Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Troop surge needed. Ever wonder?

I've met with the upper command people and they seem to agree a troop surge is needed. The war on Boredom is not going very well currently. There hasn't been much collateral damage this time, which is good for PR, but I haven't advanced my mission much either. Now, before you start to think that perhaps I'm acting like a totalitarian oppressor forcing changes where none are desired, let me remind you of something. Boredom wants me on that wall, boredom needs me that wall! (That would have more punch if I got Colonel Jessup to say it)

Things I've discussed with upper command in conjunction with a troop surge for the fight against Boredom:
1. learning to use power tools to execute needed home improvements
2. an extended period of self-imposed exile to Newfoundland
3. cutting my own hair with dull scissors (dull as in 'not sharp' not dull as in 'boring')
4. ordering a "Code Red" (Hey, if it's good enough for Col. Jessup it's good enough for me.)

For me, boredom usually feels like a general ennui for my day to day activities and a desire for new scenery, new input, getting away. I get antsy, agitated. That's not how Boredom is manifesting itself this time though. I actually feel pretty content and satisfied with each day as it comes and goes. It's my creative side that feels bored. I haven't been inspired to write much here, or anywhere for that matter. I've had some ideas, started some stories, but nothing catches my imagination. I don't feel anxious to escape anything which makes me less inclined to travel and explore. That's the part that worries me. Without an adventurous spirit it's easy to lose the sparks of creativity which are my weapons against boredom. Being creative during times of turmoil and dissatisfaction is natural for me. When I'm happy, it takes more effort to be adventurous. Wanting to be creative while feeling content with my life is a new challenge for me. I think I'm up for it.
Have you ever wondered what would it feel like to be driving along at 73 mph, fiddling with the radio, looking at your cell phone, putting away a CD,etc and when you look up you're headed for the guardrail that separates you from a 75 foot drop to the river below? Yeah, me neither. That's morbid. What kind of weirdo would wonder about that?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Moratorium decreed

The Vernal Equinox begins tomorrow. For me, this officially signifies the end of the dark, quiet, introspective season of winter. I hereby declare a personal moratorium on Blogs about seeking and searching through the unknowable realms.

The Onion

Report: 32% Of Prayers Deflected Off Passing Satellites

HOUSTON—According to an official NASA report released Saturday, nearly 32 percent of all prayers exiting Earth are deflected off satellites...

With that, I put Winter to sleep for another year.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Seeking. Finding. Pie.

I am one who seeks. I am no different than any other human in that regard except, perhaps, for the amount of time I devote to this never ending quest. The need to seek knowledge, beauty, love, understanding is our plight or our privilege, depending on your perspective. For the past several weeks my seeking nature has led me, once again, to the topic of religion, spirituality and the creation of meaning in one's life. I generally begin any search for answers by looking in books, seeing what's already been thought and written about a topic. Usually I do this at the Brattleboro Public Library. It's my church. Last Sunday, though, I opted for something more obscene. I went to Borders in West Lebanon, NH. I hadn't been to a box book store long enough to forget how different it is from the library. It felt like crass, in-your-face, book prostitution with Borders as the pimp. An entire table of the ubiquitous garish yellow Idiot's Guides sat next to a table dedicated to various books on Jesus. I felt like the victim of a hustle. But I can't resist the allure of books, so I persevered. I dove into the shelves reading titles and pulling out books that seemed to address my questions of the day. What is the nature of religion? What is the nature of spirituality? Can you be spiritual without being religious? What would that look like? What do the philosophers think of religion? What do scientists think of it? The longer I turned my head sideways to read the enticing titles the more confused I became. Every point and counterpoint is covered ad nauseum. Where was my definitive answer? As often is the case for me, seeking knowledge and understanding leads to deeper and more perplexing questions. After searching out information I must process it for myself and come up with what I believe to be true, at least for today. There is no book written just for me, no book that shows me my heart, my beliefs, my fears or my right path. That is truly what each of us seeks, I believe. Our Right Path. Some people find it in a particular philosophy, some in a specific religious system, some never find it. The insights I discover as I continually seek allow me to create and refine my own right path. It will always be a work in progress.

