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Rebellious Light

Jun. 26th, 2007 08:44 am

The audiobook I'm listening to is Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Cody emailed me and said she had a book for me, but really she is on a mission to change the world. She gave me two disks and ordered me to loan them out when I'm finished.

It's a great book so far, and it has got me thinking about my food choices, and I am making small changes (or maybe considering small changes, since so far the only changes have been for me to spend 2 days in the garden rather than whining about how I don't have a garden. But I did visit the Monticello Farmers' Market, and come away with zucchini, green beans, tomato and pepper plants, an lovely white onion and a crisp cabbage.)

Cody's right, I do need to moan less and do more, but this is beginning to feel like another addition to the list of things Mary can't do:

* Keep her house clean.
* Finish her novel.
* Keep up with her grading.
* Catch the raccoon that's exterminating her flock.
* Arrange a book club meeting.
* Lose weight.
* Keep up with her blog.
* Keep snakes out of the living room.

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Feb. 2nd, 2007 01:08 pm commonist weeds by the road--that's me

Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass. 1900.
103. There was a Child went Forth

THERE was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.

The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass, and white and red morning-glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird, 5
And the Third-month lambs, and the sow’s pink-faint litter, and the mare’s foal, and the cow’s calf,
And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the mire of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there—and the beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads—all became part of him.

The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part of him; 10
Winter-grain sprouts, and those of the light-yellow corn, and the esculent roots of the garden,
And the apple-trees cover’d with blossoms, and the fruit afterward, and wood-berries, and the commonest weeds by the road;
And the old drunkard staggering home from the out-house of the tavern, whence he had lately risen,
And the school-mistress that pass’d on her way to the school,
And the friendly boys that pass’d—and the quarrelsome boys, 15
And the tidy and fresh-cheek’d girls—and the barefoot negro boy and girl,
And all the changes of city and country, wherever he went.

His own parents,
He that had father’d him, and she that had conceiv’d him in her womb, and birth’d him,
They gave this child more of themselves than that; 20
They gave him afterward every day—they became part of him.

The mother at home, quietly placing the dishes on the supper-table;
The mother with mild words—clean her cap and gown, a wholesome odor falling off her person and clothes as she walks by;
The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, anger’d, unjust;
The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the crafty lure, 25
The family usages, the language, the company, the furniture—the yearning and swelling heart,
Affection that will not be gainsay’d—the sense of what is real—the thought if, after all, it should prove unreal,
The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time—the curious whether and how,
Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all flashes and specks?
Men and women crowding fast in the streets—if they are not flashes and specks, what are they? 30
The streets themselves, and the façades of houses, and goods in the windows,
Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank’d wharves—the huge crossing at the ferries,
The village on the highland, seen from afar at sunset—the river between,
Shadows, aureola and mist, the light falling on roofs and gables of white or brown, three miles off,
The schooner near by, sleepily dropping down the tide—the little boat slack-tow’d astern, 35
The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests, slapping,
The strata of color’d clouds, the long bar of maroon-tint, away solitary by itself—the spread of purity it lies motionless in,
The horizon’s edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance of salt marsh and shore mud;
These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now goes, and will always go forth every day.

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Dec. 6th, 2006 07:22 pm Witch Hunt

Let it be known that I love my uncle. Further, let it be known that he did a lot for me when I was young, acting the surrogate father or big brother that I always wanted when my parents split up and I felt very much left in the cold. He and his former wife paid for my clarinet lessons and asked me to call them for rides when I went out with my friends after basketball games. I'd call him away from his warm apartment to pick up a carload of rowdy teenagers at the local pizza parlor, to distribute us all to our separate homes all over town. I remain grateful to him for caring about me.

He will always tell you what he thinks, but sometimes his frankness is blunt to the point of disrespect. That's how I felt on Thanksgiving, when I stopped by his new house in the woods to say hello.

We were having a nice time, admiring his new house, talking to his sweet wife and her brother, when suddenly:

"I want to ask you a question, and I don't want you to get upset."

I felt cautious, not knowing where this could possibly lead, but I didn't think it could be any fun.

"What," I said.

"Are you a practicing witch?"

Meanwhile, I could feel everyone look at me, while his wife was somewhere in the background, trying to protect me from embarrassment, saying, "John, shut up. Shut up!"

I didn't say anything--partly because it took me by surprise, but partly because I don't want to claim anything that isn't mine. I used to call myself a witch, partly, I'm sure, as a challenge, but it has been a long time since I practiced anything. Not even that clarinet.

He repeated the question: "Are you a practicing witch."

So I answered truthfully, "No."

But I was not let off the stand that easily, and he fired the next question:

"Have you ever been a practicing witch?"

The energy in the room got very tense, and I finally said, simply, "Yes." Then turned quickly to my new aunt and explained, "It's just a nature religion."

"Oh," she said, clearly relieved, even if she wasn't really buying it.

Uncle John said, almost simultaneously, with triumph, "Toldja!"

I quickly said my goodbyes and left, but this scene began to fester and I find I've become angry. I wish instead, I'd told him, "You don't even know what that is."

