Sunday Morning

In the margin of my Bible, the heading of Ecclesiastes, I’ve added,

‘Reflections of an old man chasing after ‘good things.’

~ Lisa Anne Tindal, “Vanity and Strife” (Sept 27, 2019)


Notes:

About right.

Is this verbal violence, then, simply incompetence? Is it the verbal equivalent of someone who has not learned the piano sitting down and trying to play Rachmaninov’s Third? The rudeness of these public figures gives pleasure and relief, it is clear, to their audiences. Perhaps what they experience is not the possibility of actual violence but a sort of intellectual unbuttoning, a freedom from the constraint of language. Perhaps they have lived lives in which they have been continually outplayed in the field of articulation, but of this new skill – rudeness – they find that they are the masters.

~ Rachel Cusk, from “On Rudeness” in Coventry (Farrar, Straus and Giroux. September 16, 2019)


Notes:

We love birds!

Rita McMahon found a pigeon with a broken leg on her deck in New York City’s upper west side. The pigeon was otherwise quite fortunate. McMahon would go on to cofound the Wild Bird Fund, which cares for some 3,500 sick and injured birds every year. A veterinarian amputated the pigeon’s leg; while it recovered, it would rest on a cushion in McMahon’s apartment window. On the other side stood her mate, day after day, keeping her company until she was released and the couple rejoined.

“They were devoted to each other,” says McMahon, who also recalled how one of her volunteers once found a broken-winged robin in a depression in a snow bank, his mate nearby. The volunteer picked up the injured bird and put him in a bag for transport to the hospital. With little fuss she then gathered the mate—which was quite unusual, as healthy wild birds are uniformly skittish. “I understand being able to pick up a broken-winged robin easily, but not one who’s intact,” MacMahon says. At the hospital, they learned that the break wasn’t fresh. The robin was in surprisingly good health. His mate, believes MacMahon, had been taking food to him on the snowbank, “and decided to stay with her man.” …

Apparent grieving exists in the avian world, most notably among greylag geese, in whom individuals who’ve lost a partner display the classical symptoms of human depression: listlessness, a loss of appetite, lethargy lasting for weeks or even months. The same applies to pigeons. On Pigeon Talk, a website of pigeon-breeding hobbyists, anecdotes abound of birds sinking into a funk after losing their mates, and sometimes refusing to take another mate for up to a year afterward—no small time for a species that typically lives for less than a decade.

One of the most moving stories involves mourning doves. After a dove was eaten by a hawk in the backyard of a forum member called TheSnipes, the mate stood beside the body for weeks. “I finally couldn’t stand to watch it any more and picked up every feather and trace of remains that was left there and got rid of it,” wrote TheSnipes. “The mate continued to keep a vigil at that spot though, for many months, all through the spring and summer.” …

Their example stayed with me, though, and now colors the way I think of my winged neighbors. Ubiquitous and unappreciated, typically ignored or regarded as dirty, annoying pests, pigeons mean something else to me now. Perched on building ledges, chasing scraps of food, taking to the skies at sunset: Each one is a reminder that love is all around us.

~ Brandon Keim, from “What Pigeons Teach Us About Love”


Thank you Susan.

Mostly, on point…

Here is how I spend my days now.

I live in a beautiful place.

I sleep in a beautiful bed.

I eat beautiful food.

I go for walks through beautiful places.

I care for people deeply…

I cry easily, from pain and pleasure, and I don’t apologize for that.

In the mornings I step outside and I’m thankful for another day.

It took me many years to arrive at such a life.

~ Ottessa Moshfegh, Eileen: A Novel


Notes:

Sunday Morning

I, said a prayer for the deer, as we always do when dispensing with wildlife, like the pileated woodpecker that flew straight into one of the windows on the side of the house and then collapsed dead on the windshield of our car. My God, was that upsetting…

Laurel, for all of her sometimes hard-boiled feelings about the foibles of human beings, had boundless feelings of responsibility for animals, the more innocent, the more boundless the feeling. She regularly escorted bugs out of the house, even the ladybugs that had a tendency to blight the place in fall and spring. She resisted even my vacuuming and releasing when there were dozens of them. Spiders were escorted out. And she had a very practical method for removing bees and wasps that involved an overturned glass and an index card.

Rick MoodyThe Long Accomplishment: A Memoir of Hope and Struggle in Matrimony (August 6, 2019)


Photo of the artist Laurel Nakadate by Sabine Mirlesse via artspace.com

Waiting. At The Star Market. Trying to Bend the Image.

7:05 am. Stamford station.

I’m waiting for the 2151 Acela to Baltimore. Overhead board flashes On Time, Track 2.

There are two empty seats adjacent to a scruffy, long bearded old man. He’s wearing a heavy jacket, way too heavy for August. A rollerboard stands to his right. His head bowed, sleeping. You’re asking for trouble. Find another seat. I look around, and can’t find another seat. I catch others watching me, judging, ‘The Suit won’t come near That.’

And Mind, ever so efficient, calls up a Marie Howe poem, The Star Market:

“The people Jesus loved were shopping at the Star Market yesterday. An old lead-colored man standing next to me at the checkout breathed so heavily I had to step back a few steps. Even after his bags were packed he still stood, breathing hard and hawking into his hand. The feeble, the lame, I could hardly look at them: shuffling through the aisles, they smelled of decay..Jesus must have been a saint, I said to myself…stumbling among the people who would have been lowered into rooms by ropes, who would have crept out of caves or crawled from the corners of public baths on their hands and knees begging for mercy. If I touch only the hem of his garment, one woman thought, could I bear the look on his face when he wheels around?”

He lifts his head, turns towards me and stares.  I freeze.  The Others are now watching. I pause, and make my move.

I take the seat next to Him.

Others watch for a moment, eyebrows raised, and then go back to their smartphones. Did you do it because you wanted a seat? Or because others would think less of You, or that you didn’t want this Suit to meet their expectations? Or because you didn’t want Him to think you thought any less of Him?

There’s one empty seat between us. But there’s tension in the gap. He turns to look at me, I can feel his eyes on me. Here it comes, Can you help me out with a few bucks, Sir?”  

He sits silently. [Read more…]

Driving Down MacArthur Blvd. Full of Pride.

He arrived on time. At the end of a 14-hour day. I’m bushed.

This day, which was preceded by five hours sleep on an alien mattress, which was preceded by a late night dinner, which included one oversized slice of home made peach pie (à la mode of course), and this was chased with a s’more. Yes, a S’more, you read right. With a home made golden graham cracker at its base, topped with a thin slice of Swiss chocolate, and a giant, home made marshmallow, with the waiter cautiously holding the blow torch as the sugar crackled and blackened into a light char.  Three bites, and it disappeared. A sugar addict with his fix, floating lightly above the table, abstaining from my dinner guests’ chatter, floating higher, higher, up and up in his delirium.

I slide into the back seat.

“How was your day Sir?”

I’m not in the mood for banter. Please, please, get me to the hotel. A long hot shower. Room service (sans S’mores). And early to bed.

“Great, thank you.” A.K. Benjamin’s passages dripping in and out of consciousness: “Studies have shown that your generation, our generation, lies on average two or three times every ten minutes, men to make themselves look better, women to feel good.” And he’s right.

I did not counter to ask him about his day. A direct signal that this door was not open for chatter.

“Would you like a bottle of water?”

“No, but thank you for asking.”

I pull out my smartphone, drop my head, emitting another direct signal of non-engagement. I glance up and see his eyes in the rear view mirror.  Tension rises in the cabin. He picks up on the body language: This guy is shut down.

He has a teddy bear on the console. Rainbow colored.  Odd. [Read more…]

Driving I-95 North. Private One-Hour Conversation.

Tuesday.  It’s late. It’s been a long day. I glance at my smart watch, 4,500 steps, well short of 10,000 target. Should have walked across town and taken the train. No you shouldn’t have.  Air is heavy. Feels like mid-August.  My head swims from the second glass of red wine. I walk half way up the block and back, while I wait.  4,935 steps. Well that’s Something.

I’m in back seat of car. Phone rings. Work. The call carries on. Something is off.  Antennae go up. I can feel him. Driver is listening. I’m conscious of my words. I shift to deeper code, quickly end the call, and set the phone in my bag. I sit quietly. Irritated. No privacy anywhere. Rude.

It’s silent in the cabin, air blows cool. Tension seems to rise a few clicks in the silence. You’re just tired. It’s all in your head Pal.

He breaks the silence.

“Sir, what is it that you do?” I’m wary about my response, but I respond, and at 100,000 feet. He’s not getting anything out of me.

“How long have you been doing it?” I respond curtly.

“That’s a long time.”  At this point, I feel I need to take control of the conversation.  “Why do you ask?” [Read more…]

Sunday Morning

It’s hard to hurt things.

Isn’t it.

I’m afraid of spiders but I still scoop them cold

into my hands & let them free.

Where’s the church for things like this.

Talin Tahajian, from “No steeple” (Cosmonauts Avenue)


Notes: Poem via bostonpoetryslam. Photo “no bell” by Christian Collins

Sunday Morning

Why is it any more ennobling for someone to claim to be a person of faith rather than a person of doubt? I like people of doubt. I like people who question what the hell is going on. St. Thomas is my favorite apostle, even if he was wrong. Galileo smelled a rat, and he was right. It doesn’t matter what you believe; it only matters how you behave. Or as it so succinctly says in Christian scripture, “Faith without works is dead.” Believe what you like, but this is what I believe. God, if there is one, speaks and expresses Herself through a group of people who the great becardiganed philosopher Fred Rogers called “helpers.” […]

Helpers are people who try to make life more bearable for those who are suffering. They are people who try to clean up the mess, are tolerant of the weak-minded, and resist those who would exploit others for their pleasure or profit. […]

So if I have a religion it’s in appreciation of helpers, whoever they happen to be at the time. I’ve tried not believing in God, but that’s just as hard as swallowing all of the liturgical mumbo jumbo. I don’t know who or what composed our universe, but I’m not sure that matters anyway. I suspect that any real spiritual peace lies in simply being a decent human being. Or at least trying to be.

~ Craig Ferguson, from “The Helpers” in Riding the Elephant: A Memoir of Altercations, Humiliations, Hallucinations, and Observations (Blue Rider Press; May 7, 2019)


Portrait: AT&T Performance Arts Center

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