Why am I including these pictures? I took them this afternoon in Brattleboro, VT. These are both Christian churches flying Tibetan style prayer flags as Easter approaches. To me, these photos represent the mixing of multiple religious and humanitarian traditions and I like that. The pastel colored pieces of cloth moving in the wind are difficult to ignore and your eye is drawn to read them and ponder. So many hopes and compassionate thoughts flapping in the wind. You can see the cross draped with purple-representing the Christian belief in Christ's sacrifice for their sins-in the background. The sign in front of the Baptist church says they continue to offer overflow space for the local homeless shelter.

The sheer number of conflicting opinions on the who, what, why, how and when of our creation and existence leads me to believe that the answers are unknowable. I've decided it doesn't matter. Most traditions promote practices of compassion, love, kindness, and forgiveness-for ourselves and for each other. These practices offer tangible results: peace, happiness, a more open heart, fulfillment. You can test it out yourself and see if it's true. These are the qualities that allow humans to persevere and to feel full with life, to find meaning. I can believe in that.
Today is my Father-in-Law's birthday. It is 3.14...Pi Day and he is a high school math teacher. His students and other faculty like to celebrate by bringing him pies. Today represents a record in pie gifting...sixteen pies received by one person. Damn, that's a lot of pie.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Itsy, Bitsy Spider

I'm sitting here upstairs in the mostly dark reading other much more interesting blogs than mine. (There are some really funny, creative people out there) Suddenly, a small dark blob moves across the keyboard of the Mac. What the...? It's a small spider crawling on, over, between the keys. I blow softly in its direction. The creepy crawly heads off toward the arrow keys and disappears. Now, I'll always be wondering if my typing is going to decapitate the thing. Or maybe chop off one of its 8 legs. Hopefully it will stay under the arrow keys, since I don't use those much. If it was under the delete or backspace key it would be screwed.

I desperately need to go hiking. There are two ways I process the world. One is by writing the other is by walking. Preferably the walking happens outdoors surrounded by Nature. I've been doing plenty of writing lately but not much walking outdoors and almost no hiking. I have a lot on my mind this week. I gave my notice at work(but the end is really four or five months away), two of my friends are going through difficult health issues that are full of unknowns, lots of waiting for possibly frightening outcomes, plus I'm experiencing an unexpected frustration over trying to understand what faith is, why some people have it and others (e.g. me) don't combined with a weird strong-arm kind of reaction to religion in general and the human need to create supernatural explanations for our existence.

So, I need to get out and walk. Maybe I'm like a chicken or a pigeon. My head is connected to my feet and the motion of walking gets the head moving back and forth. ('s a funny image) The thoughts and ideas can finally shift around and realign themselves into more manageable forms. Sift through the crap to find the bigger nuggets of truth, understanding and more importantly acceptance.

If you hate the taste of wine
Why do you drink it 'til you’re blind?
And if you swear that there’s no truth and who cares
How come you say it like you’re right?
Why are you scared to dream of god
When it’s salvation that you want?
You see stars that clear have been dead for years
But the idea just lives on

Bright Eyes

p.s. no sign of the spider. I even blew hard into the arrow keys.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Frivolous Friday Fun

Some of you have already seen or heard versions of this weird silly story. I'm not even sure if I really like it, or if it works. It's kind of long for a blog post, but what the heck...maybe you'll like it. And maybe if you've had a stressful, weird, sad, serious week you might enjoy something totally pointless just for fun. That's my hope.

One Shoe Off, One Shoe On

There’s something bizarre about a solitary discarded shoe. On the highway you might see one crushed in the rumble strip. Another time it’s a single canvas sneaker playing dead on the sidewalk. Or maybe even a nice hiking boot chucked into a ditch all by itself. Even more bizarre was the duo I saw one day – a broken blue flip flop half buried in the dirt right next to a black high heel. A pair of lonely discarded shoes. What were they doing together?

