Things of Awe

There is not enough giddy joy and absurdity in the world.

Well, there probably is, but it takes special eyes to see it. Thalia and I started this Club with the idea of training ourselves to look for that angle of wonder and adventure, but somewhere along the way it seems to have gotten slightly lost.

So, as a round-about way of getting back, I present . . . . AWESOMENESS!

Here are a few of the awesome things that I have seen or observed, online or in real life, in the past few weeks.

 

  • Last week I set my requirements for a personal library. I forgot to mention a slide.

Can you slide AND read a book?

 

  • Storm clouds are exhilarating. There is nothing like racing a thunders storm across the desert towards mountains.

 

StormyRoadCollage

 

  • Clouds are really strange and fascinating.

 

CloudsCollage

 

  • So are windmills.

WindmillCollage

 

  •  Armadillos.

IMG_20130706_115427

  • Grocery store cashiers can be pretty darling. They might be the new bar tenders psychologists, in a really short-and-sweet way. Have you ever found yourself moaning about something in brief to the cashier, and he or she moans with you and then encourages with a simple “You’ll be all right, sweetie!” as they hand you your bags and send you out the door? Oddly, I never see that same cashier again . . .

 

  • Carnivals. The kind that set up in grassy, abandoned lots, and that moms never let us go to when we are little. The kind that sways a bit in the breeze. They are amazing. I kicked my feet like a three-year old and was intensely glad that none of my students could see me.

CarnivalCollage

 

  • “Instagram”. I just discovered it, and the level of pretension inherent amuses me to no end.

 

 

  • Alcoholic juicy-juice! Well, alcohol in a little box with a straw like juicy-juice. This is apparently common in Korea, and it is called “boxed sujo”. Why have I never been to this magical country?

 

  • Star Wars, as it might have been written by Shakespeare. This is brought to us by the same people who did “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”, so I reserve judgement. But the theory is the personification of awesomeness. As much as a theory can be a personification. Be quiet and go read the excerpt!

 

 

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Literary Liturgical Litany

Having been inspired by Thalia’s Blog Birthday post, I put together this litany for writers.  Its format follows the Great Litany of the Episcopal Church.  No disrespect is intended; rather, I hope that we all might seek the aid of the Author of Life as we set out to write.

O God the Father, whose name precedes all discussion of existence; who spoke all things that are into being; who orders the cosmos with a word,
Have mercy upon us.

O God the Son, the Word made flesh who dwelt among us; the author and perfecter of our faith; whose words will never pass away,
Have mercy upon us.

O God the Holy Spirit, who spoke by the prophets; who sunders speech and melds it anew into coherence; who intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express,
Have mercy upon us.

O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, one God, who has given the scriptures by inspiration for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness,
Have mercy upon us.

Remember not, Lord Christ, our first drafts, nor our long-disposed outlines; neither reward us according to our wordcraft.  Spare us, good Lord, spare thy creatures, for whom thou hast poured out the treasure of thy precious blood: the Word become flesh, the myth become fact, the sinless become sin for our sake.  By thy mercy preserve us, for ever.
Spare us, good Lord.

From all blindness of heart; from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice; and from all want of charity,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From all false doctrine, heresy, and schism; from hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word and commandment,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From tepidity of convictions and weakness of thought, reason, and diction,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From vacuity of substance and fatuous compositions,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From misuse of our time and distractions in our research; from antipathy for labor and the soul-weight of sloth,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From needless verbiage which obscures truth and sense,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From incorrect data, false testimony, skewed perspectives, incomplete citations, and misleading rhetoric,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From disorganized ideas; from overused tropes and clichéd plots; from plot holes and inconsistencies,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From paper-destroying fire and flood; from battery failure, power outages, viruses, frozen screens, unsaved documents, and all other complications,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From writer’s cramp and carpal tunnel syndrome; from smudged ink; from an illegible hand,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From poor grammar and careless editing; from conflation of similar terms and confusion of homophones; from the run-on sentence and typo,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From the evils of comma abuse, apostrophe neglect, and subject-verb disagreement,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From confusion of tense, voice, and mood,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From all kinds of aphasia and dullness of expression,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From unconstructive, vicious reviews; from careless readership,
Good Lord, deliver us.

From fear of honest writing and the perils of self-doubt,
Good Lord, deliver us.

