Saturday, July 30, 2011

The SOSO dance

I set out on my walk early this morning with a swarm of worries buzzing around my head like mosquitoes ranging in size from mammoth (What if my mom doesn't get well enough to go home from rehab, or what if she gets well enough to go home but isn't able to respond appropriately if my dad has another stroke?) to middling (What if my car breaks down again or my health insurance won't cover this h0nking big bill?) to minuscule (Mice in my car: gone for good or merely hiding?). Two hours later I returned with an entirely different set of worries buzzing around my mind and a brilliant plan for solving the debt-ceiling stalemate.

Let's start at the beginning: oppressive heat and humidity have shortened my walks this week, but last night a heavy rain cooled things down considerably so that this morning I was determined to walk the full six-mile loop. Fog still clung to the creek and clouds hid the sun when I left the house, so I didn't bother wearing a hat, which was my first mistake, unless you think that getting out of bed this morning was my first mistake, which is certainly a defensible position.

I climbed the twisty road up the hill through the foggy woods, wishing for gills to help me breathe the moist, drippy air. I was about two miles into my walk on the top of the ridge when the clouds suddenly parted and the sun broke through, walloping me on the head like a whale falling from the sky. I should have interpreted this as a portent: Go back! No good can come from following this mad course! But I ignored it and pressed on, and soon the clouds returned and provided some relief from the oppressive heat, although I kept wishing I could trade in my puny water bottle for a tanker truck full of water and a very long straw.

I had just reached the halfway point when my bum hip went "click." Now I've heard that click before and I know what it portends: pain, discomfort, and difficulty walking. If I change my gait to lessen the hip pain, my knees starts screaming. I can't quite believe that I've reached the age when I can whine tediously and at great length about my aching joints, but out there in the middle of nowhere there was no one to hear me whine so why bother?

Halfway through the route--nothing to do but to keep walking. I did some stretches in the middle of the road and then hobbled down the hill (step, ouch, step, ouch, step, ouch), worrying about maintaining my footing on the steep gravel slope until I finally reached level ground near the creek.

Where mosquitoes live. By the millions. Hungry mosquitoes looking for a meal--me!

And then I went around the curve by a cornfield and the horseflies found me.

And then the thunder started.

It didnt' take me long to perfect a new dance step: Step (Ouch) Slap (Ouch) Swat (Ouch) Sweat (Ouch) Step (Ouch)--repeat enough times and it'll take you home in a hurry. Mission accomplished! There's nothing like a little mind-numbing pain to motivate superhuman speed.

Which brings me to the current debt-ceiling crisis. Here's my proposal: take all our elected officials and strand them in the middle a hot, humid, pest-ridden swamp; take away their cell phones, give them each a single water bottle, and tell them they can't go back to their cushy offices until they work out a solution. A few rounds of the Step (Ouch) Slap (Ouch) Swat (Ouch) Sweat (Ouch) Step (Ouch) Dance are bound to motivate some progress.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Memory what?

In Memory Wall, Anthony Doerr's new collection of short stories, memory is a collage of sticky notes, a consolation, a treasure map or torture chamber, even a commodity. In the title story, memories are mined from failing minds and sold to provide solace to the despairing, while in the stunningly beautiful "Village 113," memories are submerged like seeds beneath the floods of change.

In these stories, a woman tries to preserve the memory of her village while another tries to forget the pain of the Holocaust; a couple struggles to remember their passion and a child tries to forget her pain by fishing in forgotten rivers.

The one false note in this collection arises in "The River Nemunas," in which the first-person narrator claims to be fifteen years old but speaks and thinks like a much younger child. The child characters in "Afterworld" are more believable, even those who are never allowed to grow up. Esther's seizures send her on silent nightmare journeys: "Soot rains from the sky. Every doorway she passes is crammed with dirty, silent people. They sip gray broth or squat on their heels or study the lines of their hands. Crows flap from gutters. Leaves fly along the streets and die and rise into the air once more."

It's astonishing that a story so suffused with suffering and death should rise in the end toward joy: "Every hour, Robert thinks, all over the globe, an infinite number of memories disappear, whole glowing atlases dragged into graves. But during that same hour children are moving about, surveying territory that seems to them entirely new. They push back the darkness; they scatter memories behind them like bread crumbs. The world is remade."