Now, before you get the wrong image planted there in your brain, let me tell you something, this wasn’t a sexy black high heel. She was a practical black pump who longed to be more than a working class shoe. She dreamed of being on fabulous dates and dancing all night to hard thumping music. The flip flop, well his vision couldn’t be counted on anymore after the last run in with a set of Goodyear tires. He asked the black shoe what she looked like, where’d she come from, who’s foot belonged to her? I heard her tell him how sleek and shiny she was, how steep her angle from heel to toe. She knew he was hooked and kept on spinning her story. This is the yarn I heard her weave:

“One night, the woman’s delicate right foot with French manicured toes slipped out of the black stiletto. With one foot out, she could slide her bare toes up the leg of the man across the restaurant table. In the distraction of filet mignon flirting the woman didn’t notice the bus boy. He swooped in, stooped down, snatched her lipstick smeared napkin and stiletto heel off the floor then retreated back to the kitchen. In a dark corner near the steam belching dish washer the busboy stuffed the linen into the shoe and shivered at the thought of later.

Back at the table, the flambĂ©ed dessert was finished and the flirty foot began to search for its shoe. Panic set in. The $150 price tag of the missing shoe flattened the buzz of the elegant dinner (and really the loss should be figured as the full $300, since a single shoe is useless). “Dammit,” hissed the woman.

Mr. Man Across the Table, Mr. Paying for Dinner, Mr. I’m Gonna Get Some Tonight, felt his luck changing. The foot was not going to come back and play more with his calf. Instead, the naked foot searched everywhere under the table for that shoe but only found a piece of dropped baguette, an olive pit from the south of France and the cork from the second bottle of delicious Gigondas red. Despite the French manicure to suggest an affinity for things of that country, the searching toes curled in disgust with each discovery. Eyes were needed to aid in the search, so our fearful heroine dropped down on all fours next to the table.

Now might be a good time to put a name to our shoe loser – Chaussette St. Claire. With her behind high in the air, head buried under the white tablecloth, Chaussette searched to no avail. She did discover that despite his fancy Scandinavian style glasses and ability to order expensive wine, her date was wearing white athletic socks (probably the tubular variety) with his tasseled leather loafers. Whether from her new perspective down low, two bottles of the finest wine, the loss of half a pair of sexy $300 shoes or the vision of the white tube socks, we will never know. The final stake through the heart of this evening, Chaussette regurgitated her filet and flambĂ© onto the tassels of her date’s shoes.

On the way home Mr. Very Disappointed and To Be Honest Digusted, strapped Chaussette into her seat. He made sure to leave the window down and her head propped on the sill in case of recurring regurgitation. Chaussette lifted her head from the window, looked with drunken eyes at her Disappointed, Disappointing Date. She reached down to the floor and ripped the remaining shoe off her foot. As the old Taurus wagon rounded a sharp uphill curve she flung the sleek black stiletto out the open window like a weapon of death. Chaussette cackled in victory when the four inch heel sunk into the soft dirt. It stayed there through a winter’s worth of plowing until the spring thaw and rain dislodged it. When it tumbled down through the wilted weeds it landed about one heel length away from a blind and broken flip-flop down on his luck, begging for some change.

So, that’s how I ended up here next to you,” finished the black pump.

I figured story time was over, so I started to walk on down the road. I heard the gruff voice of the flip flop asking some kind of question but it got lost on the wind. I stopped for a second and cocked my head in their direction, straining to hear the black pump answer.

“Oh, him.” she replied. “That busboy, he clearly has a fetish for discarded lone shoes. I bet he’s got my better half sitting on a shelf in some secret closet. Yeah, I bet he’s got my clean, sexy partner lined up right next to a pristine, sparkling eyed blue flip flop. Hey, how’d you get here anyway?” she asked the flip flop.

The flip flop’s smoky baritone got lost in the noise of passing cars and I had to get to the restaurant anyway, so I moved on down the road. Normally, I would have been panting at the opportunity to take these two misfits home for my collection, even dirty like they were. But I don't want pairs in my closet. The black pump was right, only the lonely shoes will do for me. Too bad I didn’t get the talkative ones the first time around.

Monday, March 3, 2008

You can learn a lot from Beethoven

I started learning Beethoven's Sonata in C Minor Opus 13 ("Pathetique") in the spring of 1998. I had my first post college apartment in Bangor Maine, my first job as an audiologist, my first piano and lots of time. Mind you, I am an average piano player trained to read music and enjoy what I play. I am not "classically trained" by any stretch of the imagination. Beethoven is technically out of my league and I hear his bones rattling in the grave as I massacre his beautiful creation. I have loved every minute of it. The sad reality is that it's been ten years and I only play two and a half pages of the first movement. I got that far many years ago and then just stopped making any progress. Laziness I guess. The piece got harder after that section, I was comfortable with what I already learned and was getting good at it. I didn't have to think much about the music anymore when I sat down to play. Ten years, two and a half pages. Boring.

