Monday, December 31, 2012

try a tritina

for the last post of 2012, i throw out a poetry challenge:  the tritina, a 10 line version of the *sestina, which has the following repeated word order: lines 1-3 ABC, lines 4-6 CAB, lines 7-9 BCA, line 10 ABC.  for example, a poem using the words eyes/smile/hello lines would end:



and use all three ABC in the concluding line.
*the related 39-line sestina originated in 12th century france by a bard with stories to tell, arnaut daniel.

get a spine!

a great new book out right now features famous people (known authors, chefs and the like) and an illustration of the spines of their favorite books.  it's a visually interesting way to gather more book titles, which i've spent a great deal of time doing lately in local bookstores.  here's a photo of my top 10 favs/genre mix right now.  i also drew it in my sketchbook with a list of why each is my favorite.  what are your top 10 picks?

(titles:  aesthetics, walking on water, a year of mornings, sara midda's south of france sketchbook, 84 charing crossroad, despereaux, book, at large and at small, gaudy night and collected works of gm hopkins)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

good reads

as a teacher during the holidays, i have to admit my favorite gift is not the five pounds of peppermint bark or the christmas plate with stand.  rather, it is anything bookish.  gift cards to large retail bookstores or just the time to peruse and support the local indie bookshops; the small well-inventoried corners where you can easily lose three hours making piles and perusing everything from cookbooks and coffeetable art to young adult fiction and poetry.  "can i help you?"  they will ask.  "yes, i'd like one of everything please."  i've been amazed at how turning off the television and reading has improved my mental capacity for memory, connections and creativity.  alot of my students are excited about reading as well.  i have one young lady in seventh grade who is reading way beyond a high school level.  it is not uncommon for her to come up to me, as she did last week, and say, "miss smith, i read the scarlet letter last night".  after i recover my composure, i ask her what's next.  "my dad and i are going to the bookstore again.  have you heard of"  she asks.  the tables are turned.  instead of her completing a worksheet, i am grabbing note paper to write down resources.  our city is alive with love of reading. i went to a small art gallery space to see work by the street artist known as "The Reader" who, using everything from old sheet metal to recycled newspaper bins, has created an installment about reading more.  i have to say i love living in a city where a street artist can get a gallery space, where there are still independent bookstores and where people make the time for good reads. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

made in bethlehem

realizing that a manger scene was missing from my holiday decor, i walked the aisles of a store that promises one-stop shopping; everything from milk to socks but, to my chagrin, no baby Jesus.  i looked again, surely i had missed the creche aisle.  candy, bows, legos, keychains, garden tools, paint, tape, rugs...when a store employee with an apron on approached, i asked if they had a creche section.  "a what?"  she queried.  "you know, a manger scene, mary & joseph and jesus and all" i explained with a "lions and tigers and bears oh my" lilt in my voice.  "gosh, i dunno" she said, adding "lemme call to the back.....yeah, roger, do we have any jesus scene things in stock this year?...i didn't think so, yeah, ok." and to me, "sorry, we stopped ordering those last year or something."  "thanks anyway...merry christmas," i said and pushed my cart toward the bread and oranges.  when i told someone at work about my quest, a volunteer overheard me. "do you need a manger scene?  because i have two; an extra one i don't need.  they were even made in the holy land."  later that day a plastic bag arrived in my classroom with a hand-carved olive wood creche, complete with a sticker that reads, "made in the west bank, bethlehem" on the back.  i winked up at heaven and mused to myself that i couldn't have gotten a better manger scene if i'd gone to the holy land myself.  after all, great things were made in bethlehem. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

commas save lives

i think we all know about the panda who eats shoots and leaves vs. the one who eats, shoots, and leaves.  i get a kick out of signs and marquees, particularly at this time of year.  one christmas i was driving by an establishment--that shall remain nameless--only to see their message, "we have stalking stuffers".  and just yesterday i was driving by a bakery that had hung a banner reading, "espresso-steamers-cappuccino's".  unless the cappuccino is planning to own the bakery any time soon, there is no need for an apostrophe.  (i had to wonder if the error was on the employee's side or the banner making company's side--are you supposed to print anything they send or do you have authority to make corrections?)  i guess it's all not really life and death.  unless, of course, you are a restaurant planning to advertise with "let's eat grandma!"  let's eat, grandma.  save a life this holiday, use a comma.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


