Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Better Things in Life

I don’t believe in Poltergeists, but there is a spirit painter that hangs about this old house and slaps up canvases that are as tender and touching as the celebration of sound of a live pianist in my living room.

Only once, just once, a visitor came by who was an accomplished pianist and switched my electric organ to ‘piano’ and played, while I prepared afternoon tea, a selection of solitary piano solos ---“Somewhere my love”, “Autumn Leaves”, and some other of the great songs. Whether it was the instrument, the skill of the pianist, or the acoustic resonance of the higher ceiling in my living room, I cannot say. What I will say is that I never forgot how beautiful that was. How beautiful it sounded. How, in an instant, it changed a dull house to a fine old castle full of reverence, and awe, and beauty and romance.

And if excess and luxury means extravagant paintings and sweet music, I maybe don’t often have the music, but I do have the art. My invisible painter comes by, when the snow is deep and the world quite plain and the trees so bare, and paints with delicate hues of pink, rose, white, and blue, sweeping valleys, villas, and mountainous scenes of uncanny realism in the sky. Sometimes he paints abstract stuff with dark purple animated monster-looking things with bulbous eyes, and domed foreheads that mercilessly chase smaller entities of sweet innocence clothed in auras of sunshine, and dresses of white.

In the last few days, he has discarded many colors and in the process splashed all the trees with various Monet-like dabs of brilliance. He’s covered the green lawn with golden dabs and poured out a deep rich luminous burgundy paint on the dog wood tree. The other day while waiting for the appropriate time to touch up the landscape with fall colors, he mischievously painted a rushing river where there was none.

So although I have no paintings of worth on my walls, I have a collection that rotates quickly and invites me to have another look out my window at his latest masterpiece.

But, as mistress of this place, to preserve the ambiance of formality and flushing dignity, I really must buy some piano selections— (Liberace, perhaps), for topping-off special moments when friends come over, and I don my lace apron, and the china comes out for ‘high tea’, and the latest paintings are hung, and the afternoon light is just right and ‘housekeeping’ – (that would be my robot vacuum cleaner) has just dispelled all dust from the corners of this ancient estate.

I guess I’m in this special frame of mind because right now I’m reading that old English Classic first published in 1881, “The Portrait of a Lady” by Henry James. And jangling in my mind is that very first sentence, so simple and so lovely—that tells me this will be writing at its best:

“Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea. There are circumstances in which, whether you partake of the tea or not – some people of course never do, — the situation is in itself delightful.”

I have the circumstances. I have the tea. I have the art. And all I need now is the music (and for me that is piano – without violins, without horns, without anything but the clarity of each left-hand resonating chord and right-hand winsome note.


Of course later, Hub will shut down my music and go to the Lone Star Channel (with all that gunfire erupting and horse hooves rumbling and graceless verbal interchange), and my painter will fold up his palette, and I will return to a plebeian existence. I will descend from my throne, shake out my hair, and bumble around in faded jeans and a stained cotton tee, engaged in the servile task of preparing supper for Hub, my puppies, and me.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Head bowed she moves slowly
Planting and shuffling each faltering step
While grasping with white-knuckles the precious cart
That came as a self-extricated gratuity.
Her other prize – a loaf of day-old bread
Bought with a coin left by a harried customer.
In the coin slot of the grocery cart,
tipped and carelessly derailed.

She bends over the cart in usual hunched form
Studying the filthy sidewalk through the wire grid.
All of it a blurred and rippled vision
With only the exceptional clarity of the
Bold lettering on one solitary bag in the cart.
While others in domestic comfort read cereal boxes,
She feels a happy completeness in the sustenance
Promised by these words - “Liberty Bread”.

She smiles and raises her Medusa-spiked hair,
Smooths with gnarled hands her dingy robe.
And unfolds a derelict body into a
spasm of honorable uprightness.

And then in that moment of poise, she cries
Like a trumpet blast to the bustling streets and busy throng…

1.“Keep, ancient lands your storied pomp…
Send …homeless, tempest-tossed, to me…”

She reattaches herself to the cart,
Folds again, and moves on

Laughing…while we weep.