Yesterday I finally moved forward. Baby steps. I play the right hand alone. I play the left hand alone. When I don't recognize a note that sits way above or below the staff I squint my eyes and move my face toward the sheet music as if poor vision is the reason for not being able to play these notes. I talk to myself as I play and make a mess of things when I put both hands together. So, I start over. Right hand alone. Left hand alone. Repeat. Repeat.

In the process of this methodical one hand at a time practice I made a surprising discovery. On the last page of the first movement a theme from the first page is repeated. I already know this part, hooray! Happy to get to a familiar part I relaxed a little as my right hand hit the notes I'd been striking for the past ten years. Wait a minute. Something wasn't quite right. I looked at the note on the page, looked at the key signature, looked at what I played. It didn't compute. For the first time in ten years I realized I play this section with two wrong notes. It's a tiny mistake, but it does actually make a qualitative difference in the sound. Without the focus of learning the new section I never would have noticed this mistake. Stuck in my way for ten years, sure of myself, too unfocused to notice the simple mistake I'd been making all this time.

I'm well aware that I'll never be able to play this piece like the professionals. They are superhuman piano deities and I am a mere mortal with other interests like hiking, cookie eating and sleeping. I could let that stop me from trying at all but then I would miss out on the excitement of making progress. There is youthful exuberance in taking baby steps toward a goal and eventually reaching it. Learning to be patient with the process and persistent in your practice are lessons that can be applied to any aspect of life. Besides that, by becoming intimately involved with this music my appreciation for it has deepened immeasurably. I feel an emotional tie to Beethoven himself as I express the best I can with my own fingers the passionate music he created when he was only 27 years old.

Tomorrow I have a meeting scheduled with my supervisor. I plan to tell her that I will not renew my contract in July. I have no idea what I'm going to do next. Truthfully, it would be easier to continue as an audiologist. I'm sure of myself, stuck in my ways, I don't have to focus much attention on my job. It's like playing the first two and a half pages of Beethoven's Sonata Pathetique over and over for ten years. It's time to turn the page and start learning the next section of my life's opus.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Some people fall for anything

I fell. Again. It's a gorgeous sunny day and I thought it would be good to get some exercise, some fresh air, some sunshine. Before I left I took the metal shovel to the icicles growing from the back roof. The stair under my foot was covered with ice so obviously, I slipped. My elbow and my right butt cheek took the brunt of this fall. It hurt and I'm tired of falling down. I stepped up my cursing of winter from the plain F-bomb to the more formal MF-bomb. I picked myself up, sprinkled some salt around to prevent more falls and left on my walk. About 50 yards down from our house I see two delicate deer legs sticking up out of the snowbank on the side of the road. I stopped. I studied it for a minute. I turned around and came home. Maybe it's not a good day for a walk.

Do you have a blender? How many different pulverizing styles does yours have? Mine has 14. Imagine that. One appliance with one set of whirling metal blades and I can have 14 different outcomes. If I slide the plastic oval to Lo my choices are as follows:
  • Quick Clean
  • Stir
  • Aerate
  • Puree
  • Crumb
  • Chop
  • Mix
If I slide the plastic oval to Hi then I have even more wonderful choices such as:
  • Grate
  • Grind
  • Beat
  • Shred
  • Blend
  • Liquefy
  • Frappe
So, I put some water in the other day and hit the Frappe setting. Needless to say I was terribly disappointed when my water did not turn into a milkshake. However, I found that switching the machine back a notch to the Liquefy setting was perfect. I left the water whirling around on that setting for several minutes. When I turned off the blender I was happy to see that my water had been expertly liquefied. I've heard that it's helpful to aerate your lawn. If you've ever seen ours you'll agree it could use some help. I can't wait for spring to get here so I can put our lawn into the blender on the Aerate setting and really reap the benefits of this mighty Hamilton Beach appliance.