Sunday, August 28, 2011

Listening (to snakes?)

On this beautiful late summer afternoon, I decided to take a hike around a local lake. It's about a 7 mile walk, but the trail is shady and smooth, with a few gentle hills and lots of families walking, biking, or running on it.

I was reminded, along the way, how peaceful it can be just to listen.

After approximately a mile of walking, I stopped to sit on the rocks beside a small creek flowing into the lake. As soon as I sat down, a woman approached with two dogs (both off the leash, both with the variegated-cardboard look that half-dry hair tends to produce). One was a lanky black and white mix; the other was a shorter, stubbier brown and black. Sort of a "Bert and Ernie" of dogs.

They immediately splashed into the creek in front of me. All I said was, "Looks like they've enjoyed a swim."

That phrase initiated a 20-minute conversation that covered the entire gamut:

--the draining of the lake
--therapy dogs (her smaller dog is registered and works mainly with Alzheimer's patients)
--the AKC's recent decision to permit mixed breeds to compete in obedience trials...
--which enabled her dog, now highly successful, to compete after two years of being ready but unqualified
--the judge whose Australian Shepherd her dog beat in his own breed show
--the term "sharp pencil" judges
--the animal therapy test and reasons why dogs fail it
--her dog's knee surgery for a roving kneecap
--animal insurance policies.

During the conversation, I asked maybe 3-4 questions and made some affirmative noises. She seemed eager to talk, to show pictures of her dogs, the show facilities where she had competed, and the ribbons they had won. In the meantime, her dogs ambled around us, sniffed, shook water on both of us, and let me scratch their ears.

Then we all moved on.

About mile 4, I had a somewhat shorter conversation with a small snake named Hermann Benvolio. He agreed to keep his older siblings out of the path, and I agreed to stay out of his way while he crossed the trail. We parted friends, in mutual sadness for the animosity between our kin.

It was lovely.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tremor Tuesday

Just felt this.

I'm already imagining the local news headlines...*
  • Krankies' Chill Atmosphere Unshaken by Earthquake
  • Traffic Reporters Hopeful, But Gain No New Stories from Quake
  • Social Media Surge Causes Its Own Earthquake for Time Warner Cable
  • Harold Camping Announces Imminent Relocation to Richmond Area
In all seriousness, I'm gratefully checking "experience an earthquake" off my bucket list, and I hope injuries/damages in other parts of the east coast were not too severe.

*Except that there would probably be more typos and grammatical errors.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Milton Mondays

[T]hough all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play on the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?
-John Milton, Areopagitica (1644)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Rest is Silence

One of the pitfalls of working from home is the challenge of resting. I'm not talking about unexpected fall-asleep-at-the-table-and-drool-on-your-laptop resting (not that I've ever done that) -- I'm talking about intentional, waking rest.

Although I did cheat and do some work this morning, I spent an entire afternoon resting. I read a book (Her Fearful Symmetry), wandered around the house, browsed a used book store with friends, played Frisbee, and then ate frozen yogurt and read some more. It has been delightful.

It's also been really tempting to take just a few minutes to knock out some editing or plan tomorrow's schedule. So far, I'm holding out.

Having a job that permits me to work from multiple locations and to set my own schedule is an enormous blessing. The challenge is to turn off the blinking screen, close the computer (or at least the document), and take time to rest in the silence.


What a novel concept.

I think I like it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Writing in Iron

Just finished reading J.M. Coetzee's Age of Iron. Not my favorite of his books -- the female voice took a while to sit comfortably -- but well worth reading. As usual, there are some beautiful passages in it. Here's one that stood out to me:

I tell you the story of this morning mindful that the storyteller, from her office, claims the place of right. It is through my eyes that you see; the voice that speaks in your head is mine. Through me alone do you find yourself ere on these desolate flats, smell the smoke in the air, see the bodies of the dead, hear the weeping, shiver in the rain. It is my thoughts that you think, my despair that you feel, and also the first stirrings of welcome for whatever will put an end to thought: sleep, death. To me your sympathies flow; your heart beats with mine.

Now, my child, flesh of my flesh, my best self, I ask you to draw back. I tell you this story not so that you will feel for me but so that you will learn how things are. It would be easier for you, I know, if the story came from someone else, if it were a stranger’s voice sounding in your ear. But the fact is, there is no one else. I am the only one. I am the one writing: I, I. So I ask you: attend to the writing, not to me. If lies and pleas and excuses weave among the words, listen for them. Do not pass them over, do not forgive them easily. Read all, even this adjuration, with a cold eye. (104)

I do need to take some breathers in between this heavy stuff, that's for sure!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Life in 10 seconds

Now on a binge of J.M. Coetzee, I'm reading Age of Iron after checking out eight of his books from the public library. Currently listening to: The Sunset Tree by The Mountain Goats. Working a lot. Adding to the legitimacy of my house by getting a real adult table and a table runner. Subsidizing the local Starbucks. Adding new bruises at Frisbee and dance. Trying not to kill my marigolds before autumn. You know. The works.

Monday, August 15, 2011


This is the felt shape of a human life, neither simply linear nor wholly disjunctive nor endlessly bifurcating, but rather this bouncey-castle sequence of bumpings-into and tumblings-apart.”
-Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet

I hate goodbyes.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Lure of Deliciousness

The promise of frozen custard was too much. I have succumbed to Groupon.

Use my referral link to get your own, and I get a bonus!

11 hours left on this offer.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Cryptic story of my life in ten words or less:

So many dates, and yet so few.

Otherwise known as, fact checking. Forever. And then some.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Shall We Salsa?

Jen: Eyes, why do you hate me so much?
Jen's eyes: Maybe because you made super-spicy salsa and then touched us?
Jen: Ah. Yes. I can see your point.
Jen's eyes: How ironic. We no longer can.

Jen: Thumb, why do you hate me so much?
Jen's thumb: Maybe because you cut me with a knife while de-seeding a jalapeno pepper.
Jen: Ah. Yes. I feel you.
Jen's thumb: How ironic. I no longer can.

But it's so delicious.

Monday, August 1, 2011