Thursday, July 20, 2017

What if we already have enough of everything?

Most of my life, America has been a culture of acquisition. We don't have the homogeneity of some cultures whose millennia of a shared past create a strong bond in tradition or whose national systems of education teach everyone the same things so that there's a bond of knowledge. We are a country of different, shifting groups and ideas glued together by geography and bureaucracy. Instead of a reliance on the old to understand each other and how we are, we focus far more on the new and what we have to relate us to each other.

Shopping is one of our biggest pastimes and in order to keep that endlessness going, we're encouraged to focus on what we don't have. This makes us restless and bored rather than satisfied and contented. And for many of us, that's at the heart of the stress we feel.

It occurred to me recently that I could step out of that cycle. That I could take on believing and acting as if I have enough of everything already, right now, in this moment and in this next moment and in the next. Enough stuff, enough money, enough time, enough energy. What might happen to me? What might happen to you?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The courage to keep singing

The conference hotel
by the Bay
had a lovely walkway
along the water

One morning 
I followed it to the end
not far from the airport's runway

On a signpost sat a tiny bird
singing his heart out
in the cool mist of early day

I stood and listened
to his courage, his spirit,
as every 45 seconds
a jumbo jet took off
and drowned him out

He went on singing
and I saw in his fragile self
and heroic determination
all of us who want to save the planet
and who go on singing for survival
in spite of the deafening sounds
of corporate greed

Monday, July 10, 2017

Breaking the work first/play later habit

I'm on a quest this year to create a sustainable art practice that fits my life. Because I'm slowly reducing the number of paid projects I'm willing to take on, I'm freeing up more time that should make an art practice easier to sustain. But I'm continually bumping up against another very long-term practice that's proving hard to shift: getting all my work done before I can play.

Between the Protestant work ethic I grew up and parents who praised tangible, practical productivity, I find it hard to go into the studio when I've got editing deadlines or other work commitments. Even if I can get myself in there physically, I feel the work looming over me. No problem, you may be saying to yourself, just paint afterwards.

But I'm blessed with work that requires concentration and creativity and after some or many hours of doing that, I don't have the bandwidth, as we say, to get creative in the studio. So doing it first is my best option.

I know that my brain can be rewired. I've done it with other long entrenched habits and I can do it with this. But I guess I just need to whine about it first.  

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

An unexpected consequence of abstinence

I've always been tender-hearted, a sensitive, as we are sometimes called. That may be one reason I drank for so long and then numbed with sugar for more decades after I got sober. The world has a lot of awfulness in it and some of it pains me a great deal.

Last week, workmen spent a day working on two ancient and enormous deciduous trees across the street from me. They form an integral part of my skyline and our neighborhood. I spent the day in grief and terror that they were going to be killed (the old house had recently been sold to a developer) and anger that greed trumps oxygen-producing, shade-cooling beauty and grandeur. My impotence to save them was wrenching.

As it turned out, the trees are still standing akthough minus about 25 feet of lower limbs. I am relieved but cautious. Maybe that is all that will happen to them. Maybe not. I realized in my emotional exhaustion at the end of that day, that abstinence from anesthetic sharpens my feelings. It sharpens my joy and pleasure for sure, and it sharpens the heartbreak. As long as that was an intellectual knowing, I was okay with it. Feeling the reality is something else.

Friday, June 30, 2017

An old woman from another century

An old woman from another century
crossed Sandy Boulevard
as I waited for the light
black skirt falling below her knees
black stockings, black shawl
black kerchief too big for her head
pocketbook over one arm
shopping bag over the other
she looked plucked
from Corsica or Sicily

The age showed in her walk
the stride of youth long gone
as it is in me too
although I still pretend

There are other old women on foot
in my neighborhood
frequent enough to look familiar
heavyset Russians
in mismatched clothes
from the 70s
pulling little carts behind them
homeless, toothless women
pushing a big cart in front of them

But this little crow of a woman
looks collaged onto Sandy
with its cannabis billboards
and Subaru traffic

The light stays red
and I wonder what language she speaks
and what memories lie
in that heart and body
I wonder too if she will buy
any of the same things
I am on my way to buy

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Nutrition and violence

Not long after I stopped drinking, I also gave up caffeinated coffee and sodas. When I checked into the treatment center, I was given a massive dose of B vitamins to help repair my frazzled nervous system. Alcohol and caffeine are terrible for the nerves; they strip the protective sheath off the nerves themselves. Having raw nerves is a literal expression.

When my nerves were raw, I was incredibly irritable. The slightest frustration would set me off. I also had high blood pressure. It isn't the alcohol that causes the blood pressure problem; it's the sugars in the alcohol. Combine high blood pressure with raw nerves and you've got a walking emotional time bomb.

When I shifted my diet exclusively to protein, veggies, and fruit, my mood changed drastically and I became unrelentingly cheerful and relaxed and peaceful. 

So what does this have to do with violence? If we consider that a huge number of the people in our culture eat diets of alcohol, caffeine, refined sugars, refined flour (which is a form of sugar), and processed foods with chemicals that tax the liver, is it any wonder that violence is epidemic? Those in prison eat these foods because we serve it to them. Our poor eat these foods because it's what they know and what they can afford. Our kids eat them. And we seldom see the connection. I've been wondering what the Max train stabber eats and drinks when he's on his own. I've been wondering if the diet of White supremacists contributes to their anger and violence. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

An ode to the demons of the Internet

are my nemesis.

I need the machines
in my life to work
and when they don't
my powerlessness to fix
or even understand
confronts me
with a universe
that is closed to me.

The mysteries of God
of the Big Bang
of the human heart
are as nothing
compared with
a persistent request
to enter a different password
when I know I just
put in the right one.