Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dead Cat Bounce

“Eeeeee! Bail me out!”


“You gotta!”

“It’s YOUR fault!”

“How’s it MY fault?”

“You were reckless.”

“Think I’m reckless? Bail me out, or I’ll crash!”

“Go ahead.”

Dow Jones down 777.68 in reaction to congressional inaction.

“Told ya.”

“Drama Queen.”

Dow climbs 485.21 points.

“Phew! Cool bounce, huh?”

“Kind of a dead cat bounce.”

“You don’t care about me!”

“Aww, Honey – how about we call it a rescue?”

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lost in Perception

I am not a visual artist, but I masquerade as one in drawing class.

I have always considered myself very observant (when I choose to be). I love the play of light through windows, leaves, and water. The cascading shadows that tuck themselves into corners fascinate me. I thrill at unexpected splashes of color on gray winter days. Fleeting expressions on the faces of friends are wonderful discoveries. I am surprised by the patterns that run through everything. And, I appreciate beauty across the vast planes, and around every street corner equally. I absorb what I see, and render my perceptions in words, not visual images.

But I have this class, so I am giving it a try.

Now, I am quite near-sighted, so I have always assumed that I miss a lot that others could see at a distance. Now, I am amazed to discover how much I overlook that is right in front of my face. Drawing still life cones and pitchers and apples with anything resembling real life requires eye muscles that I am not accustomed to exercising. I must stare, and stare, and stare, and sketch and stare again until slowly and ever so gradually what I see deconstructs into shape, light, shadow, value and texture.

Shadows have layers and light has shape. Form stretches into the formless, and surfaces have “value” I never realized. I have always understood that seeing requires more than looking, and that absorbing requires an act of attention, but I never grasped that seeing and then translating that sight into my own visual interpretation requires traveling to an intersection of perception, attention and understanding that is unfamiliar to me.

And, if my perception of a pitcher is flawed, what about my perception of the world? I observe, I think, I consider, I form opinions, I like, I support, I judge, I reconsider, I feel comfortable and uncomfortable, I reconcile, and then I begin again on the same subject, or something else altogether. But do I truly see? Clearly? Do I travel to that alien intersection of perception, attention and understanding, or do I take the superhighway to some vague rendering that is - oh – the “sufficient” view?

I take the superhighway.

Like everyone else, I am faced with a tidal wave of information each day, and I use whatever method works for me to select my important things. I pay attention, I try to grasp, I respond in a way I feel appropriately, and I move on to the next. But, now I wonder if I am seeing the completeness of the thing I am seeing. Do I recognize the complete form, light, shadow and value? Can I deconstruct and put it back together again? Have I taken enough time to do so? Or do I move on (too soon?) in complacency, boredom or self-defense?

This election season contains so much information and misinformation that I cannot hope to perceive it all fully, but now I wonder if I see its form at all. The wars, the economy, social ills, even 9/11 (thanks to the information provided by a friend) are complicated forms casting deep shadows, and a cursory glance will not deconstruct them. Gossamer opinions, promises and accusations fly between the candidates, and when the pundits get involved, credibility takes such a hit that what I think I see dissolves before my eyes. Factor in the fact that the current administration has misbehaved so badly that I routinely become irritated and turn away, and all becomes fog.

But, Fog is a dangerous thing. Fog obscures sight, and without sight, we are vulnerable. We are vulnerable to those who lie, deflect, hide, and pause for a day to see if we are still paying attention. We are vulnerable to those who steal, abuse, snatch for unrestrained power, and hope we are too blind, too stupid or too undisciplined to call them to a reckoning. We are vulnerable to those who tell us that what we see isn’t what we see, because anyone who seeks to obscure anything does not mean us well.

I need to open my eyes and stare. At everything. I need to look deeper, longer, more patiently and more often until my perception reveals the form. I need to see what’s here, and what’s coming. For my own good. It’s a hard thing, I see, but I’ll try to do better. We all must do better.

Hey. What do you see?

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Down here in Pennsylvania, the last day of summer was brilliant.

It was all shining blue topaz and the last pure stand of emerald before the YellowOrangeRusset paints the wood. It was the first scattered leaves and acorns underfoot. It was slanted sunbeams, secret shadows, and an unaccountable stillness like the space between breaths. It was a surprising, welcome coolness of the morning, languid, half-hearted warmth in the afternoon, and an indigo twilight so rich and deep that this must have been the time of year it first found a name.

Summer has been disentangling herself from us since we feted her arrival back in June. In July, we were BFF, dancing in the moonlight and complimenting her on her stylish dress, sense of humor, and refined appetites. In August, we lay by her side in the sweet evening grass, whispering secrets in her ears. We thought she understood, and returned our feelings.

But now we think it was all in our heads.

Because, September came, and Summer no longer gives us her undivided attention. To be sure, we, too, are distracted with all the things we set aside for Her. School and work and every task we think we need to accomplish before year-end clamors for our attention. All the outside forces – the election-year politics, the regular politics, the escalating economic fears, the violence next door and half a world away, even the weather – conspire to remove the last, clinging indolence. Yet, when we look up from our concerns for a moment, we find that Summer is looking off into the distance, southward.

