Monday, October 31, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
A complete stranger recently asked me, in the middle of a fundraising meeting, "Are you a poet?" "E-excuse me?" I stammered back, unsure if I'd heard her correctly. "I wonder if you're a poet; you look like one." While I was pondering whether she meant I look like a poet she knows, or if I simply have the air of a poet, someone else answered cheerily, "Well, of course she is!" Everyone in the room chuckled, including me, but the metaphysical implications of the question have been nipping at my heels ever since.
True, in concrete terms, I was poet laureate of my high school class and even won a few awards in college. Then I put aside my sophomoric efforts in pursuit of more serious endeavors, like getting a paying job. The highlight of my poetry-writing career came several years later, though, when a friend-of-a-friend at a party I was throwing came across an unfinished poem I'd scratched out on a scrap of cardboard and hastily stuck in a bookshelf. I watched his face go from a jovial grin to something like, well, profound recognition. He pressed it against his chest and stuck it back where he'd found it. I felt hotly embarrassed, a voyeur in my own home, until it suddenly struck me that I'd done my work: a poem is supposed to speak to the heart.
Intrinsically, "Are you a poet?" isn't a question of title or position, it's a question about how you perceive things. Are YOU a poet? ARE you? What do you see around you? Can you see beauty in the ugly and mundane? Could your sadness be a song? Is there ecstasy in the everyday? There's poetry in numbers, the poetry of food, the epics of human touch, the dirty, disambiguated poetry of the streets, the sublime sonnets of nature; there's even something poetic about the laundry, the fragrance and the folds of it... How you interpret the world around you means the difference between loving life, or just living it. By that right, yes, I hope I am a poet. And I hope you are, too.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
More often than not, I find myself staring at the glowing green of my alarm clock, waiting for it to slip from middle-of-the-night into Time Purgatory, that hour between 4 and 5 a.m. If you find yourself awake at this hour, you're part of a special club, one with three distinct branches. There are those who are just slipping into bed at that hour after a feverish night of who-knows-what. There are others who are just getting up, because they have a hellish commute or they're baking your bagels and brewing your cuppa. And then there are the folks like me who are, well, just AWAKE in those wee hours of the morning.
Seeing the time turn over is part of the ritual. Suddenly you're transported to a place few people inhabit. The Time Purgatory is a weird space, not exactly normal, because it's really not a regular time to be wandering about. In a house like mine, with paper-thin walls and very few doors, there are very few acceptable 4 a.m. activities. Sometimes, in sheer desperation, I turn down the brightness on my backlit screen and reach out to the other Purgatorios out there. Sometimes, I stare out the window and do some of my best critical thinking. Sometimes, I just close my eyes and sigh. *sigh*
There's a poet named John G. Rives who delivers a brilliant and amusing TED talk on some surreal coincidences surrounding 4 a.m. I for one am a believer. Strange things happen at this hour of the day... I just wish I weren't awake for so many of them.
Monday, October 3, 2011
It's a cliché, but undeniably true: life is full of unexpected turns, both good and bad. And if there's anything I've learned to embrace in life, it's another cliché: expect the unexpected (you'll rarely be disappointed)!
This is particularly true in parenting, where you never know when your 5-yr-old might whip off his shirt and start belly dancing to "Do You Know the Muffin Man?" in the middle of a dinner party. Or the teenager actually does take out the trash without being reminded. Or the 8-yr-old uses some unfortunate "mature" language. In church. In front of the Bishop. Oh well.
Last month when I took Chloé to upstate New York, we were both feeling glum over the dilapidated industrial feel of her new college town. The waiter at our surprisingly good restaurant, who turned out to be an adjunct professor of Visual Arts at Syracuse University, told us we had to go see Green Lakes, a few miles east of the city. The lakes, transformed to a startling shade of aqua by the calcium carbonate in their waters, were breathtakingly beautiful and utterly unexpected. We were transported by the morning song of a Northern Oriole, and our outlook brightened considerably. It was a good turn.
The turn I took on my ankle a couple of days ago was not so good, although it must have been amusing to see me sprawled out in the handicapped parking space where I fell because I missed the dip in the sidewalk intended as a wheelchair ramp. I'm a motley mass of sprains, scrapes, and bruises, but nothing's broken, and I'm reminded how good I've got it just to get through most of my days without disaster.
There are days when I spend too much energy spinning my wheels (or rather, grinding my gears) in an effort to follow a friend's advice: "One day at a time, with a plan for tomorrow." Tomorrow's coming anyway, plan or not, and sometimes I just want to know my seatbelt's working so I don't fly out when we go around the curve. Occasionally, it's top-down-exceeding-the-speed-limit and I don't worry about what's coming around the bend. The only thing you can be sure of is, whatever's headed this way, it will probably be unexpected...