Something similar happens in the title story, "Memory Wall," in which a woman's bitter memories of her marriage propel a teen to scatter memories like breadcrumbs while seeking to recover a forgotten fossil. Uncovering the past requires skill, patience, fortitude, and a little luck, but the result brings hope.

"Memory Wall" also features a sci-fi gadget that harvests memories from the elderly and records them on disks that can be bought, sold, and traded, allowing others to enter into a stranger's remembered experiences. Doerr's collection of stories functions in much the same way, inviting readers into the richly realized lives of strangers. These memories, though, won't disappear as long as there are readers to open the book.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Skulking or supping?

Meet the Common Yellowthroat, AKA Geothlypis trichas, spotted yesterday amongst the foliage on a scrub hawthorn in my upper meadow. I walked up there looking for butterflies and saw an indigo bunting on the way but couldn't catch any decent shots until I stalked the source of a persistent "chip." Mr. Common Yellowthroat was nearly invisible among the yellowed leaves and gray branches of the hawthorn, but I stood still for a while until the chaotic movement resolved itself into the shape of a bird. And then I snapped.

The Cornell Ornithology Lab's online bird guide
describes the Common Yellowthroat as a "skulking masked warbler of wet thickets" that says "wich-i-ty, wich-i-ty, wich-i-ty." I didn't hear any witchity sounds and I don't recall ever seeing this bird before, but on the wing he's easily mistaken for a goldfinch, of which we have bazillions. The Common Yellowthroat's calling card is that distinctive black mask, which goes so well with the word "skulking," although he didn't appear to me to be skulking. He appeared to be snapping at insects and swallowing them for supper.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Imperfectionists

In the middle of Tom Rachman's novel The Imperfectionists, Kathleen Solson, the editor in chief of a struggling international newspaper, speaks at a media conference in Rome. Asked whether the newspaper industry can survive the wired era, she responds with familiar assurances: "news will survive, and quality coverage will always earn a premium. Whatever you want to call it--news, text, content--someone has to report it, someone has to write it, someone has to edit it. And I intend for us to do it better, no matter the medium."

I could have written that statement--and in fact, I wrote something very similar in my ninth-grade career report, explaining why the then-distant threat of personalized news content delivered via computer would never drive journalists out of existence. The difference between my youthful self and Kathleen Solson is that I believed those assurances, while she's stuck in a fictional world in which traditional journalism is failing hopelessly.

But not humorlessly. The Imperfectionists is a very funny book that tells the bittersweet story of the life and death of a newspaper through the perspectives of a variety of characters, most of them richly complex and believable: a raw intern gets steamrollered by a manipulative veteran correspondent; a self-centered accountant gets a rude awakening; a grammar-nazi prig shows his warm human side.

The force uniting all these interconnected vignettes, though, is the newspaper itself. Rachman evokes the gritty day-to-day realities of print journalism in a way that will charm those whose understanding of journalism derives entirely from cable news shows, but the book will resonate even more deeply with anyone drilled in the finer points of headline-counting.

Not since Annie Proulx's The Shipping News (1993) has a novel played so delightfully with the fine art of headline-writing. In that book, Quoyle the inept newsman sees "the commonplaces of life as newspaper headlines. Man Walks Across Parking Lot at Moderate Pace. Women Talk of Rain. Phone Rings in Empty Room." And later:

"Man Dies of Broken Heart."

"Car Disintegrates on Remote Goatpath."

"Stupid Man Does Wrong Thing Once More."

Quoyle himself strikes another character as "a huge roll of newsprint form the pulp mill. Blank and speckled with imperfections." The characters in The Imperfectionists are similarly speckled, but the story written on them and through them will survive long after the final newspaper rots in the landfill.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Heads up!

The physical therapist was watching my father stand and sit and walk so she could suggest improvements in form (and I wonder how much of her job involves trying to teach old dogs new tricks). "I notice that you walk with your shoulders slumped and your head down," she said, and Dad explained that he's always worried about tripping over something. The therapist ticked off the ways this posture could make his life miserable--shoulder pain, back pain, neck pain, headaches--and I realized: I do that. I walk with my shoulders slumped and my head down as if on the lookout for a gaping chasm that might suddenly open up in front of my feet. It's hard to take the long view when you're constantly looking into the chasm.

So this morning on my walk I resolved to walk with my shoulders back and my head up, which was particularly difficult when I was walking up a steep hill on gravel. (In Florida all my walks were on flat, smoothly paved sidewalks, which resulted in knee pain and blisters. Apparently my body is so accustomed to walking in deplorable conditions that it considers the smooth path an insult.)

