Tuesday, March 31, 2009

J'aime la nature

I watch morning television and I fear the world I love. I imagine the people I pass on the sidewalk with subheadings under their faces – “Ex-wife of Suspect,” “Sister of Shooting Victim” or “Father of Missing Child.” The television blinks missives and stories simultaneously, one under another; a compost heap of stupidity and numbness. Its commercials try to sell us supplements, super-juices, sugar-packed cereals, face lifts, ideal green energy, politicians, mops that fit into the tightest of corners, orgasmic chocolates, hair products to smooth us into who we ought to look like. Breakfast news entertains us. Musical families compete with each other and news anchors surprise “drowsy” families at their doors to announce they are the chosen ones. The dire economy is addressed with the re-introduction of depression-era recipes, women are encouraged to dress like Michelle Obama and feed their children what the First Family eats. Everything is derivative.

A few mornings ago the top news story was “Death Comes to Reality TV.” Nothing is real until we see it on television. Even death. I have to hand it to death, because it doesn’t care about television at all. It does its job unsanctioned, unbidden, and often is horribly creative.

Last night I watched a movie called “Bande å Part” or “Band of Outsiders” by Jean-Luc Godard. There is a scene where one of the main characters, a young woman named Odile, is being questioned by her aunt. The aunt lists all of the conventional things a young girl might like, and Odile rejects them all. “I detest that,” she repeats. Then she leans against the wall and says, “J’aime la nature.”

Me too, Odile. I love the parts of the world that are not broadcast; the crocus that grows out of a crack in the sidewalk, the kid who rides his unicycle across the bridge every morning to get to school.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Some Rules for Living/A Credo for March 2009

This is a follow-up to a post I made awhile ago about writing credos. Here's a list of rules for myself. These are subject to change by the second. Maybe you have a few rules for yourself? Beliefs? It's a good idea to write them down occassionally - touch base with yourself, who you are, and see how you've changed over the years.

Some Rules for Living/A Credo for March 2009

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
~ E.E. Cummings

If you feel compelled to hug someone, do it
and put your whole self into that hug.

If you feel like punching someone, think about it.
Chances are, you won’t want to later. Maybe.

The same is true for shopping impulses –
do you really need that 24 pack of ShamWOWs?

Think, then think some more.

Turn off your television, your computer,
throw the phone in the hamper under
the stinky towels and think.

Allow your thoughts to drift into daydreams.
Write down what you dream.

When you see someone enjoy creating art,
or reading, cooking, throwing a ball –
encourage them.

Do not abuse squirrels, children, the elderly,
geese at the park (even though they will chase you).

Wear clothes you feel comfortable in –
they are your socially acceptable skin.
If they aren’t stylish by today’s standards,

Forgive yourself. You’ll do better next time.

Weave cloth, make paper, assemble a book,
milk a cow, help build a house –
at least once in your lifetime.

If crossword puzzles give you headaches,
stop doing them.

Make eye contact when someone
is speaking to you.

Don’t fake listening.
It will come back to haunt you.

It’s ok if you want to try to glue
ice together – just don’t count on it
making a good house.

Count your money. Keep what you need
to pay your bills and eat, then give
the rest away.

Get dirt under your fingernails.

Witness a birth.

Do something that scares you.

Lay out on the lawn in the summer at night
with a friend and look at the stars.

Write letter of praise and complaint
when they are due.

Attend the funeral.

Don’t cheat when you’re playing a game.

You will lose and you will win
and you should have fun with both.

Take walks in February
just to smell the ground thaw.

Do the laundry and don’t whine about it.

If you’re going to go to the trouble
to bake a birthday cake for someone
you love, make it from scratch.

Pay attention to the way
professionals do things –
a locksmith replacing a lock
is just as much a virtuoso
as an opera singer.

Talk to the cab driver.

Consider your own mortality,
but don’t dwell on it.

You have a talent
and a responsibility to find it.

Share your ideas!
They are not doing the world any good locked up
for safekeeping in the attic of your ego.

Travel to a place where you don’t understand the language
so you can remember what learning a language is like.

Don’t wear sandals or high heels on a hike.

Share the flowers from your garden
with your neighbors.

Sometimes it's hard to love your neighbor
especially when they are peeking into
your bedroom window. See Rule #2.

Do not develop strange, sentimental
attachments to things like cacti.

Get up early and write.

Not all of your ideas are original –
you have to learn from others first.

Kids say better what adults
struggle over.

It is possible to have too many
rules for yourself.

It is impossible to have too many chocolate chips.

- Jennifer Hill

Friday, March 06, 2009

At the Cafe

I ticky ticky type away during a break from teaching. Someone asks if I am working on homework. "No, I'm working on a book," I say.

I am reluctant to call it a novel. It scares me too much. Like I might jinx it.

She Saw Your Poems on the Internet

Yesterday, a winsome eighth grader breezed up to me after class and held out a sheet I had given her earlier with one of my poems on it. "Can you autograph this please? For my sister?" I was stunned, to say the least. "She says she knows you." I asked her name, and her age. Maybe I had her as a student somewhere. I didn't recognize her name, but I meet a lot of kids. "She said she saw some of your poems on the internet. She's always looking for poems."

I signed the poem, and wondered what poems of mine she's read - worried over it actually. I'm not exactly Shel Silverstein. Maybe she's mistaken me for someone else, or, maybe she just really wants the autograph of a poet. Either way, it makes me feel good about the future knowing there's a ten year old out there reading poems that are not assigned to her in school.