we need more happy.  this week i heard about a documentary called just that, "happy".  a basic idea that comes from it?  about 50% of our happiness is our genetic set-point.  of the remaining 50%, about less than 12% is actual circumstances.  the biggest factor?  our intentional actions.  that's right.  happiness really is a choice.  so maybe you can't change your dna.  (and, if you live in the northwest you might consider vitamin D supplements.) but beyond that, you are in control of your happy.  will you be buffeted into highs and lows by a mere 12% of events and happenings that are larely out of your control?  or will you be intentional about how you respond to them?  since we're dealing in percentages today, when people moan about a 10% chance of rain, for example, i love to point out that there is a 90% chance of sun.  i was actually accused of being too happy last week when trying to encourage someone who was viewing circumstances negatively.  naturally, we should be sensitive and empathetic.  denial's not ultimately healthy and we need to be in touch with reality but we also don't have to be down in the dumps in order to relate (all things being relative, one person's paper cut is another person's amputation so to speak).  and of course circumstances can't always be a non-stop party (not that i would mind if they were and do my best to insure this).  i had the chance to "collect pieces for a mosaic" when pets shattered my mirror this week before they proceded to also destroy my christmas tree, an event which i tried to reframe into "an opportunity to clean and redecorate".  i was hopping mad but also had a really good laugh about it and am considering rewriting the 12 days of christmas song, replacting the pear tree with something to the tune of "cat adoption teams..."  no matter what a day may bring, i'd like to watch the documentary (available via iTunes) and in the meantime, help put the H in happiness.  how do you stay in your Happy Place?

Monday, December 3, 2012

dear advent, it's me, Love

He is sweet that way, trying to coax the world to dance.
Look how the wind holds the trees in its hands helping them to sway.
Look how the sky takes the fields and the oceans and our bodies in its arms,
and moves all beings toward His lips.
God must get hungry for us; why is He not also a lover who wants His lovers near.
Beauty is my teacher helping me to know He cares for me.

if you want, the Virgin will come walking down the road pregnant with the holy and say,
"I need shelter for the night , please take me inside your heart, my time is so close."
Then, under the roof of your soul, you will witness the sublime intimacy, the divine, the Christ
taking birth forever, as she graps your hand for help, for each of us is the midwife of God, each of us.
Yes there, under the dome of your being does Creation come into existence eternally, through your womb, dear pilgrim--the sacred womb in your soul, as God graps our arms for help; for each of us is His beloved servant never far. 
If you want, the Virgin will come walking down the street pregnant with Light and sing...
--St. John of the Cross

(Love Poems from God, collected and translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

good year dirigibles

it would be a great idea to teach multisyllabic words to small children early on.  take "dirigible", for example.  then, with their child-like proclivity for unfiltered honesty, they could say, "mommy, why does that person look like a dirigible?"  but by the time the person figured it out, you and your small mouthpiece of a euphemistic genius would be far gone.  less of an affront that way. think of the possibilties.  at holiday mealtimes, you could say, "what, these old things?  they're just my dirigible pants, elastic waistband and everything."  announcers would sound smarter.  "yes," they'd say in their best commentator voice, "there goes the Good Year Dirigible."  to say nothing of the fame--posthumous though it would be--jules verne would accrue for reprints of "around the world in 80 days".  what, with a dirigible of such grand proportions, i'm sure the journey could be made in 79. 

say what?!

if someone has ever said to you, "i swear i've seen you somewhere before!" they are calling you a doppelganger:  a double of a living person.  you may have already known this, but i just learned it today and more often than not, i wish i actually did have a doppelganger.  then she could oh, say, figure the taxes, show up at work and go to the dentist for me while i drank lattes, went to movies and made lots of art.  that would be no picayune (trivial or petty) matter.  and since it's the holiday season, how is the kerf of your tannenbaum?  i always feel quite handy myself when i get out the saw to make a fresh cut before putting the tree in water.  (my flood of gratitute remains, however, devoted to those who made the original kerf for me each year.) and speaking of floods, i drove betwixt varying levels of water this weekend on my way to the coast.  a freshet, one might say, so torrential that i decided to stay there drinking those lattes and let my doppelganger come back to work...