Thursday, August 31, 2006

"Time" (Follow-Up Part 2)

. . . omniscience born of time . . . I am the past and the present . . . fused by one flicker of a camera lens . . .

I feel old, young, omniscient and humbled in looking at this photograph. It is of my great-grandparents and the first four of their ten children. I think of the reality of that day for them – how they arrived at the studio (car? buggy? on foot?) – what they did afterwards (dinner? work? conversation? argument?) – what building the studio was in, what it looked like from the outside – who the photographer was – if the kids were cooperative or not.

I know so little.

I know so much.

I know that they will eventually have ten children evenly split between girls and boys. I know of sorrows to come, and joys, how many anniversaries they will celebrate, and that he will live to see 100 but that she will not. I know that most of their children make it into their nineties and many of the accomplishments and joys and sorrows their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren will experience.

Yet that was a real day, a real time, before all this other was known or could be known.

There is a poem by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001) in which she expresses these same things in looking at a photograph of her parents. She puts it so much better than I can. This is a long poem. Read it as a story rather than a poem. Think of her as a friend who has just found a picture of her parents and is talking out loud with you present.
Family Album
(On a photograph of my father and mother just married)

My parents, my children:
Who are you , standing there
In an old photograph – young married pair
I never saw before, yet see again?
You pose somewhat sedately side by side,
In your small yard off the suburban road.
He stretches a little in young manhood’s pride
Broadening his shoulders for the longed-for load,
The wife that he has won, a home his own;
His surging powers hidden as spring, unknown,
But surging in him toward their certain birth,
Explosive as dandelions in the earth.

She leans upon his arm, as if to hide
A strength perhaps too forward for a bride,
Feminine in her bustle and long skirt;
She looks demure, with just a touch of flirt
In archly tilted head and squinting smile
At the photographer, she watches while
Pretending to be girl, although so strong,
Playing the role of wife (“Here I belong!”),
Anticipating mother, with man for child,
Amused at all her roles, unreconciled.

And I who gaze at you and recognize
The budding gestures that were soon to be
My cradle and my home, my trees, my skies,
I am your child, staring at you with eyes
Of love and grief for parents who have died;
But also with omniscience born of time,
Seeing your unlined faces, dreams untried,
Your tentativeness and you brave attack,
I am no longer daughter gazing back;
I am your mother, watching far ahead,
Seeing events so clearly now they’re gone
And both of you are dead, and I alone,
And in my own life now already past
That garden in the grass where you two stand.

I long to comfort you for all you two
In time to come must meet and suffer through,
To answer with a hindsight-given truth
The questions in those wondering eyes of youth.
I long to tell you, starting on your quest,
“You’ll do it all, you know, you’ll meet the test.”

Mother compassionate and child bereft
I am; the past and present, wisdom and innocence,
Fused by one flicker of a camera lens
Some stranger snapped in laughter as he left
More than a half a century ago –
My children, my parents.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"Time" (Follow-Up Part 1)

As promised yesterday, a poem about time:
If I Could Tell You

Time will say nothing but I told you so,
Time only knows the price we have to pay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

If we should weep when clowns put on their show,
If we should stumble when musicians play,
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

There are no fortunes to be told, although,
Because I love you more than I can say,
If I could tell you I would let you know.

The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,
There must be reasons why the leaves decay;
Time will say nothing but I told you so.

Perhaps the roses really want to grow,
The vision seriously intends to stay;
If I could tell you I would let you know.

Suppose all the lions get up and go,
And all the brooks and soldiers run away;
Will Time say nothing but I told you so?
If I could tell you I would let you know.

(W. H. Auden 1907-1973)
I love this form of poetry, the villanelle. I also like the sentiment. Although time is so cruelly tight-lipped about the future and reasons for things and fortune, the poet, out of his deep love would share these things if he knew them.

( . . . but from what I know of physics and time travel and potential ramifications of such knowledge, I think it's probably a good thing he isn't able to do so!)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Time in a Bottle

I remember crying buckets as a child when I first heard Jim Croce’s song Time in a Bottle. Thinking about the passage of time impacted me even when I was very young.