I walked up the steep hill through the woods with my head up and when I reached the ridge on top my head was still up so that the first thing I saw when I got out of the woods was lightning striking in the distance and black clouds rolling my way. You don't want to be walking on the highest ridge in the area when the lightning bolts start to fly, so I moved off the ridge and hustled on home with thunder urging me on my way.

We need the rain and I made it home without getting blisters or being struck by lightning or falling into any gaping chasms--and I kept my head up. Some days that's about as good as it gets.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In the uneasy chair

Here I am at the Orlando airport (no sign of Casey Anthony!) where an adorable little blond girl who looks about three years old is begging to be taken to Starbucks. We're surrounded by gift stores touting Disney toys and Sea World t-shirts and Space Center hats but all this toddler wants is a trip to Starbucks. Orlando: a whole different world.

Or maybe it's just Airportland that's different--Atlanta, Minneapolis, Dallas, Milwaukee, or wherever big airplanes gather to ingest and spit out passengers. In John Henry Days, Colson Whitehead's much-traveled protagonist calls the international airport environment Terminal City, as if travel were an incurable disease.

Not many people are capable of being at ease in an airport. I see parents trying to reign in the exuberance of children who've had a few too many days of constant Disneyfication, and to my left a large section of seating is bubbling with teens in yellow t-shirts touting a soccer team. In the center of the concourse two guys are tossing a football back and forth and trying to avoid trampling travelers who lead luggage by a leash. No one sits still except one old guy snoozing in his chair, drool dribbling down his chin, his neck assuming an angle suggesting an urgent need for chiropractic care.

Scheduling conflicts brought me to the airport three hours before my flight, but as airports go, Orlando is not a bad place to spend a few hours. I have a book and the Atlantic's summer fiction issue and the airport offers excellent free wi-fi. I briefly considered getting a haircut while I'm waiting, but do I really want to be confined to an airplane seat while little bits of hair slide down the middle of my back? That would be one uneasy chair.

So instead I'll sit and watch and take my ease in Terminal City. I'll open my book and jump into some fictional world until the restless airport life resolves into a persistent low hum, Terminal City's version of the music of the spheres.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A call in the night

At 6 a.m. in my parents' neighborhood, the moon hangs like a spotlight above the oaks and the gentle ssssp-ssssp of automatic sprinklers is the only sound that breaks the morning silence. A man jogs past with four dogs on leashes--no, five--and then another man pedals past wearing a bike helmet topped with flashing red lights. "Where's the emergency?" I want to ask, but instead I turn away from traffic and toward a quieter neighborhood near a lake. My internal map is out of date here I spend some time going in circles on brick streets where tiny granny houses sit side-by-side with McMansions of the Rich and (maybe) Famous. Finally I find the lake and step back onto Genius Drive.

This is the point where we used to get off our bikes and push them through heavy sand through an orange grove. We would carry a bag of stale bread to toss toward the peacocks that wandered among the trees or perched on branches sending out their piercing call.

In 1972 when my father preceded the family to Florida, he rented a house in a quiet neighborhood but kept being awakened in the middle of the night by what sounded like a woman calling for help. A few times he got up in the night and went out to the yard trying to pinpoint the direction of the call, and he kept expecting to see news reports about murder and mayhem invading the area. Finally, a neighbor filled him in on the source of the calls: peacocks in the orange groves on the other side of the lake.

I heard that distinctive "Help!" again today but didn't see any peacocks--or any orange groves either. The old dirt road is paved now and lined with fresh new ostentatious houses all looking as if they were squeezed out of the same McMansion factory. It's a great place to walk and even though I didn't see any peacocks, I did spot a blue heron soaring over the lake. On the way back I walked past our first home in Florida, the house where my dad first heard the peacocks. It's orange. It wasn't a particularly attractive house when it was green, but now it's simply hideous.

Orange house but no orange groves: I can see why people would want to live in such a lovely place, but the heat is oppressive and walking on hard pavement gives me blisters. I feel selfish for wanting so badly to get back to Ohio, but I need my gravel roads and my hills and my dog and my birds and my blackberries. Today we'll help my mom celebrate her 75th birthday in the rehab center and tomorrow I'll pack my bag. It was a call for help that brought me to Florida and when I'm back in Ohio, I'll be constantly alert for that distinctive call that can pierce the night and reach across the miles: "Help!"