1. Italicized text is from Emma Lazarus’, “The New Colossus”, written for inscription on the Statue of Liberty.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Pig Latin Pulses

This short one-Act play is your mind bender for today. See if you can decode the pig latin phrases, do the math, think of more potato uses, and maybe tell me about the days in your youth when pig latin was your special way of communicating with your friends.


[Hub and Roberta and the little twins from next door are sitting at the kitchen table after walking the dogs. Earlier Hub and Roberta picked all the potatoes.]

Hub: Woman, why do you always insist on planting so many potatoes?

Roberta: I want to make sure we won’t run out.

Hub: If we do, you can buy some. At the store, at the farmer’s market, at a neighbors.

Roberta: I don’t want to do that, it is too inconvenient. And they never taste the same. Rocks in the bags, tasteless, and smutty spots everywhere.

Hub: But look at all those potatoes. Did you do the math?

Roberta: Y—e—h. Three small pails per week, 36 weeks, 4 potato meals per week, 120 potato hills, averaging ¾ small pail per hill –oh, never mind – I did the math! And anyway, I need extra potatoes for days when I have company, for perogies, for potato bread, for soups, french fries, potato salads, and seed potatoes for next year. So, don’t even suggest it. There are NOT too many potatoes.

Hub: I suppose you’re right. We’ll also need some for Christmas decorations, dog toys, carved stamps for printing letters or logos on envelopes, dried potato heads, potato guns, for heartburn, and for batteries for my potato clock.

Little Twin Girl [with a broad smile]: ee-tay, ee-hay, ee-tay, ee-hay!

(She and her brother have been practicing their Pig Latin while we are on dog walks. And pretty much everything she says is in that dialect.)


I roared with laughter at that bit. But that is not all. I’m still laughing about Twin Boy’s antics when we were out walking the puppies. He tried to topple a dead tree and when it eventually came loose and he saw it was going to topple across the trail, he yelled:…. “imber-Tay!”

And to our astonishment, even though Hub’s attempts at Pig Latin are impossible to decode, and completely dyslectic, he scrambled out of the way with the rest of us. The twins told him they were “oud-pray” of his “a-way-om-cay-ish-lay-ent-may!”

Hub said when they left, “It’s too bad that the twins’ arents-pay and isters-say on’t-day owe-nay ow-hay uch-may un-fay ee-thay ins-tway are-way.”

I laughed and nodded.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Psychology of Gizmos

I’m so not good at waiting. It is distressing. It makes me anxious, and uneasy. It is worrisome and unpleasant. But yet, with my gizmo in my pocket or purse, I can endure endless hours of waiting, without nervous energy spinning me into a state of nausea.

How do I do it? I have the primordial gizmo of all time. The ‘adam’ of the species. It is a button and a bobby-pin. And how do you play with it? You put the bobby pin in the button, you squeeze it, bend it, unbend it, and twirl the button and create unique b & b associations.

It’s a diversion. The same kind of diversion as that provided by high-tech gizmos. It is a diversion for easing the discomfort of idleness. It works to quell the irritation of feeling alone in the crowd or the oblique thought that I am waiting for something, without the slightest notion what I am waiting for.

But bobby-pins are scarce, hard to find, and I’m not too sure everyone has a button jar anymore. So while I calm and sedate myself with my button and bobby pin, you go ahead and get downtown (if you must) for the latest gizmo.

P.S. If you want to be resourceful, you might want to try a piece of velcro and a barrette.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Love on Demand – Part V (Conclusion)

Finding Sensibility

Discussions with a neighbor lady with a broken heart in a pre-arranged marriage have validated what I already believe – I cannot give love on demand. So how can I save my sinful soul without going down the path of a loveless and pre-arranged union with God?

With or without a love relationship with God, I can’t deny that I have always been awe-struck at nature’s perfection and at the creator of it. But despite that, I have not found a path to loving God. From the stories told to me by the lady down the road, I understand that it is impossible to give love on demand because that kind of love is too false to be soul-saving. Serving a God of truth by a brazen lie is so not right.

But my problem is even bigger than that. How can I make myself love someone who so often seems to turn deaf ears on my prayers? Yet, admittedly, at other times, responds at lightning speed with a wealth of blessings, quite unexpected?