I’m thinking a lot about Time today.

You know how Time meanders and turns over on itself:
- how you still have nightmares about being in high school and not being able to find your locker even though you wake up to find yourself (shockingly!) in your forties

- how you can’t figure out how your toddler suddenly became a teenager - yet you can still see him clear as can be as an infant – can almost reach out and touch his baby face - long to snuggle him like you used to (seemlingly yesterday) but can't lift him anymore

- how your mind wanders and you consider visiting older relatives, then you suddenly realize that generation is gone, but it seems they can’t be because those are people who were always part of life - how you're not the kid anymore but are moving closer and closer to the top of that waterfall of generations
(Well, maybe some of you can’t imagine these things YET, but someday you will. Trust me!! Time, like the "ever-rolling stream" it is WILL bring you there!)

Well, since I’m immersed in thinking about the stream of Time today, my blog is going to be LONG and is going to BABBLE like a stream. Don't say I didn't warn you! (Feel free to read the long paragraph really fast, because it is a stream - a stream of consciousness. Reading it fast might even add to the effect of rafting on rapids.)

Here is why I’m thinking about Time:

My oldest son began high school today (how did that happen?!). It seems like yesterday he was a baby. Fourteen years have passed, and in only 4 more (D.V.) he will be leaving home for college. I don’t like that ratio, especially when I think of how quickly the first fourteen years went. (Speaking of time, I just googled “D.V.,” and on the first page nothing refered to “Deo Volente,” so I guess it is an anachronism; I had to type in the full “Deo Volente” to find reference to it.) I begin another semester of teaching tomorrow – new faces replacing the ones from last semester – same seats, same room, same teacher, same topic, but new faces brought in by the stream of time. My sister and brother-in-law were married a year ago this weekend, were together on a honeymoon, but the passage of time to today has them separated by a world of distance, but given more time they’ll be reunited. Time is a weird thing. Yesterday was my birthday. As a mathematician, I like the date 8/27 or 2-cubed/3-cubed. During my party, Mom shared with me that my due date was September 12. I’m glad I arrived when I did, because I like the numbers. (See I told you this was going to be babbling! Don’t say I didn’t warn you! I sense deja vu! Did I say that already?) Speaking of meandering streams, I thought of a friendship that began 13 years ago last week (the significance of any number not being lost on me), and it reminded me that we can never see ahead in time, only backwards. The current only flows one way. My mother-in-law turns 70 tomorrow (WOW!), and my youngest niece reaches double digits for the first time on the SAME day. Next year my husband and I will celebrate our twentieth anniversary. Wait a minute! That sounds like a number my parents should be celebrating, but, um, I guess since I just turned 41 that doesn’t work mathematically. I remember when my parents celebrated their twentieth. How did I get as old as my parents? I’m beginning a graduate program next week. It should take me 3 years to complete. People assure me it will be over in no time. That’s great! Wait. I don’t want the next 3 years to fly by because that means in only 1 more I’ll be sending my first son away from home and off to college. And so, my meandering thoughts have circled me back where I started, with my son beginning high school today.

A topic like this is just crying out for a poem. I had a long poem in mind, but since the blog was so long, I feel a short poem is in order. I’ll save the longer one for tomorrow.

Carpe Diem

Carpe diem, ‘Sieze the Day’
And I do not want to hear you say
Memento Mori
That’s another Story

(by David Darbyshire 6/11/54)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Love at a Distance

Happy Anniversary to my dear sister and brother-in-law who are celebrating their FIRST anniversary today - but from half a world apart because of his service to our country. From Heidi and family, love and congratulations to both of you on your first year, and thank you for your sacrifice!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Short Again

My oldest son and I both read The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlho this summer, and it reminded me of this long-time favorite excerpt from Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot (1888-1965).

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Romance and Camels

No . . . you read it right. It DOES say “Romance and Camels” not “Romance and Candles.”

(Although the second certainly makes more sense, doesn’t it? Well, at least to most people it does!)

As a dreamy-eyed teenager I used to imagine what it would be like to fall in love. The central part of that dream was that the man I loved would read me poetry (well, duh!). Eventually I did fall in love, but somehow this guy never got the idea he should be reading me poetry. Shocking! Unbelievable!

