Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Reading Faulkner - vol. 1

Scarlet, whose locks are no longer eponymous, and I will be Humanities Seminarians again this semester.  For two hours every Monday afternoon for the next five weeks, we'll do close readings of William Faulkner's first three novels - The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, and Absalom, Absalom! (the only book I know of with an exclamation point in its title).

It seemed like a worthwhile plan at the time.  An author we'd be unlikely to pick up on our own, one we might have read long ago but have long since forgotten, and one that Little Cuter, the English major, had well represented on her bookshelves.

I remembered her saying that she loved that course.  After spending an hour with the first 15 pages of The Sound and the Fury, I wondered why.

"Mom, I said I loved the course.  I hated the books.  Hated them.  But the teacher was interesting and young and cool and invited us to his house.  I loved that course."

Well, that leaves Scarlet and me in a pickle.  Neither of us like the book. She's plowing through the study guide before tackling the tome itself.  I am plunging bravely onward, aided by the copious notes my darling daughter took from that delightful professor. 
There are tiny post-it notes and penciled words and circles and underlining and stars... some pages have stars.  I think I'm well on my way to a close reading of the texts.

I just hope no one asks me what's going on.

I read another dozen or so pages this afternoon.  The point of view jumps around without warning.  This is problem. There is no description, no exposition, just random dialog, with nary a he said or she said in sight.  Some parts are in italics; I'm not sure why. 

The only easily identifiable train of thought I can discern are the inner ramblings of a damaged 30-something human.  He seems to have a caretaker who carries him hither and yon.  Why?  I don't really know.  He seems to have a young woman whose presence comforts him, and I think she's his sister.  It's not been explicitly stated.

Quentin seems to be female.  Versh has arthritis.  Mama is a less likable Mrs. Bennett (cf Pride and Prejudice). 

I have a feeling there are serious financial problems in the offing.  But I'm not sure.  The prose is oblique to the point of deliberate obfuscation.

I had the same reaction when I tried to read Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49: I read a lot.  I have an undergraduate degree from an Ivy League Institution and a masters degree from the University of Chicago, not known for admitting dummies.  I am not stupid.  Yet I cannot understand this.  For whom, exactly, is he writing????????

All is not lost, though.  I have a vague yet warm memory of reading Absalom, Absalom! in college; I think I really liked it.  I'm not running away from the adventure before me; I'm glad to have a challenge in my life.

This is not going to be easy.  Perhaps thinking about all those new wrinkles I'll be creating in my aging brain will provide the motivation I'm currently lacking.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

A Federal Holiday ... KInda Sorta

The mail wasn't delivered but the trash and recycling went out as usual.  The bank was closed and so were the schools, but even I forgot to put out the flag.

I never forget to put out the flag on National Holidays

Is it living in Arizona?  Is it holiday fatigue?  How is it possible that the day snuck up on me?  I left the house with a trunk filled with wonders for the Prince Scholars, and it was only when I recognized that I was making all the lights, that traffic was lighter, that I wondered what I was missing.  It was only when I switched over from KXCI to  NPR and heard Dr. King that I made the connection. 

There's something terribly wrong with this picture, and I think Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has the answer.  She wants to cancel Columbus Day as a Federal Holiday and make Election Day one, instead.  People can argue over Columbus as a hero forever and a day, but no one can argue that Election Day is unimportant.

And if you can make that argument, then you need to reread history - being represented in the governance of the nation's affairs is bedrock Americana.  People wouldn't go to such great lengths to suppress it if it didn't matter.

So let's shake things up a bit on the Federal Holiday front. 

We've already decided that Washington and Lincoln were somehow born on the third Monday in February, no matter the date each year.  I wonder if Dr. King would object to sharing his day with Mother Earth?

Dr. King wrote his Letter from Birmingham Jail on April 16th.   April 22, Earth Day, gets no respect on the Federal level.  I propose that we  celebrate Martin Luther King Day whenever Earth Day rolls around. 

Why?  In their own way, each is a call to action.  Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere goes very nicely with We're all on this planet together.  

No?  How about the weather.

It's hard to gear up for a holiday in the middle of January, especially this year when most of the country is frozen solid.  But April, now that's a different story.  It's much easier to celebrate outdoors when the wind chill isn't 40 below.  Wouldn't it be lovely to honor Dr. King by planting flowers and trees and gardens in his honor, nurturing the earth and taking practical steps to make the world a better place, one freshly dug hole at a time.

Building community, caring for one another, taking action to draw attention to grievances, cleaning and clearing and singing.  Woody Guthrie would be at home in either celebration...  you know, the Woody Guthrie who wrote This Land is Your Land.  Gaia and Dr. King, not detracting from one another but bringing value added to the day.

This land was made for you and me.  

Monday, January 21, 2019

On Championship Sunday

While TBG was comfortably ensconced in front of America's blood sport, I took advantage of the warming temperatures to work on the overflowing disaster area formerly known as my side of the garage, and then moved inside to work on the library closet and the desk drawers.