Only one of these times it won't be peacocks.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I dunno

My mom is in rehab. My husband is in Ohio. My son is in Idaho. Together, they're in Ohidaho or Idahio. Add Mom to the mix and they're all three in Rehabohidaho.

My dad is in the living room dozing off in front of a television with the volume turned up so loud I'm sure they can hear it in Idohiohab.

(I keep writing "Idago." I'da gone a few days ago but I'm a-going back to Ohio on Wednesday.)

I'm in Florida. Bored in Florida: Borida. Floored.


Is there an auto-pilot for this thing? Because I need a nap.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hot and cold

If I stay in Florida much longer, I'll need to buy a hat--and a sweater. It's stinking hot here but I've been spending too much time shivering inside Mom's rehab facility and Dad's church, and when I go out for a walk, the sun gets in my eyes.

No walk for the past two days because we've had too many places to be and too much rain, but this morning I was determined to walk until I could see a lake--not just slivers of lake between houses, but open water. It took me twenty minutes walking on pleasant shady streets to get to a stretch of lake with reeds and boathouses in the foreground and cypress trees in the distance. I passed plenty of old pale people walking big dogs and young dark people mowing lawns and trimming bushes, but I didn't see any middle-aged mottled people like me.

Then I turned a corner onto a busy main road and found my people in the stream of rush-hour traffic. There they are, going to work to earn a living so they can pay for the lawn care and the dogfood and the retirement plan. I'm the one who's out of place, wandering aimlessly on a weekday morning.

I walked only a block on that busy road but it was all sunshine all the time so I soon started to wilt. Where are all my hats? Back home in Ohio, of course, along with my sweaters. I need to either go shopping or go home.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


What I really want to do this morning is go down to my berry patch and pick blackberries, a little difficult since my blackberry patch is in Ohio and I'm in Florida and my arms don't stretch that far. I wish I had a remote control device that would allow me to wake up my Ohio family and send them down to the blackberry patch to pick berries, and while they're at it they could check on the zucchini and pick some lettuce and radishes too, but I don't have a device like that and I don't know where to get one.

I text my son reminders to pull the buds off my basil plants. Has anyone mowed the front yard, cleaned the bathrooms, swept the floors? Who's taking Hopeful for long walks?

E-mails remind me of work awaiting back on campus. I'm keeping up with my summer online class pretty well but I'm having trouble focusing on other projects. Between taking my Dad to doctors' appointments and making sure my Mom is getting the care she needs, I can't seem to find time to think, and when I try to think, my brain feels squeezed.

Maybe it's time to stop thinking for a while. Stop thinking about blackberries and lettuce and basil buds and bathrooms and mowing. Just stop.

Yes: a little mental vacation. Just what the doctor ordered.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Diagnosis: tedium

How many hospital-themed television dramas have I watched over the years? From Marcus Welby, M.D., to E.R., House, and Gray's Anatomy, I'll bet I've seen thousands of episodes, but I never saw one that came close to the sort of hospital drama I've experienced this week: waiting followed by nothing much going on followed by more waiting. You've never seen a hospital drama called Waiting Room, have you? And for good reason! Nothing much happens, and it takes an awful lot longer than 50 minutes to happen in.

House gives you intriguing puzzles and Gray's Anatomy gives you romance, but they tend to leave out the pure unadulterated tedium of the average hospital visit. Boring boring boring boring. I never before realized just how exhausting it can be to sit around in chairs all day long waiting for something to happen, which usually turns out to be nothing much after all.

They lie, those television hospital dramas. Lie lie lie lie. And after four days of enduring the genuine tedium of hospital life, I'm good for nothing except lying down. All that boredom wears me out.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Exit, pursued by zamboni

I was sitting in my mother's hospital room this morning trying to keep track of all the medical personnel moving through when I heard what sounded like a train going by out in the corridor. Great, I thought, now I'm imagining things too--except it wasn't a hallucination. Out in the hall a guy was riding past on a floor-waxer the size of a zamboni.

I'm fine with zambonis at the hospital as long as they stay in the corridor. We needed a traffic cop this morning to keep the steady stream of people moving: nurses and students nurses and physical therapists a dietician and a cardiologist and a nephrologist and a case manager and a visitor and the cleaning staff and the person who brings in the meals I don't remember who else paid a visit. Everything was better today, all vital signs and tests and mobility and alertness and every measure of health, so if all goes well tonight, she'll be moved tomorrow to a rehab facility so she can build up her strength and (eventually) come home.