For one thing, he said it was a "religion called "Wiccan." (Of course, this is the adjective. The religion is, of course, called, Wicca.) But also, he clearly thought it was a big joke. It is true that I'm not practicing now, but that doesn't mean I'm not serious about it. (I wish now I'd told him, "No. I'm a lapsed witch.") I was married by a Wiccan priestess. (And I guess my marriage lasted longer than his by the Catholic Priest.) (Ok, that was snide.)

At any rate, I felt attacked and victimized. Like I've been sideswiped. And living in the country of low tolerance, I like to protect certain information about myself, lest the local thrill-seeking teens drive by my house late at night to throw pig carcasses in my yard, as they did to some friends of mine.

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Nov. 11th, 2006 03:08 pm You Can Take the Girl Out of the Trailer Park...

...but you can't take the trailer park out of the girl.

Every once in awhile, the chip on my shoulder that I've carried since childhood gets knocked off, and I have to spout out. Most of the time, I like to think, I balance it pretty well, so that nobody even knows it's there, but some days....

I think it got knocked slightly off kilter a few weeks ago when a friend of my sister's, an educator, was talking about Ebonics.
"As far as I'm concerned," she said, with the total authority only a third grade teacher can wield, "Ebonics is just institutionalized racism. The people that do the hiring expect Standard English, so if we don't teach that, these kids are not going to get jobs."

Although that made me uncomfortable, I let it go, because I was in my sister's house, and besides, I teach Standard White Grammar to my students for similar reasons. But then she went on.

"They shouldn't even call it Ebonics, anyway; it's just slang, and it's just wrong."

Here is where I should have said something to prevent that chip from festering for two weeks until I blew up at my friend this morning.

Although I'm a grammar teacher, and kind of like knowing most of the rules of Standard White English, I like to disabuse my students of the notion that these rules were delivered out of the sky on gold plates. I believe language is always evolving--otherwise, wee'd ftill bee talking lyke Geoffrey Chaucer. I tell them that although we have "correct" spellings now, Shakespeare wrote the same word on the same page with various spellings, and that Standard White English is the standard simply because it's how the people in power talked.

It all came to a head this morning while I was walking with N~. I can't remember what we were talking about, but I said, "...we didn't have no whatever it was..." and she corrected me.

"That's a double negative," she said, and then proceeded to mimic me, "We didn't have no blablabla. We didn't have no blablabla."
I laughed and said, "Hey, I'm a grammar teacher, and I can talk however I want." I could have added that not only do I know that it's a double negative, but I can point you to the grammar rule about it on the internet, but I was not yet feeling catty. Instead, her correction led me to expound on my theories of the legitimacy of other-than-white literacies, including Ebonics. At that point I was probably just spouting what I wish I'd said 2 weeks ago to my sister's friend, but N~ made her fatal mistake, and the chip fell off and bounced on the stony path.

"It's not just Black people that talk like that; trailer trash use slang too."

Trailer trash.

It's on, girl.

And then we maybe reached the point where we will both look back on our friendship and realize that this was why it didn't work out. Ok, I know I'm being dramatic here, but, as I told her this morning, I grew up in a trailer park. I hope that's not the only reason I cringe whenever I hear people referred to as "trash," but I'm sure it's one major reason. And her answer, when I told her this didn't exactly make me respect her more.

"Well, some people who live in trailer parks don't ever want anything better."

"So why do they buy lottery tickets, then?" I asked. And she didn't have an answer, but when I read between the lines of what she was really saying, I see, "You're different. You improved yourself. You're not real trailer trash."

At that point, I remember talking very fast before stopping myself. Suddenly she and her son started talking about the dog they could hear barking in the distance, the weather..., and I realized we were walking so fast I was mostly out of breath, so I stopped talking.

Afterward, telling Michael, he got all social-worky on me--telling me I seemed angry, and giving suggestions how I could have helped her think in a new way, without alienating her. But I'm actually glad I reacted as I did, even if she doesn't want to hang out with me anymore.

You love me? Then look at me hard, babe, cause you love you some trailer trash.

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Aug. 27th, 2006 09:22 am Tattoo too?

Ok, I had to deal with it when my oldest got tattoos. I don't remember how old he was, but he moved away from home and on to college when he was 16, so it seems like he's been gone (and tattooed, and pierced) forever. And I even kind of like the second set he got: a colorful moon on one inner arm and a sun on the other. It somehow reminds me of the old song...
"and for my joy
I'll give you a boy
with a moon and star...hmmn hmm...on his head.