After we’d been dating a few months I felt comfortable enough to address the issue and say, “It would be so meaningful to me if you would read me poetry.” To my surprise he got up off the couch immediately and without a word and headed towards the bookshelf. I closed my eyes in anticipation of THE supreme pinnacle of romanticism, my dearest wish, and the centerpiece of my dreams.

He returned, sat down, and began to read:
They’ve put a brassiere on the camel,
She wasn’t dressed proper, you know.
They’ve put a brassiere on the camel
So that her humps wouldn’t show.
And they’re making other respectable plans,
They’re even insisting the pigs should wear pants,
They’ll dress up the ducks if we give them the chance
Since they’ve put a brassiere on the camel.

They’ve put a brassiere on the camel,
They claim she’s more decent this way.
They’ve put a brassiere on the camel,
The camel had nothing to say.
They squeezed her into it, I’ll never know how,
They say that she looks more respectable now,
Who knows what they’ve got in mind for the cow,
Since they’ve put a brassiere on the camel.

(poem & image from “A Light in the Attic” by Shel Silverstein)

I still married the guy . . .

. . . and it’s the best decision I ever made!

Post Script: After 19 years of marriage I have come to realize that a sense of humor is MUCH more important than a sense of romance.

Post Post Script: NEVER close your eyes!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

So SO sorry, but I CAN’T resist

I realize this post is probably incredibly socially inpet, but I just received the highest praise I can imagine, and I want to share it.

I was wandering around the house singing songs I’d just heard, and my 14-year-old son said, “Mom, why don’t you sing songs on the radio?” I was sure he MUST have been being sarcastic, so, in order to be sure of his tone I asked, “What did you just say?” He said, “Seriously, Mom, you should sing songs on the radio!”


Granted, he IS a sweetheart, but realize this was coming from a . . . TEENAGE . . . BOY . . . to his MOTHER . . . who was walking around the house singing randomly. I think it’s one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received and something I will treasure.

Don’t worry. Not only will I not let it go to my head, but you may also rest assured that I have no plans to pursue a recording contract! The air waves are safe (well . . . from me at least). Sorry, I have no control over the actions of Paris Hilton.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Heads AND Tails

As of today I am officially accepted (once again – but later in life) to grad school.

What I mean by “heads AND tails” is that I will be experiencing both sides of the education coin at the same time.

My memory seems to be failing me as I nearly wrote that this is the FIRST time I will be in grad school AND employed as a teacher simultaneously, but that’s not true – did that 18 years ago. (I guess I’d better hurry up and get through the program before dementia sets in further!) It just feels like a first for me because this time I am the mother of three children. That will certainly make it a whole new experience. We will see how good a juggler I am!

I’m excited. Of course it always feels good to be "accepted!" I’m ALWAYS eager to LEARN more. I am also enjoying looking ahead to the potential outcome of this course of study – writing, consulting, further teaching. I’m eager not only to learn the material but also to glean some ideas from watching others teach.

I’ve always been a very, very understanding and sympathetic teacher (while yet maintaining important standards). I wonder if doing this "heads and tails" thing will make me ever more understanding of my students or if it will make me less patient with excuses. Only time will tell.

Speaking of time, once this all begins, my lovely new hobby of blogging will have to take a bit more of a back seat with posts being a bit fewer and further between, but they will certainly keep coming. I’m sure as I learn more I will have more ideas percolating that I want to get out there.

Here’s to new paths and new learning!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Infinite YES! (לחיים)

I know what it means to be held.

I see the blue dream of sky with my eyes awake and hear green leaves dancing with open ears, and on this day of all days I echo this poem’s infinite YES!

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

e.e. cummings (1894-1962)

Held (לחיים)


The Problem of Pain” is one of the most compelling arguments atheists have against belief in God. It goes like this: “If God is all-powerful He can keep suffering from happening; if He is all-loving, He would want to do so. The Holocaust occurred. A tsunami in 2004 killed 230,000 people. Child abuse, spousal abuse and elder abuse are rampant. Thousands of innocent children die every year of cancer. How could an all-powerful, all-loving God allow this? There must not be such a being.”

“The Problem of Pain” impacts Christians as well. There are some who have an underlying sense that faith, good works, and prayer give an element of protection to them. When hit with REAL long-term suffering – truly appalling suffering – an endless nightmare of suffering - the sound of silence from God - no forthcoming good outcome and no rescue, believers of this type are entirely bewildered. In their state of shock they may still spout platitudes because it’s the only thing they know how to do, meanwhile undergoing an internal spiritual death. Even for those with a deeper, more realistic faith this level of suffering can shake life, self and belief to the core.

Many books have been written on “The Problem of Pain,” and they contain good thoughts, ideas and approaches, but none really adequately address the issue. There is no answer to be found here, but the issue can and should be faced and dealt with honestly as it is in the lyrics below (Christa Wells 2001):

Two months is too little;
They let him go.
They had no sudden healing.
To think that Providence
Would take a child from his mother
While she prays, is appalling!

Who told us we’d be rescued?
What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?

We’re asking why this happened to us
Who have died to live, it’s unfair!

This is what it means to be held
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive;
This is what it is to be loved and to know that the promise was that when everything fell
We’d be held.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


The title of this post is “A,” as in “Q&A,” so if you haven’t read “Q” yet, check it out.

This image isn’t a meteor or disguised space-craft or a catapulted rock. In fact, this boulder is not moving at all. This painting by René Magritte (1898-1967) is entitled La flèche de Zénon (Zeno’s Arrow).

Why “Zeno’s Arrow?” This is a boulder not an arrow.

Well, Zeno (490BC-425BC) is known for his paradoxes dealing with motion, two at least “proving” that motion is impossible.

1) DICHOTOMY PARADOX: In order to move a given distance an object must reach the halfway point, but before it travels from the starting point to the halfway point it must get halfway there, and before it reaches that point . . . (you see where this is going – nowhere!). If space can be infinitely divided, then an infinite number of time intervals must pass before an object moves any given distance, therefore it cannot move.

2) ARROW PARADOX: When an arrow is in a place just its own size, it’s at rest. At every moment of its flight, the arrow is in a place just its own size. Therefore at every moment of its flight, the arrow is at rest (i.e. not moving).

Although it seems gravity should pull the boulder into the ocean, according to these paradoxes the boulder is at rest and will remain so.

These paradoxes may sound silly (since you know that things actually do move), but try disproving them logically! If they don't work, why not?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


What is this?

- a boulder catapulted towards the ocean?
- a meteorite?
- the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs?
- an alien spacecraft in disguise?
- another planet with different graviation?
- a VERY heavy raincloud?
- something else?


Monday, August 07, 2006

To an Imperfect Life!

WARNING! CONSPIRACY! The dental health profession has a goal of world conquest!

. . . or at least that’s how it seems around here lately . . .

Somehow dental care has reached critical mass similar to a black hole. That, combined with the number of people in this home (including 2 in braces), has produced a gravitational pull so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape it!

Pre-conspiracy dental care meant making an appointment 6 months (or less!) in advance for a biannual cleaning and orthodontists who said, “Let’s not put braces on your bottom teeth. Nobody sees them anyway.”

Not so now! Scheduling cleanings has gone from 6 months in advance - to a year in advance - to a year and a half in advance! A YEAR AND A HALF IN ADVANCE?! I've never scheduled ANYTHING a year and a half in advance!

With braces, a cleaning is really THREE appointments, not one: 1.orthodontist: wires off, 2. hygienist: cleaning, 3. orthodontist: wires on (multiply this by two and add the fact that one child needs cleanings 4 times a year instead of twice and that the offices are across town from each other and the half hour drive back to school and . . .). My children never miss school due to illness or vacation, but dental care ensures they will never earn the perfect attendance award. And so far I’m only talking about cleanings!

Orthodontia – where to begin?! Often there are MULTIPLE appointments in a single week, but the time inconvenience pales in comparison to the contraptions in my sons’ mouths, devices which would make even the Marquis de Sade shudder! I’ll limit myself to naming only ONE piece of this complicated apparatus: the “spike strip.” (Isn’t that what they use to shred tires in police pursuits?)

