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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Thanks for visiting. I am no longer updating Notes to Self. I hope you'll join me on my current website,

In Memory of my father, and his beloved friend Eric, who died this week.


I was six the summer I learned to swim
in a lake, in Maine
face to face with my father.
His beard is as black as the water
and when he smiles his small teeth
glisten like a flash of trout
mid-leap against the lowering sun.

He is just within, and out of my reach:
thirty-six years old,
as I am now thirty-six.
We circle each other, like Pisces.

I remember thunderheads gathering
at the edge of the sky, time
pressing us both forward.
The water was cool and dark
like the river near our home
where he canoed and fished and where
I poured out by the fistful
the ash of his teeth and bones.
How it glinted like mica as it ran
through my fingers to drift
across the sun-studded surface of the river
rain falling
on a lake in Maine
my father's face
like God moving
over the face of the waters.
I believed in it
and pushed off.

copyright 2006


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Friday, March 03, 2006

Thanks for visiting. I am no longer updating Notes to Self. I hope you'll join me on my current website,

Getting better all the time: joy in the field of sorrows

This is an unpopular opinion with my husband and many of my Gen X contemporaries, but I really do think the human experience is improving as we chug along on the magical mystery tour. Karl Rove and Dick Cheney and Katrina and Tsunamais and man's inhumanities to man notwithstanding. I mean, pick a bygone era you'd want to relocate to permanently. Not the Jean Auel or Lord Tennyson or Norman Rockwell version of it, but the real thing, with sabre-tooth tigers, and leprosy and plague, and segregation and polio and lifespans of 30 years. Yes, I realize too many people on the planet are still contending with a lot of that and worse, but overall, I think more of us have more possibilities than ever before. Certain people I live with in holy matrimony argue that this attitude is complacent, but for me it doesn't preclude outrage at injustice or compassion for those in need. On the contrary, if I truly thought it was all just going to hell, I don't think I would have the energy to get out of bed in the morning, much less try and make a difference for anyone else.

My mother was just here for several weeks, which is why I haven't posted. I am an immigrant from an island in another country about 2500 miles away. I see my mom at least once a year. I talk to her a couple of times a week. I email her photographs of her grandchildren talking on the phone to her. Her own great-grandmother Karen was also an immigrant. She left Denmark in the late 1800s and never saw her family of origin again. Perhaps they kept in touch for a while through letters. If so, none survive. How long would it have taken a letter to get from backwoods New Brunswick to Denmark? For that matter, could she even read and write? How much schooling would a European female from the agricultural class receive back then?

Karen's granddaughter, my maternal grandmother, wanted to be a veterinarian. Her papa wouldn't hear of it. Girls were supposed to get married and have children. Period. Today I am at my office desk, one of the two days of the week I get to come in and be with grown ups all day and not wipe bums. I adore my children, but I think if I had to be with them all day everyday, I would eat them. My two grandmothers raised 15 children between them. Without dishwashers or pampers. Now, I made it through two children washing dishes by hand, and diapered two babies in cloth that I washed myself. So I feel I have paid some dues. I am not altogether ignorant of the problems of the landfill. But I say a little prayer of thanksgiving to Procter and Gamble each morning I tape a disposable diaper onto baby #3 and go downstairs to put away my shiny dishes.

What I am saying is, I know it's not perfect. I know it feels lately like we have been sliding backwards. If I could get my wish and give every mother on the planet a dishwasher and a lifetime supply of Huggies, we would have a new set of problems on our hands. And on the flipside, if I gave up all my conveniences, it wouldn't solve the world's woes. I don't think life is a zero-sum equation or a see-saw, where my bloodline getting ahead a little is necessarily dragging somebody else's down. I want to believe, over history, we are all going to come up together. Not evenly, not smoothly, not without more than a few knock-em-down-drag-em-outs. But I want and need to believe we will all get there eventually, nobody left behind. Then we can all call it a day and go home--last one out turn off the lights.

Here's what got me thinking about this this morning. It's an article on a subject I feel very strongly about, the Newfoundland seal hunt and its attendant controversy. It is one of those awkward pubescent places in history, where things feel like they are changing too fast for some and not soon enough for others. I wish Sir and Lady McCartney would go home and work on the less-adorable but equally pressing issues in their own backyard, but I thank him all the same for the two Beatles references I used here, even if they do belong to Michael Jackson. Speaking of cruel and unnatural practices. Maybe they could go and picket Neverland.

As an afterthought, I will give the late, great Joseph Campbell the last word:

"...the Buddhists say the way of living in the world is joyful participation in the sorrows of the world. It's the way of the one who is grounded in eternity and moving in the field of time. The field of time is the field of sorrow. Life is sorrowful. How do you live with that? You realize the eternal within yourself and participate with joy in the sorrows of the world out there. You play the game. It hurts, but you know that you have found the place that is transcendent of injury and fulfillments. You are there and that's it."


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