It remains puzzling to me that somehow, though not until some time later, in all this storm-tossed sea of doubt, somewhere along the way, without conscious endeavor, my subconscious mind was coddled, and warmed, and seduced into a positive belief that told my conscious mind, “You have not pressed me or overrode my authority. You have not forced me with insubordination. And so now, it’s okay to believe. I’ll go along with it.”

But that is me, and so as I consider these things, I realize it is not fair for me to judge others. And it is also unfair for me to expect everyone to love God because it is the better thing to do. Or because I am sure he exists. Of course it isn’t fair. Not with love being a helpless condition over which we have no control.

It takes more than conscious willingness. It appears there are no conscious arguments or convictions good enough, or even strong enough, when it comes to love, to force the sub-conscious into agreement. Surely even the Job in the Old Testament, who endured so much sorrow, must have consciously wanted to reject God, but his sub-conscious mind exerted its own authority and would not let him.

And so even young couples who contemplate marriage, carefully taking into account all practical considerations, and faithfully attending marriage counseling, are in fact jumping into a pre-arranged marriage, if the sub-conscious mind objects. You see long courtships are not just an old-fashioned notion. They are necessary for feelings of love to be honest exchanges rather than superficial notions.

So, isn’t it silly for preachers to compare heaven to hell to force a kind of pre-arranged union? To demand that we find redemption through a pre-determined subset? And, in the same way that it is unfair for me to judge the atheist, or the agnostic, isn’t it equally silly for these same, whose subconscious mind is not yet ready for God-love to scoff at religion as being nothing more than evidence of human weakness and a keen imagination?

In conclusion, I think there will always be those who make a pretense of religion and God-love, but if they are honest with themselves, it seems to me that regardless of how hot hell burns, if the sub-conscious mind does not give in to such a notion and provide unanimous agreement and support, loving God is not possible until the soul eventually whispers to the head – “this is truth and it is time”.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Love on Demand - Part IV

Finding an Answer

I am afraid. The minister says I must love God or be eternally damned. But I don’t know how to give love on demand. Physically, I can choose to do anything I want to do. I can completely ignore the authoritarian control of my subconscious mind. But not emotionally. So, the dilemma of turning love off or on, is the dilemma that I seek to resolve.

Then I remembered. I remembered stories told to me by a lady who lived just up the road and who immigrated to Canada shortly after she was married. Often she told me stories of the ‘old country’. And in these stories it became apparent to me that although outwardly she seemed no different than other neighbors, in her home, all was not well.

Her stories were so sad. Each time she spoke to me of her youth and her marriage, she wept with heartbreaking pain. And at the root of that pain was the story about how she had been so wrongly convinced by others that she could give love on demand.

And her dilemma seemed pretty much like my own. There was even the same interplay of redemption or destruction – only her choice was a different kind of heaven and hell. Her choice, if one can call it that, was to find security through a pre-arranged marriage (love on demand), or face a lifetime of loneliness as a forgotten spinster.

Unfortunately she thought she could give love on demand. And so she married and in her conscious mind she told herself she loved the man chosen for her. But her subconscious mind held fast in disagreement.

So that tells me I am right. The administrator of the sincerity of love is not the head. It is the heart. And because her heart could not be coerced into agreement, her soul remained in agony.

So without all the complexities I have written here, I still figured out, as a child, that it is not possible to give love on demand. And there would be no sensibility in me trying. So here I am, headed straight to hell, because I cannot love God or give him love on demand to save my wretched soul.

NEXT POST: The Conclusion of this storyFinding Sensibility

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Love on Demand - Part II & III

Scare Tactics – Part II

Now initially I thought you had to be a person of excess to be a sinner. My mother extricated herself from sinners and all of those that she avoided lived lives of excess. Too much smoking, drinking, eating, womanizing, lazing around, or talking dirty.

So what had I to fear? I had no excesses. I was too woefully thin, too woefully shy, too woefully poor, too woefully frightened, to be excessive in anything. Too limited in every way to be a sinner. But now I’m sitting here in the front of the church with the graduated pews and the preacher has his beady little eyes focused straight on me and he is telling me I was born a sinner. Born a sinner? What the h…?