Best of all, my Mom is back. "I don't know where I've been," she says, but we're thrilled to see that she seems to be returning.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Who's driving this train?

My mother has always been a tiny person and in the hospital bed she looks shrunken, but when she gets the notion to move, you'd better not stand in her way. She wants to be up and out of here but she's not quite sure where here is and she's certainly not capable of getting anywhere on her own, so they're keeping her in gentle restraints.

She used to come home from her hospital shifts and talk about how she had to move a big stubborn patient around or climb up on top of another patient so she could thump on his chest when his heart stopped, and now she's the one being moved around and poked and prodded--and refusing to listen to the nurses.

She asks about things she's lost--her shoes, her purse--and wants to make sure she doesn't lose any more. "Let's just keep everyone together," she says. "We don't want to lose track of the kids."

"Where is the Gray Goose?" she asks, and I ask her who the Gray Goose might be. "Your son the pilot," she says. "He's the Gray Goose."

"I never took the time to figure out what I wanted to do," she says, but in her alternate reality she's doing some amazing things. "I tried deep-sea diving," she said, "but I didn't take to it."

And later: "Who but me would stand here trying to direct this train?"

And when someone calls on the phone, she speaks coherently but can't quite figure out how to sign off. "Happy....happy....happy goodbye!" she says, and she seems delighted.

Other times she is less delighted. I hate to see her so confused and confined and unable to cope with the way her body and mind are betraying her, so it's a relief to see her smiling and laughing.

But you'd better not stand in the middle of the tracks when she's trying to direct the train.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Can't go home again (again)

Last night's walk shared one element with my usual summer walks back in Ohio: the heat. I need to remember to take water with me if I'm going to sweat that much.

I walked on roads just as twisty as the ones back home in Ohio, except in Florida I'm not walking on gravel or climbing steep hills and I don't have Hopeful with me to share the fun. I saw live oak instead of sycamore and crepe myrtle instead of milkweed, and I saw more cars in a block than I normally see in three miles. No deer, wild turkeys, groundhogs, or foxes here; just lots of people walking interesting dogs.

I walked along a street where I used to sell Girl Scout cookies door to door and I passed houses where I washed windows to earn money for a trip with my church youth group. I didn't see a soul I knew, but I haven't lived here since about 1980 so that's hardly surprising. A house up the block from my parents still bears the name of my seventh-grade English teacher. I wonder whether she'd remember me?

I once carried within me a flawless map of the neighborhood, but now the roads blend together. I turned a corner and suddenly found the football field where I played flute in the marching band (until I quit the band to join the school newspaper, instantly improving the quality of both institutions). With streets named Loch Lomond, Dunblane, and St. Andrews and a school named Glendridge (where the school colors were Stewart plaid), it's a wonder that we didn't have bagpipes in the marching band.

There are no hills here but I made a point of walking as close as I could get to the nearest lake, although I caught only a few glimpses of water between the houses. New streets and new developments have risen from the orange groves, and one of these days I'll explore them. It doesn't feel quite like home, but it's comfortable and for now I suppose it'll do.

Friday, July 08, 2011


This morning when I arrived in Orlando, an old friend picked me up at the airport and our conversation veered between our parents' health problems and our children's life choices. We're accustomed to acting as daughters and mothers so it's disorienting to be called on to mother our mothers.

When I entered my mother's hospital room, I got an inside look at her beating heart. It didn't look much like a heart to me, but the cardiology dude running the portable ultrasound machine assured me that the black-and-white blurry swirl of lub-dub, lub-dub was indeed my mother's heart. Beating.

Who can explain the mystery of a mother's heart? During our visit she often seemed quite lucid, expressing pride in her children and grandchildren and reminding my dad to take his potassium supplements, wrap a gift for a friend from church, and put some bills in the mail. But then suddenly she would swerve into an alternate universe. "I dreamed that they buried me," she said. "Don't let them bury me."

We won't, I promise, as long as that strong mother's heart keeps beating.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Green light to go!

I was sitting in my Volvo at an intersection this afternoon when I noticed that the light had changed--to red. Wait a minute: if the light just changed to red, what color has it been all this time?

Apparently my brain has left for Florida without me. I'm flying to Orlando early Friday to take over from my brother, who has been helping my parents cope with their health problems this week, but the brain has already left the building. I need to be there--to see for myself, to make myself useful, to lift some burdens. I don't know exactly what I'll find but I know it's time to go.

