Thursday, April 29, 2010

our foiled escape, part I

When I was a little girl, I used to adore those glass garden globes, the one's people put out on pedestals to reflect flowers or what-have-you. If I had one now, I'd gaze into it, playing the seer like I used to and, swirling my hands about its aura, ask into its depths, “Oh, Great Universe! Tell me your secrets. Reveal, Oh, Great One ... WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING???!!!”

We tried a second time to get to Ireland, five days after the first shot. That flight, too, was canceled.

I woke up the morning after we arrived home vacationless feeling lobotomized. I stared at the suitcase I refused to unpack like it were a dead man's closet. Touch nothing, you hear me? This denial will be here a while.

I have been trying and trying to think of something I could write that would be interesting and worth your time. No one is going to weep for us, the poor babies who didn't get to go to Europe.

No one really wants to hear the blow by blow about the airlines' series of screw ups that left me wishing I'd fought in the Battle of the Boyne rather than stood in line one more time at the US Airways ticket counter. (In the end, I'd managed to limit my orange wardrobe to one sweater that could really pass for a peachy-pink and one little hoodie for Isaac – surely they wouldn't harm the small ones – though the benefit of the doubt I offered our kinsmen of the Emerald Isle would go untested, or course.)

I could attempt to describe the look on the face of the man at curbside check-in when he asked if we needed assistance and I told him no, we were on one of the canceled Europe flights, and he sprung back from our luggage as if it were on fire and offered a head shake and a “Good Luck with THAT!”

Maybe you'd get a chuckle if I mentioned that on the second try, five days after the first, while driving the hour and forty-five minutes to the Philadelphia airport from my mother's house, as the traffic slowed in Mullica Hill, NJ, I caught sight of a rather prominent name on a rather large mailbox beside the road. “ASH,” it said. Ten minutes later my phone would ring and the robo-voice would regret to inform me of what I already knew was coming.

“I just want to eat donuts. Lots and lots of donuts,” Mike said at one particularly stressful moment.

Escape can happen in many ways, and so I've been reading. Reading, reading. Sidebar update forthcoming. For now, here's a poem, of sorts, not exactly about reading, but about reading book jackets and the descriptions they offer.

"From Out of the Rubble of the World We Rise, Thanks to the Praise on Book Jackets"

Infused with a clarity of vision,
our day-to-day is dwarfed under the masterpiece
of the book jacket praise. At once plain and melodic,
it is the human being at his best, shot through with
unmistakable intelligence and original voice;
they bring us a fresh source of inspiration and insight.
And could we ask for more than a wildly funny, infinitely wise,
near to tragic tale?

Well, come to think of it,
I've always been partial to something that goes with everything,
a real foundational piece for the reading wardrobe,
and for those of you with me on this, why not something
audacious, controversial and hilarious.

So rapt in itself, each collage of words must outdo the one before,
and, moreover, the one inside, draped superfluously over 347 pages.
Anyone worth their salt knows that in telling one's truth
we have one chance and little space.

Our dear species. Fraught though we are
with our tangled loves,
our penchant for self-destruction,
with just a touch of help from book jacket verbiage,
we become
the most impressive collection yet.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

two tickets to the next typhoon, please: a love story

Kind of gives the “blast off” that ended the last post new meaning, doesn't it?

Eyjafjallajökull. Right. But we're all friends here, aren't we? How about a nickname? Eyja? Kull? How about Ted. Let's go with Volcano Ted. So, while I would like to impress upon you how very little a vacation in New Jersey feels like the one I anticipated in Ireland, I'm also aware of what a better position I might be in over a couple other people. Ted, you rascal. And I think, truly, that if you have the means, you might consider getting yourself to an airport or the hotels in the vicinity and adopting yourself a European or two for the time being. I'm quite serious.

We tried to fly the day of the biggest blizzard to hit the east coast in I dunno how long. We tried to fly the day of the biggest air traffic groundings since September 11, 2001. We is ALL about timing, baby.
Perhaps we should just book now for the next typhoon season. And when I said that to my husband, he surprised my figurative ass with this story:

Mike is part of a typhoon project at work (that much I knew before) where they've asked for three shifts of volunteers to live on Guam for three weeks each waiting for a typhoon to spring up at which time they'd hop on a plane and fly directly into it. This would be repeated as many times as there were typhoons in the three-week period. Something about measuring atmospheric conditions and ocean temperature. He declined.

Allow me to point out that many people, myself included, would likely have come home after being propositioned thusly and told the story. It could have begun over the dinner table in the form of “You won't BE-LEEEVE what happened at work today...” But I am married to Mike. Captain Understated. Champion of Bedrock Emotion. Therefore, I may never have learned about his opportunity to play the ball in a large and experimental game of pinball had I suggested, say, tickets to the next UFO invasion or large-scale blackout. Let me go on record as thanking a certain volcano, and you know who you are, for this chance to blurt out sarcastic comments and, consequently, grow that much closer to my life partner.

Be well and stay out of the ash clouds.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

international attire

Back in October, I dared try to have a long weekend with an old girlfriend of mine I hadn't seen in too long. Like a real live, off on my own, took a plane to get here, vacation. I felt awful the whole flight there and once I was snug in our hotel room, I proceeded to get violently ill and stay that way for most of our trip. This is where the “old friend” part comes in handy because I'm reasonably certain that she's still speaking to me. We can just chalk it up to another “remember that time when...”

On the way home – prior to the experience of coming within a hair of being bumped off the plane I had reserved months in advance because, well, I still don't know why really, they mumbled something about change of aircraft and wanting to screw over their paying customers, I think – I endured the wrath of the TSA agents. Okay, I'm lying, they were actually very pleasant; we just had a difference of opinion. Whereas I thought that the kitschy, yet age-appropriate snowglobe I'd purchased for my son as a gift posed no threat to our fine homeland, they thought the 2 ounces of water within it created a security risk.

And so I had a choice. (Have you noticed that whenever anyone states that you have a choice it means you don't really have a choice?) I could either throw it away, or dump out the water. I envision these same people saying things like, “You can either set the teddy bear on fire, or slice him open and tear out all the stuffing,” then smiling like the Grinch.

Fine. I'll dump the water. One problem. Couldn't get the rubber stopper out. After all, trashy tourist gift or not, the water is meant to stay IN the snowglobe. One of the kind TSA agents tried to help. When he couldn't get it open with his fingers he attempted it by using the dental pick he had in his pocket. (Apparently a drop of water in a toy is a problem, but not a red flag on hygiene issues.) No luck. Another agent came to see what all the fuss was about. He tried too. Nope. At one point, I had three TSA agents trying to release the water from my kid's snowglobe. People could have been smuggling palettes of dynamic by us, but by god! those agents were dedicated to their snowglobe detail. Finally, one of them managed to open the plug and there it all went in the trash, glitter escaping with the water.

At home, it was interesting to try to explain to Isaac why the people at the airport wanted to drain his globe. Nonetheless, we headed to the craft store to pick out some new glitter. We filled it with green and orange sparkly glitter that made it look a bit like an acid rain nightmare but pleased my son to no end. We then added that dastardly water and replugged. A gleeful Isaac carried it across the kitchen to dry it at which point it slipped out of the towel, fell to the tile and broke.

Which just goes to show...I have no moral to the story. None. It's pretty much like most every story I've encountered that begins and/or ends with the airlines. It reminds me of that Lewis Black routine about Starbucks which I quote often: “It's expensive, but at least the lines are long!”

In our recent dealings with the airlines I have had long heart-felt conversations with supervisors at multiple companies' 1-800 lines about things like seats. It's this crazy idea I have that I'd prefer to sit with my family on our trans-continental/trans-Atlantic flight. (Though to be honest, the last time I was separated from my boys I read a whole book cover to cover! A whole book! On the plane! When I informed the man next to me as we landed of this fact, he was not impressed, as I'm sure, dear readers, you, being empathetic, vibrant people must certainly be. Why are we so rarely placed next to empathetic, vibrant people when dangling 35,000 feet above the planet when they'd likely come in handy?)

So, we're going to Ireland. (Don't except bloggedy blogs for a bit.)

Now there are many reasons to want to go to Ireland and we've collected several of them, and we're going. There you have it.

As some of you may know, my favorite color is orange. I am the woman who, when glancing around her living room plotting decorations for Halloween, simply threw up her hands, since there was nothing she could really do that would alter the normal color scheme.

Some of you may also know, that there is a thing about orange in Ireland. Something to do with William of Orange (a Protestant) defeating King James (a Catholic) in the Battle of the Boyne 320 years ago. 3-2-0. We'll see if they let me squeak by. Cuz the countdown is on for this not-so-little adventure and once I am again on the ground and free of airline insanity, I don't need one more thing.
I'll leave you with this from Isaac, learning about subtraction:

K: So what's 10 minus 1?
I: 9
K: What's 9 minus 1?
I: 8
K: 8 minus 1?
I: 7
K: 7 minus 1?
I: 9...No! Um, 6?
K: Yeah, we're still working on that circle on the top, circle on the bottom thing, huh? Okay, 6 minus 1?
I: 5
K: 5 minus 1?
I: 4
K: 4 minus 1?
I: 3
K: 3 minus 1?
I: 2
K: 2 minus 1?
I: 1
K: 1 minus 1
I: Blast Off!!

Bon Voyage to us. See you all in a couple weeks.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

more on that aquarium exhibit and beyond

I'll admit that I did not view the new exhibit very carefully this first time around. It was busy, and my guardedness around what Isaac might take in led me to steer more quickly through it than I otherwise might have. I'm also not in favor of the aquarium saying nothing on hard truths and thorny topics. But I am still troubled. It's kind of a “first do no harm” kind of issue.

Maybe it's a matter of what is presented in which form and in which order that needs review when we're thinking about serving a variety of ages and abilities to process this information. There may be, as the website quote I included in the last post suggests, lots more positive change stories enveloped in this new exhibit than were obvious to me. However, if they are mainly textual, that is not – even with a mama reading along – what my young child is going to take away from the experience.

There are all kinds of learners out there. But I'm going out on a limb here to say that a majority in our society might fall into the categories of visual and experiential. What you see and what you experience make the biggest, earliest impressions.

The same might be true for my college-age students. I critique the aquarium's exhibit, not from a place of knowledge, but from one of struggle. I battled how to present information for 15 weeks during my fall “environmental writing class.” For these kids, the dictate of the day is “save the planet.” And, believe me, they are over it. Yawn. Apathy is the top layer of all those other potentially negative outcomes like fear, hopelessness, etc. With the readings I required, it was a constant push/pull on looking for hard-hitting information and looking for uplifting outcomes. I can't be sure that any of it made any huge impression. But then there were the other assignments. The ones outside of the books.

I have a lot of doubts about teaching. A lot. Doubts that surface when I think about doing it, while I'm doing it, after I get my student evaluations, doing it in combination with real life lessons, in settings where grading becomes the salient carrot on the proverbial stick. I could go on. But I know a few things for certain that are good, solidly good stuff, the stuff they might even remember for years to come and that wouldn't have happened without the environment writing class we created together.

Things like two of my students touring Jeffers' Tor House guided by one of the most passionate, endearing local poets I know, who generously gave of his time to touch their lives. Like one of my students who wrote past her language issues and into a piece about a life-changing encounter with dolphins in a way that was so moving it brought both of us to tears. Like students using the “idle time” assignment to sit quietly and discover for the first time places and their own thoughts they'd rushed past for months. Like the students that found the thrill and vitality behind reading their own work aloud into a microphone for an eager crowd.

I know these things were good mostly because the students told me so. In weak moments, even these pierced angels of cynicism can admit when they've experienced something that has entered their hearts.

One day, I had made my class read excerpts from Edward Abbey and Bill Bryson on the same night. This was, one: curious because of their screamingly different approaches to writing, and two: dreadfully mean (according to my students) because they were each rather long passages.

One of my students, in discussing Abbey out there on his own among the rocks and coyotes, and Bryson with his page after page dedicated to his fear of bears along the Appalachian Trail, brought up the fact that nature for her is just downright “scary.”

“Pretty hard to save something you're afraid of, huh?” I tried. A stillness dipped into the room for a moment, a just-perceptible beat of quiet. The girl under direct address nodded slowly.

I would argue the same goes for climate change. If we are in a state of fear, we are much less likely to be able to do something about it. Far be it from me to argue for the All-American happy ending. Honesty is a bad habit of mine, truly. But it does seem like taking another look at “cheery” messages, might be worth our while.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Why I feel the Monterey Bay Aquarium's new exhibit is damaging to children and, consequently, their mission of ocean conservation

Isaac could hardly wait to see the flamingos. In the world of animal cool, tall pink birds standing on one leg are solidly in the range of “very” for my boy.

And there they were. A couple anyway, visible on occasion over the heads of the spring break crowd. And a couple of spoonbills – equally cool. And a scarlet ibis or two. The rosy feathers of them all announcing the nature's proclamation on fashion – gaudy is IN.

I didn't point out to him the water mark painted on the glass denoting the predicted water level in the near distant future that towered well over the noisy group gathered to capture these birds on their iphones.

Then there was the graveyard. An animated video spoke about the calamitous fates of various sea creatures while all around it were “tomb stones” etched with names like “sea anemone,” as if we'd accidentally wandered into a suburban Halloween display.

Isaac stood staring at the short loop of a wall-sized film about the domino disasters surrounding the lifestyle of the Inuit people and their natural resources three times through and would have stayed for goddess knows how much longer if I hadn't pulled him away. “Did you understand that?” I queried. “No.” he told me, and I did my best to fill in a few elements I felt comfortable enough explaining.

There were also some penguins. Isaac took note, but he can visit the ones on permanent exhibit upstairs most any time. There was the cow with the gas mask and the note about biofuel - relatively amusing and positive.

More screens flashed at us and pronouncements of doom writ large (literally) along the narrow passageways before we got to the two sea turtles swimming back and forth in an unadorned tank and Isaac whined that he was hungry.

Here is how the aquarium's webpage bills their newest exhibit which they've titled “Hot Pink Flamingo”: “Amazing animals will capture your heart in our new 7,000-foot special exhibition. Take a trip through our galleries—and across the globe—and discover how climate change is affecting ocean life. Along the way, you'll meet people and communities who are reducing their carbon pollution, and learn about the small changes we can all make to help the oceans.”

Hmm. Did we see the same thing? Cuz what I experienced had little to do with flamingos, or capturing anyone's heart. We've determined that I'm not against things political. Yet, when I view this from the perspective of a five-year-old, as best I can, I see the potential for instilling fear, confusion, hopelessness, resignation. Come to think of it, when I look at it from the perspective of a 40-year-old, I see potential for instilling, let's see, fear, confusion, hopelessness, resignation...

My son needs to fall madly in love with flamingos. Period. Step one in his generation saving anything. He's five. He does not need messages about drowning polar bears just yet. He can't do anything about it. And what he can do, believe me, he does. I have picked up more nasty garbage because my son has guilted me into it than I care to remember right now.

I feel strongly that the beloved world-class aquarium in our backyard as slipped off the track on this one.

So what is the solution? PG-13 aquarium exhibits? I don't think so. But I feel like before we can solve our planet's problems, we have to get together on how to talk about this.

I have more to say on the college-aged perspective after teaching “environmental creative writing” last semester, but, for now, enough. To be continued...?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

political motherhood

“Look around—there's only one thing of danger for you here—poetry.” - Pablo Neruda to the armed forces searching his house after Pinochet's military coup in 1973.

So I recently added myself to The Mom Blogs directory – icon & link at the bottom of the sidebar. I'd like more traffic here. I'm experimenting. One must do that now and again, it seems, experiment, though one is mistrustful of groups and highly mistrustful of groups that involve parenting.

You are invited to include your blog in up to three categories. In theory, this seems pretty good. In reality, you are choosing from a limited pool you didn't have a hand in creating and it brings up some interesting conundrums. I put myself in moms blogging in California. Pretty straight forward. Then I put myself in something called “Beyond Motherhood.” Seems to be the catch-all for those of us whose essence is not represented there. And the last one I am in is “Political.” I couldn't help but notice that this was one of the smallest categories. Much smaller, for example, than the listings for “Scrapbooking” (currently 234 blogs listed), “Fashion and Beauty” (451), and “Shopping and Reviews” (941). And I ask myself, how can this be?

Yes, I do mean, how can this be that “Scrapbooking” is not only a major interest of so many people, but that parents have TIME to scrapbook AND time to BLOG about it??!!?? But these are minor distractions when I think about the question at heart here: Are you trying to tell me that parenting isn't political? Cuz, um...

If you don't think that labor choices and food choices and school choice are political, I'm not sure what to tell you. If you don't think that raising children in a world of climate change and war isn't political, then you are a lot different than I am. I mean, when you get right down to it, for godssakes, if you've ever taken your infant outside with or without a hat and been accosted by strangers with vocal opinions, you've dabbled in the world of political parenting.

But I don't just write about parenting, eh? And if you don't think poetry is political, well, where do I start? Let's start with these words: Pablo Neruda.

Poetry not political? Tell that to the poets who've been exiled from their homelands because of their ideas. Tell the poets who've died for their words.

And check this awesome site out that I just discovered Split This Rock. A huge thanks to my colleague and friend Diana García for turning me on to this one. It is a group of activist poets trying to help other poets take their place in the movement for social justice. Diana was just part of a panel at the STR conference in DC this past March. The panel was called BIRTH AND THE POLITICS OF MOTHERING IN CONTEMPORARY POETRY. Sorry, did I just write that in all caps? Yeah, well, there's a bug crawled up my butt on this one and, trust me, be glad you're at a safe cyber distance from me.

If it's too much for you to name choices in how and why you mother, or when and what you write “political,” fine, be a language coward and see if I care. A rose by any other name, lovies. Just do me a favor and don't call it “scrapbooking.”


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

living in a van down by the river

It's not that I am dying to take on a mortgage. Debt is one of my biggest fears. Mike and I are different in this regard. Not that he is dying to take on a mortgage either, but one of his biggest fears is that the cat will get into the dryer and we won't know she's there before turning it on.

People, I have A LOT of fears, but cats and dryers don't make the list. Marriage is a balance of unbalanced minds. But let's get back to the subject at hand.

Mortgage – not high on my list of dreams. Painting my walls whatever freaking color I want – extremely high, we're talking throw your BFF on your shoulders and you still don't have to bend to walk under this limbo stick, baby.

A simple thing, I know. The two issues – (if you haven't been keeping up I mean mortages and paint colors) seem to be a package deal and I'm at the point where I am ready to dive in. It's kind of like when I chose to have a homebirth. I didn't so much choose to have my baby at home as I chose to have a midwife, and where I live the former comes with the latter. And voila! it all worked out perfectly.

I miss the old days; I won't lie. There was a time when Mike and I could look at a place and know we could make it work, that anyway, it was just temporary. There is something delicious about working with all the weirdness that is already there. But those days are over. I have the worst case of house envy possible.

When we moved to Monterey in 1998, housing was tight. We had no jobs, no cell phone and we were living at the campground. Not quite a van down by the river, but not your ideal candidates to take on a lease.

And when we got as far as the apartment tour, things got ugly fast. And I do mean ugly. I want to believe that now, over a decade later, things are different, but when we were looking at apartments around here in the late 90s, virtually every one boasted a carpet the color and pattern of which I can only refer to as “puke.” It was the standard Monterey carpet. How on earth, we reasoned, could such a beautiful place be overrun with such hideous carpet? I still can't answer that, but let me just tell you that at a particularly low point in our search we nearly took one of the Monterey puke carpet apartments and as an added bonus it was located on a street by the name of “Dickman.” That would have clinched it for me.

Street names are curious. Makes you wonder what kind of karma they bring with them. In dreaming about buying a house we have come across a few beauts for street names: Lovers' Lane. Bliss Street. These are places I'd happily take up residence – a far cry from Dickman.

Bliss and Lovers aside, by my calculations there are about half a dozen street names total in the country. Seriously. Count with me: There's Main Street. Maple. Elm. And at most three more. Center, for example? Do you have a Center Street? Ours is Central, but close enough. Towns right the hell next to each other use the same names of streets. The human imagination limitless? Yeah, check your maps.

By looking at the houses, at least in my neighborhood, you'd think we were a chummy species, all neighborly an' shit. Porches overlook the porches next door, bedroom windows sport views of their neighbors' newly-built decks. Of course there are a few things to tip you off that neighborly isn't quite the descriptor for life in 2010 USA: Maybe it's the No Trespassing signs. Maybe it's the yards where the most prominent thing planted is the car – on the grass smack in front of the door, if there is grass, because just as often there is concrete – lots and lots of concrete. I've long held to the belief that if someone has a house and can't see fit to at minimum *pretend* to be grateful for the privilege, they should lose it and that house should go to someone like ME. Fabric softener showing out the front bay window? Sorry. You lose. Dead Christmas tree laying in the front yard in April? Hand over the keys, buddy.

We have a nice place that we rent here. It's cute. A little island of sweet. But it's not mine, and I'm tired, so tired of my view of dumpsters and chain link fences. I want my own damn place and it ain't gonna have any bloody rose bushes, and it's gonna take more than four strides to cross, and every damn wall will be a different color. And if that means mortgage, bring it on. I'm a big girl now. I'm ready to face my fears.

poetry events and other transformative musings

At the very start of 2010, I had the amazing privilege to take a week-long writing and improv workshop with Ann Randolph at Esalen Institute in Big Sur. Esalen don't come cheap in any shape or form, and staying there was out of the question. So I bounced around to a couple places, the stories behind which all deserve entries of their own. One of them that became home for two nights was the tiniest room at Deetjen's Big Sur Inn.

I arrived late – too late for a personal check in, so a map was taped to the office door for me. No keys. The doors don't lock from the outside.

My room was called “Petite Cuisine” and it charmed me instantly.

The room is made for one person. One. Different. If you go into a restaurant and see someone eating alone, do you, like me, begin to create stories about that person? Why they are there and what they are thinking as they sit in silence, the other place settings scooped up and swept away as if the table were always meant for solitary dining. In the case of Petite Cuisine, there was nothing to scoop up. There was a single bed in the tiniest room you've ever seen. Only solo sojourners need apply.

Here you can imagine away, though there are more clues to the backstories than in those restaurant scenes albeit with their own mysteries thrown in. The people that stay here don't do so in silence. The shelf over the bed is filled with journals which, in turn, are filled with the ramblings, poems, dreams and screams of past occupants. I could live there for months, just reading and recording these written treasures. The earliest guest book there is from 1996. The latest entry is from a week before I arrived. I obsessively put them in chronological order and notice that 2001 is missing. The year I got married. The year long stretches in my own journal contained sketches of towers – two of them side by side. Only that.

I pull a book with a flowery printed fabric cover off the shelf and open at random. The date I flip to: February 5, 1997. Before I ever set foot on the west coast. “I am 26 today,” it says. I continue to read. She's had her heart broken. They were supposed to come here together. She still decided to come, alone. She'll be about to turn 38 as I read along and I wonder how many more times her heart has been broken in the last dozen years and what she thinks now of her 26-year-old self.

In an entry that I barely catch as I flip through another journal there is this: “Don't forget to look in the copper tea pot.” The advice is 10 years old. Still, I see it. A small copper kettle perched on the window sill just over the bed. I open it with, I admit, a certain amount of trepidation. It is chock-full. Small slips of paper spill out as I remove the lid. Hundreds of scraps of loose leaf, business cards, notes and prayers on whatever people could find. I read a few and close up the lid again to save the whispers inked there for the next guest.

We are all in the process of transforming. Sometimes what we put on paper is a shedding of an old skin, sometimes it is a vision of a future life. In hashing ideas about in my journal trying to hit on possible themes for a couple upcoming reading/poetry events, the thing that kept coming up over and over again was people in the process of transformation, past and future selves.

I have not done a (poetry) reading in a while, but things are popping up again.

One is a reading next month for something that I've participated in several times in the past. It's called Women and Food (website is not up to date, but there is a past poem of mine on there). This year it is at 7pm on Friday, May 14 at the Felix Kulpa Gallery in Santa Cruz, CA. A group of women poets will read their work on whatever aspect of food and their relationships to it that they've dared explore in verse. The evening is also a benefit for the Second Harvest Food Bank, so if you are in the area and can make it, bring canned stuff for the bins. We also create a symbolic place setting for ourselves at the banquet table for whatever might be “on our plates” at the moment.

Here are a couple of my past place settings: One called “Starved for Time” (and no, I don't really eat the crap on there) and the other complete with seeds and dirt, based on growing food, since that year I read several poems about my former English as a Second Language students who are field workers.(Here's one.)

This year I have lots of food stuff going on, though none of it is feeling very poetic. “Gluten-free” and “hypoglycemia” don't make for the smoothest of metaphor candidates.
The other event will hopefully happen in June – a show of my poems presented as broadsides in a local cafe. Broadsides are basically framed, poster-sized pieces - graphically or artistically pleasing somethings behind the text of a poem. It essentially allows poetry to have a physical presence, just like visual art does. More on this as I actually convince myself I can do it, but suffice to say if transformations were tangible, this might be part of my old/new skin tangled at my feet, scales shining in an orange sun.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

are we on track?

It's been a hard week. For whatever reason, things are piling. I feel the weight of large life questions pressing on me and frankly, my shoulders are bowing.

It's spring, for some, Easter time, and there are lots of chickens and eggs being batted about these days. It's also the situation for Isaac and I. Who knows which comes first, but when one of us has a hard time, so does the other. We match. And so, it's been a week.

A couple days ago, Isaac tried track out for the first time. His growing mind and body are demanding new things and for his age and our availability, we found track. For ages 4-14. It's through the city's parks and rec department's activities. We arrived at the community college's big new field and track and were treated to an unceremonious greeting and speech about things that made no sense to Isaac and little to me; they had nothing to do with what would happen there, that day, and everything to do with future logistics aimed at the older crowd.

At some point, the “coach,” a big-bellied man in a blue windbreaker, waved his clipboard and pronounced, “The kids can go.” Uh. Huh? This man was a “coach” like the guys with leafblowers spraying Round Up are “gardeners.”

Image if you will, (and because Coach would not), the enormity of seeing a football stadium up close and personal for the first time as a five-year-old. Now picture someone telling you you can “go.” WHERE? WTF? Isaac had a friend with him that had done track last year and so after some confusion and questioning of parents in the vicinity, they took off for their warm-up run around the track. I walked back to the other side of the field, where it appeared people were gathering, to meet Isaac as he came around.

We were informed of nothing from this point on. I surmised where the kids were to go and motioned Isaac and his friend that way from my place behind the fence. The group split into two – ages 4-7 and 8-14. Several people I didn't meet and whom I'd learn later had failed to introduce themselves to the kids either led the little ones – a group of maybe 15-20 kids - to the other side of the field.

They did some stretches and warm-up runs that involved directions such as, “Right over left! Okay, now switch!” It's here that I'd like to mention that when I went into the fourth grade, my teacher asked me if I was left-handed or right-handed. I had no idea.

After about 20 minutes, Isaac lost it. My little perfectionist, my sensitive soul. I flagged him down (by then they'd been on so many far reaches of the area, he didn't know where I was) and one of the anonymous leaders brought my tearful boy off the field. Later, at home, Isaac told us, “I just wanted to run around!”

There is a reason for the ramp up to the bleachers. We all experience this world differently. If you experience it in a physically different way, it is clear for people to see and hopefully accommodate. If you, on the other hand, experience it in away that is emotionally different than the mainstream, good luck to you. This is not our first encounter with “community” recreational activities for the 3-5 age group that deal in a sink or swim attitude, but this post is already too long and that's another story.

We will go back tomorrow and try again. I am attempting not to be invested in whether or not Isaac continues. I am attempting not to foster the desire to beat the shit out of people who suck. I am trapped between wanting my son to have the skills to function in the world as it is and wanting to tip that world upside-fucking-down so that it sees him as he is.

Here's what came out in the journal:
Reluctantly, I stumble into the again-bright sunlight, the rain only a shower teasing me with its restful arms. I am warmed, despite myself. I spy the sidewalk chalk, its colors heightened in their damp pile and I want to sit down right there and begin. But I don't.

Our dreams, our dreams stop us at the door. The sound in the periphery is the flutter of wings. We pause, listen, and then, with the gravest consequences, continue across the threshold to other, quieter rooms, where nothing, not even the chatter of the warped window frame, catches our ear and we may recline in the sterile hollow of obedience.

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