of us who experienced losses on that date in 2001.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Three miniature trains were winding along three sets of tracks at a railroad museum in Kingman, Arizona. They coursed around towns and farms made of plastic, stone, and wood. Cows stood here, and grain storage structures there. Somewhat like watching vehicles at cloverleaf highway intersections, the trains were mesmerizing. The sounds and speeds were varied, but at some point, the motions of three separate trains become connected, as though they are separate entities, yet also one whole entity as in an orchestra.

Riding on full-size trains can be like a song. The background beat is clickety-clack as the train moves over the tracks; you can feel the pulse and bumps. The train itself is like a melody, fast, in swaying motion, separate from the countryside, and connected. The song slows as the train slows down, and sometimes halts, at the stations, then picks up momentum once again.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Moody Blues was a British band of the 1960s - 70s that created wondrous sound, using techniques that were new to the time. They made an album called 'Every Good Boy Deserves Favour'. My dad had once mentioned a similar saying 'Every Good Boy Does Fine'(?), and explained that it was a mnemonic device, the first letter of each word being the note of a line of the treble clef of western written music.

I don't know a whole lot about guitar strings. They do change over the decades, and here I am mumbling about this and that. In learning to play guitar in the mid 1980s, for some reason I could not hold on to the popular mnemonic saying at that time for tuning guitar strings. So I made up my own: Every April Ducks Go Back East.

Guitar strings are interesting. Electric guitars, classical guitars, and acoustic guitars use variations of metal and nylon strings. The bass strings tend to be heavier; the higher pitched strings lighter in weight and smaller in circumference. But the materials and specifics evolve across time. And if all the strings were the same material and circumference, one could still tune them to the desired pitches.

There is something so fascinating about the fretboard, the surface of the neck of the guitar where the strings abide. There is this intersection between the geometry of the half-step dividing lines (ie, the varying distance between the frets), the qualities and tautness of the strings, and the sounds that emerge that make for both visual and auditory fascination and satisfaction. There is the physics of different aspects of the instrument and of sound. With some guitars, the location of the frets is precisely and systematically closer together as they approach the soundhole. With some guitars, this is not so. It's not as obviously logical as one might think, and some people adjust these properties in creative ways that might keep a mathematician and a musician awake at night.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

visual effects

Computer Moose
faces the ancient user.
His antlers hold
the keyboard.

all dressed in blue
stands atop the library shelves
arms uplifted.

Ghostly Goat
of peeling paint
and shredded paper
shines and stares
from a weathered brick wall.

Startled Doe,
like her Sisters of the Woods
who peek from behind trees,
peers from triangles of street lights
and stray trinkets of three

Spirits nod
from book covers
and patterns in the rugs.
They yearn for attention,
and imagined hugs,
offer yeses and nos
and flickers of cheer
to the eyes
of one old hermit
bearing bundles of years.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The first time I went abroad, it was to France when I was in my 40s,circa 1996. The first thing I noticed was the currency, a paper bill. I don't recall how many francs it was worth. It was colorful  and it featured an engraved image of Antoine de St Exupery, the author of Le Petit Prince and other remarkable writings of the first half of the 20th century. Our United States of America currency was  green, and featured portraits of our presidents. I was fascinated to see a writer commemorated in such a way.

Friday, September 2, 2016

fundamental ethics

Some of the fundamentals for humans, to survive, to live, include air to breathe, water and other fluids to drink, and food to eat. Shelter, reproduction, and sleep also rank high among essentials.

There are also fundamentals in how we humans live, what we call ethics, morals, good not bad, right not wrong. There are religions with commandments and rules, governments with laws and ideals, clubs (such as Scouts, Rotary, Shiners), schools, and professions (such as medicine and science and military) with ethics codes and honor codes.

I read once in a book regarding the ethics of psychologists a review of such codes and regulations. The authors reported that the first ethic in the majority of such undertakings is 'Do no harm.'  This usually comes before the second most common ethic, which includes variations on the theme: 'Do good.'

Thursday, September 1, 2016

In the past, many a town was planned on a grid of horizontal and vertical lines. The people would try to orient the streets north-south, and east-west. There might be a square in the middle of town where the courthouse would stand, or a church. Around the square would be shops and markets and good things to eat.

The streets around the square might be labeled in an organized way, to make them easy to find. There was a Main Street or a Grand Street. Then there were numbered streets, such as first, second, and third. These might be the east-west streets. Then there might be north-south streets in alphabetical order, labeled A, B, and C, et cetera, or Adams, Bush, Clinton and Eisenhower. Or Annie, Bella, Candace, Darla and Elizabeth. Or Agarita, Bluebell, Carnation, and Dahlia. Et cetera.

One day, though, or perhaps across a long period of time, the grid plans got buried in a flurry of change. Loops and streets with intriguing curves came into being. Roller coaster style highway intersections were built. We've been in awe, and often lost, ever since.