Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dead branches for the birds . . .

Some people love to manicure everything, including their trees. They work all spring to cut out the dead branches, and maybe they work a little too hard, because here's a secret: I've watched birds bounce up and down on dead branches. The leafless, dry branches act like a teeter-totter (the birds working with the force of the tree) or a trampoline (the birds alight and then boing down, up, down, up, before ascending).

It makes me wonder if our brand of perfectionism isn't all that perfect for everyone else in our sphere of existence.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I experience life in patterns . . .

Some writers experience life's minutiae. They say things like, "The writer in me made me learn every detail about her illness, to put names and descriptions to the experience." I don't care about the minutiae, especially when it comes to hospitals and illness. Even if I'm hospitalized for years, I won't retain its vocabulary.

* * *

The room is small where my class workshops; we usually run two sessions simultaneously, each group gathered around a separate table. Because of the tightness of the room, it's not feasible for me--without a lot of careful planning--to actually have a seat at one of the tables, so today, I stood and walked between each session.

I was surprised by the amount of "purple" shirts at the table the furthest from me. I counted four shirts, three of which were magenta and one of which was lavender.

Two of the magenta shirts were knit and had shorter sleeves. They were also worn by women with short dark brown (almost black) hair.

The third magenta shirt was a light-weight sweater with long sleeves. It's wearer, like the other magenta wearers, also had dark brown hair, but her hair--like her sleeves--was long.

The fourth "purple" shirt was also a light-weight sweater with long leaves; it's wearer, too, had long hair. But the "purple" was a paler variety--lavender--and her hair was a light blonde.

I searched the rest of the group for patterns: the three men in the group all had at least two straight lines on their shirts: lines in a striped shirt, lines separating text on a print T, lines incorporated in a graphic design.

The rest of the group wore scoop-necked, non-purple solids: black, brown, blue.

The group closest to me wore duller colors, mostly solids--there were three whites, a deep gray-green, a black, and a navy. Only the two bright blues stood out, one of which was polka-dotted. And those polka-dots tied into another group member's headband.

Part of the way through class, I looked down and realized that I was wearing a lavender shirt. If I had sat at the far table, I would have disrupted the pattern.

My lavender shirt is a woven, button-up, long-sleeved, Oxford-style shirt. It should have been a thin sweater. But even if I ignore the fabric and type of shirt, the long sleeves dictate that I should have long hair; the color dictates that I should be blonde. Instead, I have short, dark hair, dyed several shades darker than my natural color.

I don't know what the purpose of noticing such patterns is, but it's part of how I experience life.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Looking in the mirror and seeing only glass . . .

One of the problems with the first person point of view in fiction is that it's difficult for the main character to describe him/herself (e.g, I am 5' tall and have hair the color of morning dew) in a way that sounds natural to the story. Authors get creative with describing their main characters: they have their characters catch glimpses of themselves in car windows or in bathroom sink faucets (see Charles Baxter's "Snow"). Sometimes they have other characters reveal what the main character looks like through dialogue.

One of the strengths of first person is that it showcases the voice and thoughts of the main character. This, however, can turn into a pitfall if too many of the main character's thoughts are revealed or if the character whines too long or cries too much or is without hope or is overly biased or annoying.

I think for the last couple of days, I have been living my life too much in the annoying-mode of first person. I think that maybe, I should look in the mirror and see only glass, and maybe the silver foil that is behind, but not me. I've had too much of me.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I don't understand the sky . . .

I don't understand the sky, but I've always wanted to fly like Icarus before he got too close to the sun or soar like King Arthur, transformed into a hawk at Merlin's hand, or float without the constraints of gravity or climb through the air like a kite.

Last night I stayed up too late. I had a lot on my mind, and I didn't want to sleep. But the late hour was worth it, because right before I went to bed, I had an epiphany: We are all trying to climb through the sky. We move horizontally, sure, but what we're really trying to do is ascend vertically. Sometimes our navigation doesn't go so smoothly. We flap our wings and eventually grow weary. In these moments, we want to descend, to land somewhere short of what we hoped we might achieve. But then, there are these experiences--life's thermal columns--that lift us, allow us to glide and rest our wings, and in the process discover (or rediscover) what makes life so wonderful.

Life's thermal columns: kind and unexpected words; an insight or increased understanding; a friendship; a night out; an answer to a prayer; a beautiful, sunny day; a discovery; a delicious meal; a flower; a garden; a nice walk; a good conversation; finding the direction you want to take; being understood, just a little bit, by someone.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

What does this have to do with the price of tea . . .

Disclaimer: This isn't going to be an eloquent Blog, like my good friend Betty's. This is just going to be random thoughts that I have, and it's going to be mostly unrevised. It might not even make sense philosophically or on a sentence level.

What does this have to do with the price of tea . . .

In grad school, I hung out with a guy who wouldn't buy a CD if the price of the album exceeded the number of songs times $1.00. He would be especially persuaded by an album that had 15 songs on it and only cost $11.00. I remember asking him if it mattered how long the songs were (or of what quality). I don't remember his answer.

I'm not so concerned about the price of music. As far as I'm concerned, paying $.99 + tax on iTunes for a song is a good deal. (I guess grad school guy would too.) If I listen to a five minute song twelve times over the years, that's pretty cheap entertainment--it's about a dollar for an hour of enjoyment.

It's clothing that bothers me. What if I buy a skirt for sixty dollars, and I wear it six times? That's ten dollars each time I wear it. But that's only a portion of the outfit. What if the shirt cost $40 and I wear it only 4 times before I decide that it doesn't fit right? Add to that shoes, socks, underwear, a tank top or cami, and any accessories (for me, this is the cheapest part; I usually have no accessories), and getting dressed might cost as much as renting a car. If you happen to be a fancy dresser, your cost might equal booking a nice hotel room for a great vacation.

I don't really have a problem with spending money on clothes. I think that we get what we pay for, so it might be better to buy the $110 skirt instead of the $30 one (of course, that's not true all of the time either). Clothes are important. Clothes are necessary. And it's good to want to look our best.

I'm not really saying that we should wear our clothes 100 times each to make our total outfit cost for the day as low as possible. I just think it's interesting how much something costs me each time I wear it. It's sort of like my bus pass. For a partial year pass, I paid $45.00. I've used the pass on two separate days, for a total of 4 bus rides. That means each bus journey cost me $11.25, and I guarantee you that NO bus ride is worth that much money. If I ride the bus 42 more times, then my bus rides will only end up costing me $1.00. But, do I want to ride the bus 42 more times?

I recently downloaded a song from iTunes. It's 3:58 long, and to date, I've listened to it 11 times. This means I've already enjoyed almost 45 minutes of music for only $.99 + tax. I think that's money well spent.

Entry Outtakes:

If you add it all up, getting dressed might cost as much as renting a car--if you're a moderate dresser--or a hotel room--if you're a fancy dresser.

This is a better sentence (although the punctuation may be off) than what appears above, but it had to be sacrificed for the greater good of the paragraph.