In all instances of writer’s block; in all time of springing words; in the hour of editing, and in the day of publishing,
Good Lord, deliver us.

We writers do beseech thee to hear us, O Lord God; and that it may please thee to govern our hearts to glorify you in our writing,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to illumine our minds as we put words to the page,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to breathe into our spirits your life-giving word, and sustain us when fainting,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to inspire us, in our several callings, to do the work which thou givest us to do with singleness of heart as thy servants, and for the common good,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to grant that, in the fellowship of Francis de Sales and all the saints, we may attain to thy heavenly kingdom,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us.
Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Grant us thy peace.

O Christ, hear us.
O Christ, hear us.

Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

Let us pray.

We humbly beseech thee, O Father, mercifully to look upon our infirmities; and, for the glory of your Name, turn from us all those evils that we most justly have deserved; and grant that in all our troubles we may put our whole trust and confidence in thy mercy, and evermore serve thee in holiness and pureness of living, to thy honor and glory; through our only Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all evermore.
Amen.

The Whims of the Ice God

In darkness the cubes are born.  Whatever droplets stay still long enough for their heat to drain away waken to the life of a cube in the freezer.  There they remain, chilling with 11 other twins, quietly carrying on until each meets the Grim Melter: no black robes here, but a bright unforgiving light, shining a cube into dissolution.

It is the only existence the cubes know, not being given to movement.  They hear similar tales from the other objects in this curious world.  These neighbors are…different.  Not, any broad-minded cube would hasten to say, that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s hard to ignore how different the cubes are from frozen peas or frozen pork roasts or frozen chunks of unidentifiable mash (hastily shoved into a Tupperware container, or subjected to the indignity of a plastic bag: kept from a vague desire for thrift, without creativity or determination enough to do anything but, one day, dispose of it).  The cubes are purer.  They have been created to melt, which allows them far fewer existential crises than, say, the frozen pound of bacon stuffed rudely between Lean Cuisine boxes.

(Why am I here? it wonders, a lament which might stem from its having once been part of a perfectly content pig.  Unless it wonders why it isn’t in the refrigerator to be cooked sooner rather than later…or unless the Lean Cuisine boxes have hissed that it cannot provide dietary fiber, iron, and potassium without saturated fats, as they do)

No, the cubes remain a touch aloof, a merry enough band, listening to the wisdom of the freezer pack.  He is a venerable being who, despite having melted a thousand times, always freezes again.  This endless, eager reincarnation of his both awes and unnerves them, for they are all destined to melt, to thaw and resolve into dew.  There is a whispered legend, though, that any cube who melts will, one day, join the great cycle of water and freeze on a later day: not in cube form, but in whatever shape suits the container.  Perhaps a cube, perhaps a sphere, perhaps within the cylinder of a pipe, perhaps a great pointy icicle (icicle!  it stretches the bounds of belief, to be frozen in such a shape without any visible object enforcing it).

The cubes who return to the freezer after some of their tray are taken bring back tales of glory and honor: cooling the fevered brow, half a tray making a beautifully shaken cocktail, rendering boiling tea immediately drinkable, speeding the setting of Jell-O.  The Great Melter takes them all in a thousand different ways.

But there is always a great, unspoken fear among the cubes.  They are born in darkness and thaw under the light, no matter what, but it is the height of shame to disintegrate without their melting doing some service.  And yet this is the bedrock of their creed: that some cubes are frozen only to fall from the tray to the floor, their frigidity doomed to be spent without gain.

These are the sacrifices.

These are the cubes which satiate the clutching demands and the fiery wrath of their deity.

These are under a great doom, for they satisfy the whims of the ice god!

My November Guest

My November Guest

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,

Thinks these dark days of autumn rain

Are beautiful as days can be;

She loves the bare, the withered tree;

She walked the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.

She talks and I am fain to list:

She’s glad the birds are gone away,

She’s glad her simple worsted gray

Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,

The faded earth, the heavy sky,

The beauties she so truly sees,

She thinks I have no eye for these,

And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know

The love of bare November days

Before the coming of the snow,

But it were vain to tell her so,

And they are better for her praise.

~ Robert Frost

I love this poem, although at the moment it is making me very homesick.

I love the descriptions of bare November days. I love the interplay between the speaker and his Sorrow.

And mostly, I love the contentedness of Sorrow.