It seems EVERY teen I see has or has had braces. Are ALL OF US really born with mouths that are THAT messed up? Did the Creator blow it THAT badly on this one piece of our anatomy? Is this medically necessary, or is it a conspiracy, all of us having been collectively brainwashed that a perfect smile is de rigueur?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m tremendously grateful for excellent dental care. I certainly don’t want my children developing painful issues such as TMJ syndrome or needing false teeth. I’m simply scared of what this unprecedented time-sucking vacuum portends. My fear is that at the heart of this exists some phenomenal top-secret PR firm. If so, I tremble at the prospect of other health professionals - chiropractors, podiatrists, psychiatrists, psychologists, etc. getting the secret phone number. If TEETH have become THIS important, what about the SPINE, the FEET (foundations of the body), or the BRAIN?! I’ll leave it to you to imagine the implications.

Life is short, and as nice as it is to be as perfect as possible, I’d rather spend what precious little time I’m allotted on this planet LIVING rather than slavishly following my appointment book and losing my minutes and hours and days to transportation, waiting rooms, and appointments.

Down with the conspiracy! Give me my time! Let me and my family live life imperfect to the fullest!

Today is Monday, August 7, 2006 . . . and do I know whether “morning” or “afternoon” would be "better" on Thursday, March 6, 2008?


Sunday, August 06, 2006

To the Reader


As you read, a white bear leisurely
pees, dyeing the snow

and as you read, many gods
lie among lianas: eyes of obsidian
are watching the generations of leaves,

and as you read
the sea is turning its dark pages,
its dark pages.

Denise Levertov (1923-1997)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Holding On and Letting Go

“If my hands are fully occupied in holding on to something, I can neither give nor receive.”

- Dorothee Soelle (1929-2003)

This quote hangs in my office - a reminder of a destination I needed to reach. For many years my "hands" were fully occupied holding onto something I sensed as a priceless treasure - something seemingly godly and good, but this did leave me unable to give or receive the blessings of the fullness around me. The path to letting go was unspeakably long and painful, but I have finally arrived at the destination: freedom, release, and outstretched open hands through which God’s grace can flow. As I journeyed, the quote above and the poem below were signposts, glimpses of the destination, reminders to journey on.


Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

(Jane Kenyon 1990)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Remembering Katie

Yesterday, August 1, would have been her birthday, the birthday of my first best friend. In the past that would have meant my family and I would be taking her out to dinner. In typical fashion, she would have tried to share her dinner with the rest of us (so that she would have room for what was most important: dessert!).

I came across a news piece recently about a woman who is 116 years old. That article and the fact that it's the time of year for Katie's birthday have brought her especially strongly to mind. Were she still living, she too would be 116. Yes, my first best friend was 75 years older than I, but that was never an issue. As a toddler I would ask her to come over and make mud-pies in my sandbox, so she called me her “little mud-pie girl.” She didn't quite make 116, but she did live to be 95, giving me the privilege of a 20-year friendship with her.

Born in 1890, this very special lady witnessed a lot of amazing history. Cars, airplanes and computers were all invented during her lifetime. She became a teenager the year the Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk. She was 16 at the time of the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake – and living in San Francisco! It wasn't until she was in her twenties that there was a “war to end all wars," which, of course, had to be renamed World War I after we ended up having a World War II.

Katie had been widowed very young but often spoke of her “hubby.” I had so hoped to introduce her to my hubby, but she passed away 2 years before my wedding. Katie had no children, and as far as I know the only family she had was one nephew who has also now passed away. Although she has no living relatives and was not widely known, she is not yet forgotten. I imagine not many people visit her grave, but I do.

When I look at her headstone, I feel sad, but I feel something else too.

Her middle initial “R” is there between her first and last names. Even if someone passing by were to notice her small headstone, only a handful could possibly know what the “R” stands for.

I am one of those few.

Her middle name was Rebecca, and when I see that “R” and whisper her name, I feel there remains a little secret shared between my first best friend and her little mud-pie girl.

After 21 years I still miss you Katie.