I didn't pay much attention to the game or the digital world in general.  I was a woman on a mission.  Focused. Medicated so that my hip-and-its-surrounding-tissues wouldn't interfere with the tasks at hand. 

It was late afternoon before I took a seat on the couch and opened my email.

Two friends from long ago were checking in to say hello.  In the combined 70 some years of friendship we have shared, I can't recall two emails from either of them.  Ever.  Yet, there they were, FAMBB and One Of The Nancy's, saying Hi!

They don't know one another.  The have absolutely nothing in common.  Really, the more I think about that the more true it seems.  Yet, there they were, in my inbox, reaching out to me from Massachusetts.

Of course.  

New England, where the weather outside is frightful and Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are starring in the second to last game of the football season, where it's too cold to do anything but snuggle up on the couch and write to an old friend.  

Two very different women having exactly the same afternoon.  I'm flattered to be on the receiving end.

Friday, January 18, 2019

What Goes Around Comes Around - A Snippet

Ask a Prince Scholar about my role as their Official Adopted Grandmother and you'll hear about stickers.  Smiley faces and baseballs and puppies, hearts and dinosaurs and clouds, I place them on t-shirts and cheeks.  They are a shared smile between us, an intimate moment on the playground, in the classroom, in the garden, surrounded by others but alone, for an instant.

In general, I try not to interrupt the orderly flow of the student body, reminding the Scholars to wave-but-don't-shout, to keep-up-with-the-group, to be well-behaved so that I don't get into trouble for distracting them.  So it was noteworthy when the kindergartener with the small set of stickers in her hand left the line I was following to place one on my chest.
The teacher and I got a little misty as I croaked out a Thank You!  Who says kindness can't be taught?

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Just Another Work Day

The sun was out, everyone's shoelaces were tied, and it was time to get to work. 
There was pruning and planting to be done... and some balancing on a rock which scared Grandma, even though the acrobat assured me that she was being very very very careful. 
Holding the pot steady was as much fun as filling it with fancy soil.
The Garden Club Kids were careful not to waste.  The potting mixture held firm in their hands. There was very little on the ground.  Carrot seeds are teeny tiny little things, placed an inch apart, one per hole, separated by two fingers held tightly together.  It was math and planning and fine motor control and it was so much fun.
Using Grandma's pruning shears is a privilege reserved for the bigger kids.  
Deciding what was alive and what needed to be removed was a challenge. We were encouraged to see that new buds were forming; cutting off the detritus allows more of the nutrients to go where they are useful.  "Plants are really smart."
The second raised bed is covered in a field of parsley.  
Within its confines, we found a worm, which delighted Grandma no end.  I explained the usefulness of the worm to the structure of the soil, but the kids were more interested in giving him a tour of the garden.  Although he was a most interesting and unusual friend, I managed to convince them to return him from whence he came.
There is nothing more dramatic than the sigh of a disappointed boy who is desperate to share a treasure with his class.  It took some parsley snacks to right the world on its axis once more.
"When do you go to the middle school?" wondered an anxious 5th grader, projecting into his future.  I had to admit that my presence there was less frequent and less intense.  We agreed that there are many losses as one grows up, as I silently wondered if I could possible clone myself.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Through a Visitor's Eyes - A Snippet

Jimmy's Sister came to town this week, looking for her forever home.  Tucson is the next stop on her where do I want to live tour, following on the heels of Albuquerque, which was so damn cold!

It's not that toasty here in the desert Southwest these days, either.  Clouds overtook the sunshine as I tied shoelaces on the playground at lunchtime.  Our rousing game of Duck Duck Goose grew progressively colder to my aging self, perched on the ground, silently pleading not to be chosen.

I'm going out tonight; I've spent the afternoon planning what to layer under my wool sweater. Under my jacket.  I may even bring gloves.

I know, I know, it's not as bad as where you are.  But for us, two days without sunshine is a recipe for grumpiness.  Just ask the kindergarten teachers trying to herd their usually well-behaved minions into some semblance of a forward facing line at the end of recess.  There are always more tears to wipe on cloudy days, it seems.

But Jimmy's Sister doesn't seem to be bothered in the least.  She spent the last hour or so in the hot tub, emerging with a spring in her step and a smile on her face.

It's the first smile about the outdoors I've seen all day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Pent Up Comments

Well.... see what happens when I write about politics?!  Long-time denizens take to their keyboards and create thoughtful responses to my dilemma.  I thought I'd be writing about hosting a friend who's considering relocating Tucson; instead, I'm back in the political saddle again.

I'm no fan of James Comey - I think he cost Hillary the election.  Had I not been a Never-Trump person, I don't know that I would have voted for her.  I never trusted her, (you know that, Stacy) but at least she had the knowledge base to do the job. 

Was/Is she moral? Not by my standards, but who am I to judge?  Any woman who tried to make her mark in the political arena in the late 20th and early 21st centuries deserves kudos.  They were all braver than I was.  I cannot imagine the abuses, the discomfort, the disrespect they must have endured, with no recourse, with few allies, walking an unpaved path. 