Sorrow is a beautiful, tempering, balancing thing. Not something to be avoided, but something that can grant wisdom. Like Tolkien’s Nienna, Frost’s sorrow is peaceful, beautiful, and far-seeing.

And November is her proper month. The month where she is at rest. Where she can visit, and ease with pleasant melancholy the hurly-burly of the rest of the year.

I revel in the dark, stark days of late Autumn: gentle quiet reigns, and is for once harmonious with the atmosphere and season.

This year, I am dismayed with how non-Autumny it is. I am enduring bright, sunny days with 70 and 80 degree weather.

Which most people do consider to be perfect. I know that I am just complaining and I need to count my blessings and choose to be happy, et cetera.

But . . . I hunger for the beauty of November. That still center of the year, with faded earth and heavy sky, when Sorrow is serene.

Swag

I try not to blog about the stupidity that passes for entertainment in our culture.

Not out of any desire to be virtuous or good, mind you. Just out of a darkly perverse refusal to grant the stupidity any more attention.

I do same thing with anything that is really, really, REALLY popular. Things that are so popular that they could not possibly need or want my attention anyway.

So I virtually ignore them.

(Or, more exactly, I ignore them virtually.)

However, this does not prevent me from verbally ranting to my friends about such things.

And one of my pet peeves is . . . . .  song lyrics!

Bad song lyrics.

Annoying lyrics.

Illogical lyrics.

Lyrics that are founded upon corrupt philosophical paradigms.

Lyrics that are so dumb no musical brilliance can save them.

Earlier this year I was certain that the lyrics to a Certain Overplayed Song were the Worst Lyric in the Universe.

They went something like this:

I’d catch a grenade for YAH.
Throw my hand on a blade for YAH.
I’d jump in front of a train for YAH.
You know I’d do anything for YAH
I would go through all this pain
Take a bullet straight through my brain
Yes, I would die for you, baby
But you won’t do the same.

Oooookay.

Leaving aside the fact that the music had a rang of about three notes, the lyrics are just fundamentally UNSOUND!

Butthen, someone introduced me to Justine Bieber’s latest hit, “Boyfriend”.

. . . I . . . I . . .  um . . .  no words.

No words can ever describe the idiocy of this . . . thing.

It is not a song.

It a collection of words and noted all jumbled together.

I would accuse the kid of da-da-isms in both lyrical and musical attempts.

But that that would be crediting him too much intelligence.

You should not ever torture yourself with the song.

 

So imagine my horror when I learned that my students, at the tender age of 10, adore Bieber.

On second though, don’t inflict that on yourself.

 

But then, Liam Neeson did  dramatic reading of the . . . thing.

I giggle.

Thankfully, the “music” is not included. And even Neeson’s Voice o’ Velvet cannot salvage the nonsense.

But it is funny.

Have a gander, and let me know what you think of the “lyrics” being fed our youth.

 

A State of Their Own

In theory, I have always supported anti-federalism.

I like states to have their own power and character, if only to give to the Big Federalist government some opposition.

However, California is taking their “power” to a whole new level.

(Caveat: a great many of my friends are from California, so I am willing to accept the state for having fostered them.)

California seems to think that it is its own country. And really, at times it seems like its own country.

So for the uninitiated, I have prepared the . . .

 

Guide to Californian Idiosyncracies!

 

  • California’s Personal Customs Check Point. Just inside the border, all cars are stopped and inspected for “foreign” plants and animals. Seriously. I am pretty sure that plants or animals from Arizona are not going to endanger your precious ecosystem, California. But if you are going to stop me and ask about that, at least have the gumption to follow it up! The “inspection” was a cursory glance into the backseat. For all you know, I could have been smuggling throngs of hedgehogs in my trunk!

(Side Note: What is the name for group of hedgehogs? Up for nomination are: Urchin, Phalanx, Bevy, Zeugma, Splendor, and Foxtrot. What thinkest thou?)

 

  • The DMV will only take appointments. A supposedly more efficient system. But, lest we forget that all DMV are soulless, monster-breeding voids, this also means that appointments can only be made 2 weeks in advance, and . . .

 

  • The DMV is not open on Saturdays. Or before 9am on weekdays. Or after 4pm. Is the efficiency in place because all the people with jobs never make it in?

 

  • The DMV cannot make licenses and IDs in-house. Everything is sent to Sacramento and then IDs are mailed out within 6 weeks.  I am sorry, but this is just absurd. I know of no other state in which this is done. And what it means for me personally, is that I must wait another 6 weeks before I can get my life in order.

