Lemon Sorbet for the Reader

August 10, 2014 Leave a comment

It’s that feeling when, after finishing a very good book, I can’t find another book that interests me as much as the one I just finished. I wander through the shelves of the library searching for a title or book cover to jump out at me. Or maybe I search online for an ebook. Often, however, and disappointingly so, nothing compares to the previous book. In this case, the culprit was Stefan Zweig’s “The Post Office Girl.” Although a bit slow at the beginning, the story of the unfortunate Christine drew me in expertly, literature in beautiful form.

So now what?

That’s where the lemon sorbet comes in. I’m not eating it; I’m reading it. The next book acts as sorbet in a multi-course meal–the palate cleanser. The palate cleanser removes lingering flavors from previous courses so that the following courses can be enjoyed without compromise. After I finish the palate cleanser, I will be in the frame of mind to surrender to a new story. I will have a fresh perspective.

The palate cleanser is a light story that’s as different from The Post Office Girl as possible. No graceful literary language. No deftly complex themes or characters. It does have a few funny lines and because I am getting to know and like the characters, it has been keeping me awake late at night–oh, the hours I spend reading. Well, no one said the palate cleanser has to be unpleasant. Lemon sorbet, anyone?

Categories: Books Tags: ,

Art, The Big Yes

August 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Much of our lives involve the word ‘no.’  In school we are mostly told, ‘Don’t do it this way. Do it that way.’ But art is the big yes.  In art, you get a chance to make something where there was nothing.
  – Marvin Bell


            In my earliest memories, art was ‘no.’ I became convinced that art did not like me.  Jittery with anticipation during an elementary class art time, I waited as patiently as a eager child could to get started on the self-portraits we would draw that day.  I was wearing my red smock, the one I loved to wear because it meant I was going to be doing something special.  Art, the big yesAll through the previous night, I imagined sitting at my wooden desk–the humble precursor to a real artist’s easel–stroking and dabbing my way to an incredibly lifelike image of myself.  I had no idea whether a ounce of talent lurked within in me nor did I care.

            My teacher, Mrs. P, distributed the crayons to each child, but when she reached my desk, she made a loud announcement.  Since I was so dark, she said, I could not use the flesh-colored crayon. I must use the brown one.  B-r-o-w-n. Not flesh-colored, like all of the other children, who by then had turned to stare at me, a specimen under a microscope.  I learned to dislike art that day. It was not for me, I concluded.  Art was for the children with flesh-colored crayons.

           African Dancer1 By the time I reached high school, however, I wanted art.  Not the drawing kind but the art that involved words, the art that would give me a voice—writing. After earning a high grade on an assignment by the toughest English teacher in the school, I fell in love with the idea of expression through writing. I dreamed then of studying writing  in college and gazed wistfully at the nondescript brick building from which journalists pumped out one of the city’s newspapers.

            But I said ‘no’ to art back then to pursue more practical living.  Instead of celebrating ideas and writing words, I dutifully typed and filed them in an office to make a practical living.  Practicality served me well by paying the bills and affording a few luxuries along the way.

            But art beckons—in museums, on vacant walls, on the street, after waiting and waiting and forgiving all of the times I said ‘no.’ I wonder, doesn’t everyone have some art inside, some creativity that, even if we never make a living at it, deserves at least, in whatever small way, to live?

In the Park

I walked 2.73 miles this morning along a cool, lush path enjoyed by joggers, other walkers and pets out for their morning stroll with their people. No, this does not explain my brief hiatus from blogging but merely serves as a springboard to get my fingers warmed up. I haven’t been idle. In fact, in my defense, I have been overly busy, sometimes overwhelmed with the number of things that need to be done. Therefore, this morning’s walk was a welcomed diversion.
We need diversions, breaks from our chaotic routines to remind us that there is more to life than doing. A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of strolling around Hyde Park. Amid the congestion of the city, the constant bombardment of noise, being jostled by passersby and whatever that white stuff is that floats around like snowflakes in the London air at this time of year, the parks of the city offer a sanctuary that we often do not realize we need until we walk among the willows or spread a blanket for an impromptu picnic. We need greenery. We need the grass and ponds, flowers and trees for our sanity even if we live in a concrete-dominated environment that spews grey and extracts imagination. We need Central Parks and Hyde Parks and botanical gardens with winding paths and benches for reading and watching, even if we never turn the page or have no particular subject to watch. Isn’t it sublime to feel the long-awaited warm breeze brush against your skin after a long winter and sluggish spring? Who doesn’t smile, even if it’s just a little bit, to see a toddler chase a pigeon with such determination as if he could actually catch it?
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I sat and imagined a scene of finely dressed ladies of the royal court strolling along the pebbly paths, their voluminous gowns swaying past me. They carried parasols and I wondered if I should protect myself from the sun, too, or had it been a mistake not to consider bringing along a hat. But the sun felt so good after consecutive days of rain, then showers, then overcast skies that looked like the gothic backdrop of dark, angry clouds. I was reckless in my enjoyment of the sun’s rays and counted it a blessing to walk freely, without haste, in the green spot in the midst of the busy city.

I Have a New Love

January 16, 2014 Leave a comment

I have a new love, not surprising because I actually love love. I enjoy a good love story. Poetry about love makes my heart race. Poetry about other subjects draws me to the rhythm and pictures created through words—and I love that too. My newest discovery is a podcast app, The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor.

Each day, Mr. Garrison Keillor’s honey-coated voice soothes my mind with information about what happened on that day in history. He shares biographical information about writers, poets and other noteworthy folk. He tells me of their experiences, from becoming writers in the later years of their lives to those who died in relative poverty. They make as interesting reading as the fortunate artists who led long, lucrative writing careers.

Each podcast lasts for five minutes and ends with a poem, some by poets with whom I am familiar and others whom I have the opportunity to meet for the first time. Mr. Keillor breathes life into each poem he reads and I listen with earnest attention. He made the tale of a towel sound mesmerizing:

by Samuel Hazo

What purpose have they but to rub
skin dry by being drawn behind
the back two-handed down
the showered spine or fluffed
between the thighs and elsewhere?
Yardgoods lack what towels
proffer in sheer, plump tuft.
Wadded after use and flung
in hampers to be washed, they clump
like the tired laundry of men
who sweat for a living.

Spun dry
or spreadeagled to the sun,
they teach us what renewal means.
Touch them when they’re stacked or racked,
and what you’re touching is abundance
in waiting.

Imprinted with the names
of Hilton or the Ritz, they daub
with equal deft the brows
of bandits or the breasts of queens.
What else did Pilate reach for
when he washed his hands of Christ
before the multitudes?

when retired to the afterlife of rags,
they still can buff the grills
of Chryslers, Fallingwater’s windows
or important shoes.

small, it seems they have
their part to play.

But then,
en route from use to uselessness,
it’s no small asset ever
to be always good at something.

How comforting to know that, like towels, however small, we each have our part to play.

In Garrison Keillor fashion, I bid you adieu, “be well, do good work and keep in touch”.

“Towels” by Samuel Hazo from The Song of the Horse. ©Autumn House Press, 2008.

Christmas Eve in Our Little City

December 24, 2013 1 comment

It’s Christmas Eve.

The stores are closing after weeks of Christmas-shopping hype and excitement. Weary salesclerks can go home to enjoy the holiday with their families after bagging, wrapping and providing gift boxes to countless holiday shoppers. Closed. The crowds are thinning out. Now is a good time to wander around the city and look at the window displays that creative types worked so hard on, displays that we have been delighted by from the corners of our eyes as we scurried by on our way to cross off the next item on our lists.

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The City is peppered with Christmas trees that twinkle with colorful lights, signs that proclaim “Peace on Earth” and fake snowflakes for those of us who live in areas where it never snows. I don’t mind that at all. The excitement that energizes the city wanes as shoppers stuff their packages into car trunks and onto bus seats. Don’t worry; the excitement will resurface in homes like yours and mine.

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Merry Christmas!

What a Miracle Looks Like

October 24, 2013 Leave a comment

What is a miracle? I really wanted to know.

1 : an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs

This week I have been thinking about miracles. When I think of miracles, I always think of Jesus first. Jesus performed many miracles when He walked the earth in physical form. He healed the sick, raised the dead. He touched people and they were made whole. He created a banquet with loaves of bread and a couple of fish, and all were satisfied.

That was then; this is now, you say.

Are miracles events that only religious people subscribe to? Merriam-Webster provides a second definition for the word miracle: 2 : an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment.

How does this story stand up to either dictionary definition?

A young boy is knocked off his bike by a driver who was driving too fast. The paramedics who attended to the boy on the side of the road worked feverishly to treat his injuries and stabilize his condition for transport to the hospital. Because of the serious head trauma he suffered, the doctors put the boy into an induced coma while they treated the swelling to his brain. His parents stayed at the hospital by day and night, hoping the boy would recover, but it didn’t look good.

When I heard about the accident in June, I put the boy’s name on my prayer list even though I did not know him personally. Countless others prayed, too, I imagine. By August, not only had the boy had been released from the hospital but he had also resumed many of his former activities. The grateful parents thanked the doctors, hospital staff and all who supported them during this grave crisis. They had almost lost their precious son.

Later, as the boy’s father related the story of this dark, frightening experience, he commented, “If I believed in miracles, this might have been one.”

Was it luck or coincidence? Was it the skill of the medical staff that saved the boy? Or was it a miracle?

Glad I Don’t Drink Coffee

October 15, 2013 Leave a comment

Bent in front of a display of large cans of coffee, a female visitor was taking a picture of the sign that advertised an in-store ‘special’. Straightening up she seemed a bit embarrassed when she saw me standing there looking at her with a wry smile (just wanted to use that word). She couldn’t believe that price.

“In New York, the price would be $7,” she told me. Hopefully, she was exaggerating.

Why is it so expensive? she wanted to know.

If I stopped to answer that question every time I saw an overpriced item in a grocery store, boutique, shoe store, or pharmacy, I’d never get my shopping done at all.

Catching herself from griping anymore about my country, she offered this compliment: “But it is so beautiful here.”

Well, you can’t pay these prices and live in an ugly place!

The price of beauty.

Categories: Post A Week 2013 Tags: ,