I'm suddenly reminded of the Grand Prix Raceway ride at Disney World, that little theme park just down the road from my parents' house, a place where I spent an inordinate amount of time during my teen years. You'd stand in that long winding line, the Florida sun beating down and sweat mingling with sunscreen pouring down your face, and finally arrive at the entry point, where you'd settle into the tiny race car and await those magic mechanical words: "Green light to go!" The ride itself was about as exciting as a few laps around the lawn on a riding mower, but those words seemed to promise entry into a world of speed and exaltation.

Today I'm in the long twisty line, standing and sweating and waiting to get moving. Will this journey be more like a thrill ride or a few laps around the lawn? All I know for now is that I've got a green light and I'm ready to go.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Lost it in the sun

It was a beautiful day for baseball and fireworks and stadium hotdogs with mustard, even though we were sitting with the sun shining directly in our faces in seat so high up that we had to wear blinking lights on our backs to warn away airplanes approaching Cleveland Hopkins airport, and it's always a good day when the Indians beat the Yankees, especially when I can witness the event in the company of my adorable offspring and extended family, so yesterday was great, even if we did have to drive back late last night after the game so I could get up early this morning and get spiffed up for the memorial service for my colleague who died Saturday.

So I already had mixed feeling but even so I wouldn't have enjoyed the game so much if I'd known what I would find in the four messages on my telephone answering machine when we arrived home at 2:30 this morning:

1. That my mother had been admitted to the hospital Monday morning.
2. That when my father told me Sunday that everything was "fine," he meant "fine" in the sense of "not fine."
3. That it may be a few days before we know what's wrong with my mom, and meanwhile Dad is still recovering from his recent stroke and surgery and needs some help.

So it looks like I need to go to Florida. My brother will be there today and will let me know what I can do and when. It feels wrong to have enjoyed a baseball game while people I care about were suffering and needing help, but it's hard to know what to do when the sun gets in my eyes.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Fireworks and a lost friend

I thought I saw spiders and peonies falling from the sky last night, and according to Slate's guide to identifying fireworks, I was right: different varieties of the rockets' red glare are properly called spiders, peonies, fish, willows, chrysanthemums.

We joined 11,000 people gathered on a hillside at the Blossom Music Center to hear the Cleveland Symphony play Gershwin and Bernstein and Ives and Sousa (Stars and Stripes Forever, of course) and Duke Ellington and Scott Joplin and, for a finale, The 1812 Overture accompanied by cannons. We heard at least a dozen different languages being spoken and saw people of every (star and) stripe--women with scarf-covered heads or flesh-baring sundresses, young boys in skullcaps or glowsticks, people of all ages wearing every possible variety of red-white-and-blue attire--but when the fireworks started, every head turned toward the sky and every face smiled.

My colleague Mike would have liked that moment. He was a champion smiler who often induced smiles in others, counseling distraught students through their angst and moving them closer to happiness and peace, and he never stopped working to promote greater acceptance of diversity on campus. He would have loved to see such a variety of people coming together on a lovely July evening to celebrate freedom.

But he died in a motorcycle accident Saturday, leaving behind a wife and child and a grieving campus. Tomorrow at the memorial service we will trade fireworks for tears, but last night the fireworks made me think of Mike Harding and appreciate what he tried to accomplish:

All those people.

All those colors.

All those smiles.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Friday poetry challenge: unfinished business

Yesterday I wrote about that delicious feeling of accomplishment provided by mowing the meadow, the same feeling I get when I check a big project off my to-do list. I'm reminded, though, that the activities I value the most are never really done. I'll never be done reading as long as books keep being published and I'll never be done teaching as long as ignorance remains a renewable resource, and when it comes to enjoying my family, there's really no imaginable end-point.

The ubiquity of unfinished business became clear to me earlier this week. I was trying to think of a way to commemorate the fact that I've survived two years since my cancer diagnosis, and I asked my husband what I ought to do.

"Keep surviving," he said.

Now there's a plan!

Another plan is to write poetry celebrating unfinished business:

Write a line (insert paren-
theses); delete, revise,
replace, rewrite
a line (delete paren-
theses); add comma,--
no! a dash (insert paren-
theses); replace a verb,
a noun, (delete paren-
theses); full stop? (insert

Now it's your turn: if you can't put a fork in it and call it done, then turn it into poetry.