And I like to think it was at least partly in honor of his birth name, which he has shed in favor of something less mystical.
Still, it was a shock to be walking briskly down Michigan Avenue, trying to keep up with my middle boy to suddenly see a tattoo peek out from his neckline. I grabbed his shirt and said (somewhat desperately, I'm afraid) "What's this?"
"Oh," he said, without breaking stride. "It's my new tattoo. I thought you knew about it.
(How can I know about it if you don't tell me? I thought.)
It's not so much that it bothers me--though I want to ask him for a closer look at it. From my quick glimpse on the street it was hard to see exactly what it was--as the fact that I want my children to think deeply before they take any kind of (mostly) irreversible step. I do want them to be careful and responsible about the health risks, and the financial burden. And I also hope for them that these marks will have some kind of deeper meaning. I remember reading that Sailors used to get their ear pierced after they had sailed south of the equator, and thus had to sort of earn the right to wear a tattoo (though I just read an article that said that sailors kept a gold earring as a kind of burial insurance. If a sailor washed ashore, the person who found him would give him a christian burial in exchange for the gold ring in his ear.) Either way, the piercing has a symbolic meaning--something deeper than, "It looks cool."
When I talked to him about it, I was pleased that he does have a meaning for this particular tattoo. It wasn't just a fad, but a personal symbol about his life. I'm still not convinced that he's given enough thought about how this permanent mark will figure into his future, but then, I probably don't think enough about how my actions now affect the future, either.

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Feb. 8th, 2006 02:06 am Paranoia

Ok, so I'm paranoid. But that doesn't mean that the police don't have a list of people who forgot to update their driver's license on their birthdays, and might be trying to find them to bring them in. Why else do I see 2 or 3 cops every time I go out? I meant to renew it on Saturday, but forgot until after noon--then of course they're not open on Sunday or Monday. I finally did it today. Ha! Can't catch me!

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Dec. 30th, 2005 02:48 pm Little Rock

It started 2 nights ago, when Michael said, "You wanna go to Houston tomorrow?"

Actually I didn't. I really wanted to stay home for my own sister's 40th birthday party, but Michael made a very good case that I could see my sister any day of the week, and he could see his only when we traveled 1500 miles. (It does sort of beg the question--why can't she come see us sometimes, but I'm sure my family begs a lot of questions.)

So after an initial argument, because I really like it better when he doesn't sit on information, I agreed to forsake my sister (which was difficult--after all, she gave me a big surprise party on my 40th birthday.)

Michael had a meeting for work in the southern part of Illinois. We joined him and after the meeting just kept heading south…and here we are in Little Rock!
It's a lovely city. We arrived about 9 pm last night and found a nice hotel about a block from the river front. There is a lovely farmer's market that was empty last night, but I'm hoping that when we go downstairs to find it full of bustle and produce. It has a bronze pig at the front, an open air roof that looks more like a church than a place of commerce. We ate at a fish house with many joke fish on the walls. Very dusty trophy fish--with wings attached in one room, each smoking cigarettes in another.
The hotel is pretty luxurious--with wifi and a hot tub and small pool and exercise room, which Ellis and I relaxed in last night.
Just about to go out now and see what this town looks like in the morning.

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Oct. 20th, 2005 09:13 pm I am the Universe

The Universe Card
You are the Universe card, sometimes called the
World card. The Universe is the complete,
perfect whole. The spiritual path has come to
an end and enlightenment is reached. Events
have reached completion. The different facets
of your life are well-integrated and
harmoniously balanced. This is an ideal state
in which to rest and feel the true state of
your vibrant physical being. Your creative
potential is maximized and you have achieved
goals that you have set for yourself in the
past. After enjoying the pleasure of this
state, a new cycle can begin with new
challenges and triumphs that will keep you
feeling alive and keep building on the
foundations you have planted thus far. Image
from The Stone Tarot deck.

Which Tarot Card Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
by way of Flannery.

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Oct. 20th, 2005 08:37 pm Lost and Found

About 10-12 years ago, Michael gave me a ring he made. Nora called it a "love knot" when I showed her. It is a silver braid tied in a knot and for years I thought of it as my wedding ring although it was too big for my ring finger and I wore it on my middle finger. (My actual wedding ring was an ear cuff, silver with a garnet--lost long ago to a baby's curious fingers. Since then I've had many incarnations of silver bands, the most recent a birthday gift from Michael.)
One day, about 5 or 6 years ago I lost my braided silver ring. Just one morning, it wasn't there when I went to put it on. For weeks I kept checking the various places I might have taken it off--the windowsill in the kitchen by the sink, the little basket in the bathroom--no luck, but I always had the feeling that it would turn up somewhere. Then, for years, whenever we moved furniture, I kept an eye out for it, even though I figured it was thrown out in a long ago vacuum bag.
Last weekend, Michael was furiously cleaning the basement, and the next day I found my love knot. It was in the work table, on top of a pile of junk. It was dusty and tarnished, but I screamed and grabbed it. Later when I showed it to Michael, he said, "Oh yeah. It was in the heating duct..."
Now it is back on my finger, and all is well.

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Aug. 23rd, 2005 09:09 pm Greetings From Michigan!

Sailing in Michigan ~ Great Traverse Bay.
We've had pretty good weather, considering the forecast (for scattered showers and thunderstorms.) The only really stormy weather was at night, when we were anchored in Sutton's Harbor. The boat rocked all night so that we were rolling around in the berth. I was wishing for Ishmael's hammock!

We are able to make virtual contact via the tiny public libraries in these harbor towns. It's a wonderful thing. I may just take my online class on a world cruise.

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