And if that wasn’t enough now he’s telling me that if I reject God, I may look around me and feel out of favor now, but it is going to get a whole lot worse. The bottom line is the only way I can expect to have blessing in this life, and escape from hell’s burning flames in the next, is to love God with all my heart and soul and mind.

Oh, but just hang on a minute here. I have a problem with that. I can say ‘I love God’ but if I don’t sincerely love him, that is the worst kind of lie. And I cannot give love on demand. I just cannot. I am not responsible for who I love. It is out of my control. And I absolutely cannot love someone because I am told I must – whether that someone be mortal or immortal, all powerful, or weak as a newborn kitten.

I have a subconscious mind and it forms commitments and purpose quite removed from what I wish or want or will. My subconscious mind made me love my parents without me choosing to, wishing to, or wanting to. So love is not an option that I can decide to choose or decline. It runs much deeper than that.

So it seems to me one can’t seek redemption through fear and still retain the fitness and propriety, some call it ‘grace’, that must accompany that conversion. Cause God is all-knowing. He knows more than what we tell him. So it goes without saying that he knows if we want him in our lives to simply curb our fears or because we truly love him.

So what to do? How to save myself? There is no sensibility in the minister demanding that I love God cause no matter how the preacher man has motivated my conscious mind with fear and panic, love controls reside in caves and tunnels buried much deeper than that.

At the Root of the Fray – Part III

So you see the problem. Never in my lifetime, as a child, or even as an adult, has my subconscious mind allowed me to give love on demand. Even yet, I cannot affectionately accept notions because of social or political pressures.

And because this is true, though not generally examined or understood, there are those who say I am opinionated and close-minded. Some even may suggest that I am bigoted. But what my critics fail to understand is that allowances must be made for my subconscious mind – that little piece in my heart or head, I know not which, that houses my conscience, my soul, my love, and my spiritual convictions, over which I have no control.

And so, because of the conflict in my head with the other, there have always been popular social concepts that in no way affect me personally, but yet my subconscious mind refuses to accept them. And on the other hand, there have always been other abstractions that directly affect me, and even though in my conscious mind, I am theoretically convinced, my subconscious mind chooses to remain obstinate.

For example, I know global warming will eventually have dire effects but I can’t get my subconscious mind to accept that it is happening. Obviously, though many think otherwise, there is no straightforward correlation between the conscious and the subconscious mind.

So I sat in church that Sunday morning, wondering how to find a solution to an impossible dilemma. And then I did what kids always do. I searched within the context of my own limited knowledge for a solution. And surprise, surprise. Suddenly it occurred to me that I had some exposure to the validity or invalidity of the expectation that one can offer – love on demand.

NEXT POST – Finding an answer.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Love on Demand & Pre-Arranged Unions

Ruled by the Sub-Conscious Mind (Part I)

There was something rather unusual about the church I went to when I was a child. When new pews were installed, the front pew was small, but as you moved down the aisle the pews got larger and larger.

My mother told me how this happened. She told me that when the pews were built, the builder used the pattern of the first pew to cut a second and the pattern of a second to cut a third. He didn’t even notice what was happening until all the pews were built. And that is when he realized that each successive pew was bigger than the previous. And so, it only made sense to line them up in order. From smallest to largest.

But what I found most surprising about the graduating seat size was how the congregation reacted. Seat-size seemed to dictate to the subconscious mind of the congregation where they should sit.

I watched them each Sunday wandering down the aisle and sorting themselves according to their particular breadth and depth and length. I also watched the small lady and the large lady that were such good friends that they always sat together, debating at length over where they should sit without easy or quick compromise. And with the installation of the new pews, they no longer sat together.

It was evident that some people entered the church with a mind to sit in the front, but though this may have been their intent, their sub-conscious mind overruled, and without even thinking about it, they moved to the seat that offered, for them, the best fit and comfort.

I tell you this little story to offer just one weak example how subconscious thinking can alter a conscious choice.

NEXT POST: "Scare Tactics" - more serious situations arise that are over-ruled by the tremendous power and authority of the subconscious mind.
…to be continued…