 

  • Liquor Stores. The best place to get liquor is . . . . (drum-roll please!) . . . WALMART! Yes, grocery stores can carry hard drink in California. Which is awesome, and I have never seen it before. However, there is not much selection, so I went to a liquor store looking for a finer quality of scotch. Um . . . don’t go into liquor stores here. The several that I tried appear to sell liquor on the side and do a main business in the purveying of sketchy magazines. I will stick with Walmart.

 

  • The butter is in a different shape. I don’t know why, but this bothers me. What is the point of making butter come in different type of cubed rectangle than the one used by half of the known world? Even the butter in Scotland doesn’t differ!

Lest you think I am just being irrational, let me show you.

This is a common butter division. Notice the long sticks, the quite cubic package.

See? Do we all agree that this how normal butter is packaged?

Now, this is how California does its butter.

Squat sticks, flat package.

It is the same exact amount of the same exact butter.

But I find it aesthetically irritating.

If you must make your butter different, couldn’t you do something actually interesting with it? Like, make all butter be molded into an ocean wave. With a little surfer. Then you would be cool and using your power for good!

In conclusion, California, you have nice beaches.  And the hills are pretty.

The End.

Dear Gerontion

Dear Gerontion

Dear heart, young man in your prime,

Your heart in brass and paper you bind,

Where heroes and loves of glorious time

Cavort on the page and dance in the mind;

Living safely within in their paper confines,

And under their covers, unalterable, keep.

And loves for the art and grammar of signs

Enthrall your sense, yet you still breathe

Dry air in a dry room, because you pine

For permanence. I, unseen, already dread

The day you awake and suddenly find

That those whom you chose were already dead.

Then, darling, drought in heart and in brain,

Remember my name as you wait for the rain.

Just as if . . .

 
 
 

A few years ago I went to visit Thalia at her university. In the course of my stay, she told me stories of the local defunct insane asylum. Or, as it used to be called, the sanitarium.

This Sanitarium was known for its fairly humane treatment of patients. And also for its self-sufficiency, until the government took over and they quite suddenly had no money and had to shut down.

This place features intriguing architecture. From afar, it appear blandly symmetrical. But up close, it is anything but. The window casings are different for each floor. The two turrets of the main office are similar, but not alike.

It is terrifying.

And then there is the graveyard.

The insane were buried on the property, unless their family could afford to bury them elsewhere. There is the hill of the first cemetery, with rows of little, numbered rocks marking each grave. Most of the numbers are worn off, but careful records still identify each person. Except for in one upper corner of the field, where the stones have not only had the numbers worn off, but they are set in a circle.

The entire place is eerie.

Not necessarily with ghosts, but with the weight of confronting humanity, and all that humanity means. Which is what encounters with insanity does: forces  upon us the ideas of what it means to be human.

Last night a lecturer read Allen Tate’s “Ode to the Confederate Dead” aloud, and the imagery brought the Cemetery of the Ridges suddenly to my mind.

And I had to write about it.

I just started scribbling sentences, in between taking notes. Not all of it made sense as I went, I wanted to get the idea-pictures down.

I had known – I think – that this graveyard did not start at the number one. (The first cemetery is missing.) I thought it began somewhere in the hundreds. But “hundred” does not fit well into the flow of a line.

So I made up a number.

The first one that came into my mind.

Sixty-four.

It sounds good and has the right syllables.

When I got home, I looked up the cemetery, to see if this numbering thing was a myth.

It is real. The first graves are lost to time and legend.

This graveyard starts at the number sixty-four. Exactly.

 

 

The poem above is, with a few minor word changes, exactly what I wrote during class.

I revised it slightly on my return home, trying to make spookiness even more present.

 

 

In the Graveyard at The Ridges Insane Asylum

They do not start at one. That one has been lost.
So now they begin in the center of their count:
Sixty-four, sixty-five, sixty-six, white stones on a hill.
Row on row from the crest slope down
To the river, wending, whispering,
With tall, stark pines on one side
And short, flat markers on the other.
We were taught not to step where they lie,
The buried ones, just as if there were not
Six feet of sod between us. But some markers
Stand in a perfect circle, and we are unsure
Which way the insane lay, facing outwards or in.
So we stop, one body length from the edge,
And wondering, gape at the sacred ring of Dead.