Still, while I wish both parties had given us better choices, unlike DJT I don't think there were good people on both sides.  I don't think he is a good person.  Anyone who lived in New York City knows that Trump was the village idiot, good for a laugh, certainly not to be taken seriously.  He and Howard Stern exemplified toxic masculinity.  They were over the top and acted like they knew it.  Anything for attention.  Anything at all. 

Is the media biased?  Toward ratings, absolutely.  Against Trump?  Perhaps now, but I still remember Katy Tur and NBC showing two hours of an empty hall before Trump arrived, giving him and his views and his supporters free air time.  There were many Republican candidates, but none as ratings worthy as Trump. 

Add that to the Russian's help, and we're stuck where we are, today.

Rain, I don't think you have to worry about being trolled on my little out of the way blog. I, too, remember J Edgar Hoover and Nixon's enemies list, when the FBI was doing his dirty work.  Having met Bob Mueller I have total confidence in the report he will present, but I don't know that I would have such a strong point of view had TBG and I not spent time with him.  Being interviewed by the Director of the FBI isn't something we're likely to forget, but we remember his presence more than his title.

Are there excellent FBI agents?  I'm sure there are.  Are there honorable people who are trying to remain within the Republican Party?  Perhaps there are.  But censuring Rep. King is a very small step toward civility in governance.  When an emergency arises overnight, after two years of total control, when anything at all could have been funded, I don't think it matters which side you're on. 

We're being played. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Thoughts While Putting Away the Seasonal Decor

The sun can't make up its mind, and neither can I.

Ten years ago next weekend, my pixilated Obama T-shirt arrived just in time for his inauguration.

Today, I wonder if we've elected an agent of a foreign government to the Presidency.

Follow the money has never been more relevant than with this Presidency. Trump's inability to get American financing and the Russian Oligarchs need to launder their ill-gotten gains created a perfect storm, with Vladimir Putin holding the wind machine.  He's Russian, he's not impatient.  He's always understood Trump's bottomless ego, and of the opportunities it presented.

We're on tenterhooks, if the talking heads are to be believed.  We're Waiting for Mueller, and the conversation is like listening to Vladimir and Estragon.  We keep getting beaten, and we keep going back.  

So, I'm stuck.  Do I remember and revel in the sunshine and that once we did elect a good man to represent us well or do I stew about the fact that the buck no longer stops on the Resolute Desk?

Like the sun, I'm going back and forth.




Friday, January 11, 2019

The Issue of The Scarecrow

The kindergarten scholars did the best they could with the supplies I provided.
Even then, the scarecrows had structural issues.
Now, after suffering the depredations of an Arizona winter, they were muddy, barely upright, and seriously deflated.  For the first Garden Club of 2019, I tasked the bigger kids with their repair.

Do not take Tom's head to fill Jerry's chest cavity! is certainly one of the strangest sentences I've ever uttered. 

And yes, the two scarecrows are apparently named Tom and Jerry. I didn't even know that cartoon was still on tv and I can't keep track of which one is which and the kindergarteners were supposed to name them.  I've decided not to argue.  
Anyway, no harm no foul.  And, the thief gifted him a bulging bicep
 .... as penance? 

We created a skeleton for his standing- by-the-mandarin-orange-tree-comrade out of found scraps and re-purposed trellis pieces, and I re-pinned and un-tucked at Jimena's direction.  She was quite certain that putting the flannel shirt inside the waistband of the jeans was misguided, a fashionista's nightmare, 
and, of course, she was right.

There was much hilarity once we got Jerry (or maybe he's Tom) firmly planted. (warning: there's sound!)
 
and, as always, I left Garden Club with a smile on my face and love in my heart.

And then, typing this, I laughed.
There she was, another 9 year old girl who knew how to make the most out of an outfit.      
  
I get so much more than I give.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Filling My Soul

It was cold and gloomy and looked like it was going to rain.
The marigolds reflected my mood - frozen on the tops, solid below.
I was trying to come out of yesterday's annual heartache, and those poor marigolds gave me the opportunity to do w hat I love most - wreak havoc in the garden, surrounded by kids who want to be there, too.  There is no amount of sorrow which cannot be assuaged by the presence of dozens of small and dirt covered fingers.

 We tried to deadhead the brown blossoms, leaving their stems behind.
Some of the stems were still green, filled with fluid, resilient, and resistant to the pinching action of tiny digits.  The blossoms themselves yielded with dignity and aplomb.  They were properly odiferous, which was noted with varying degrees of disgust.  They fell apart into nothing, absolutely nothing!!!! upon any kind of examination at all. 
The occasional healthier bloom got caught up in the general destruction.
Luckily,  we were able to repurpose them. 
We weeded

and found a carrot
which we ate with our scallions
which gave us our Super Power - !Extreme Bad Breath! -
 before the whistle blew, and my gardeners had all returned to their classrooms.

My heart was still aching, but it was cushioned by the love.....
and, obviously, protected by my Super Power.

Yes, I have a group of dedicated gardeners who are addicted to scallions.
There are worse problems in the world.

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