Today, she stands in our doorway, a silhouette edged in gold, packed bag by her side. The flowing, jewel-toned gown and daisy-chain crown are gone, replaced by a traveling suit and hat, crisp and smart. Her smile is wistful, but her eyes are not sad. And you see that entreaties are useless and promises unnecessary. You both know. Better still, you understand.

Time to say Goodbye.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Quiet Time

On September 11th, it is traditional to have a moment of silence at the hour when planes and gasoline and hell rained down on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. We stop – just stop – for a moment, and quietly mourn the lost, thank the brave, and pray for strength. That moment of silence is a respite in memory of anguish suffered and sacrifices made, and in tribute to the unity we all felt then. But, the moment is insufficient, because seven years later, we are more divided, more angry, more loud than ever.

We went from standing together to standing against. We grit our teeth, shake our fists, and lay all our problems, pain and fear at the feet of the “other”: the other party, the other race, the other sex, or any other “other” we can nail for what ails us. We are sarcastic, bitter and much too prickly. We are quick to anger, quick to blame, and excruciatingly slow to forgive. We seek a champion for our discontent, when we should be pulling together to solve our problems. We ignore solutions that don’t come from the right source: us. And, the only time we truly look in the mirror is when we are seeking the evil that has to be lurking just over our shoulder.

Maybe we just need more quiet time.

So, I’d like to propose that the 9/11 moment of silence be extended. Let’s have an Hour of Silence. Better still, let’s have a Day of Silence. And, let’s not have it once a year. How about we start out with a Day of Silence every six months, and see how it goes.

During that Day of Silence, let’s all just SHUT THE HELL UP. No arguments, accusations or recriminations. No insults or sarcasm. No attacks and counter-assaults. No sly innuendo. No gossip. No whisper down the lane. No talk shows. No interviews. Gag the pundits. Gag those pundits too. Jesus, where the $%*& are all these pundits coming from? No shouting at each other across picket lines. Spokes-models have a mandatory day off. Opinion-makers can keep it to themselves. Faction-building is on hiatus. Lower the volume on the Special Comments and the sermons and the Shouting-with-Indignity. More Shhh! and less Snark will be the rule of the day. Whatever mean thing you have to say, can wait until tomorrow. Zip the dark stuff.

Just. Be. Quiet.

Listen to the birds sing. Listen to the wind. Listen to the rain drip from the leaves. Listen to the sunset. Hear the lonely whistle of the train in the distance. Smile.

Hell, we’ll even make an exemption for laughing out loud.

Oh, and kids are exempt too. We wouldn’t want to be cruel.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

1,000 Cool Points

This is my friend Ann's husband, Clyde. Every few years, he grows his hair, and donates it to Locks of Love, an organization that provides hairpieces for disadvantaged children who suffer from medical hair-loss.

Recently, I've been thinking about people who add light to the world in ways big and small. People like Eddie who came out of the foster program damaged, and decided to use his experience to make life better for other foster kids, through the organization Eddie's House. People like the Hubachs of Ocean City, NJ who bring thousands of urban kids to the Jersey shore for a needed day of respite. People who do what they do far more than they talk about doing it. People who, when they DO talk about it, only do so to increase the possibility and breadth of the light. People who never seek the accolades, but keep racking up the cool points where it counts: in our hearts.

Thanks, Clyde.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Wood, Sun, Sky

There's something about a wood.

Maybe it was the wood that stood at the bottom of the hill when I was a girl. All spring, summer and fall we ran, explored, played hide-and-seek, waded through the creek, kissed, and watched the light of the fireflies lazily weaving between the disorderly corridors.

As the light starts to slant into autumn, I find myself looking for woods to walk in, sit in, read in, be in ...

Accidental picture

Easy road.

Blue Skies

Yesterday, hurricane Hannah sprinted up the coast and waved to us as she passed. Around here, she did not leave a great deal of damage along her path (as opposed to Ike who just shredded the island of Grand Turk), but I certainly felt her presence. Rolling black clouds veined with lightening, grey sheets of rain, and gremlin winds all conspired to drive me inward (even Sara’s picnic was indoors). Sometimes, the external storms tap-tap on my windows, and gust against my door, and, suddenly, I find them swirling inside, harassing me. They are not friendly guests.

But, today is clear. The storm is yesterday’s news. Big blue, cloudless skies stretch far and wide, the sun shines brightly, and a breeze meanders gently through the trees. I lift my head, and survey the room. My guests doze drunkenly in the corner. I could leave them there, sleeping in the darkness. I could escape into the day, hardly encumbered at all. But, that just begs for trouble. I do not have the disposition of a slum lord. So, I raise the windows, open the door, and take up a broom to herd my interior storms. They dig in their heels, scuffing my floor. They stomp and complain, and cross their arms in disapproval. They bargain and hurl insults in turn until, finally, they stumble outside, and scatter into the brilliant air.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Country Light/City Light

Forgive my laziness in not writing, but I liked the light today, went walking, and tried to capture a little around home:

And, later down on South Street in Philadelphia: