Archive for May, 2012


May 31, 2012

I think it’s a combination of ideas in One Fish, Two Fish and McElligot’s Pool (both of which are Dr. Seuss books), the idea of casting your line out there and actually bringing home some odd creature.  My high school Latin teacher was telling me about how his wife had caught a really big fish, bigger than she is, when they were out fishing somewhere to the south.  She let hers go.  What if it looks at you with great big eyes and asks to be taken home and put up in the back spare bedroom?  What if it won’t take no for an answer?  It’s probably, then, a baby whatever-it-is, not The Devil.


Vines and hybrids

May 31, 2012

I know I’ve mentioned how I have a couple of plants that were hybrids on which the fancy specimen part died back and the root stock grew out — a Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick and a Pink Dawn Rose.  Then I’ve got this vine issue I mentioned in my previous post.

Host and guest is the theme, it seems to me.  In hybrids we encourage the relationship, even preferring the guest at the expense of the host plant.  With vines, especially when they become too exuberant, we see a negative parasitic relationship and see the host as victimized, perhaps.

Maybe every plant should have its own space, including roots — that would avoid finding a balance between the needs of the intermingled plants.

Somebody brought up to me a number of years ago the issue of “roots.”  Not genealogy but this kind, plant roots.  For him they were mysterious and somehow threatening — like for me the way the tops of the trees were when my mother read us that Robert Louis Stevenson poem “Windy Nights”.

I sometimes wonder whether the real lesson here is overcoming that fear of roots (or vines) and seeing that it’s all a matter of balance, that neither host nor guest need be deemed harmful if everyone’s needs are being met and balance is achieved that keeps the system sustainable; that’s it’s balance that is the real issue, not hidden roots, climbing parasites, or even intermingling through a lack of boundaries.


May 30, 2012

One of the themes of my recent visits to my parents is pruning vines out of trees, bushes, and household structures.  This last visit was ivy out of a lilac bush and the wisteria off the garden hose and downspout.  The previous visit was two vines, one grape, out of a tree.

I’ve got a couple of vines in the front of the house on the far side of the garage beneath a tree that I’m not sure about, in terms of what they are, and I’ve got what some people call bittersweet in the side hedge.  Then there’s the ivy in the compost heap, which I think is about to “flash over” like a fire and cover the entire thing if I don’t get at it.

Yesterday I came across a woman pruning vines out of the bushes and trees along the path around the reservoir.  She tried to explain she does it so her dog will root around near her (and the dog was digging very industriously below us down the bank towards the water).  Anyway, we got to talking about vines and I mentioned a place where we had vacationed a couple of times that was sort of creepy with too many vines in the trees; the interior of the island was not much used (I think because of ticks and Lyme disease), so the woods were sort of decaying and being taken over by whatever was hardiest (even the parts along the beach had few, and only very modest, houses, there were no restaurants, barely places to buy food, no public bathrooms).  I wondered at the time whether many forests died from being choked off by vines, because that’s where this one seemed to be heading.

It turns out she had vacationed there, too, and we were quite surprised someone else had ended up there whom we then met — seemed like a low probability event.  Except for the vine issue — maybe our respective affinities for vines is what steered us along similar paths.

Red poppies, purple irises

May 30, 2012

They’re finally out.  I think they usually blossom much earlier in the season, well before the roses and mock orange, but this year the roses and mock orange came first.  But they are out together, and I know that that part is the way it usually happens, because I used to put a few together in a pitcher of water in the spring for the color combination and for the lemony scent of the irises.

Home studies and myths

May 28, 2012

I made mention of home studies in a comment I wrote last night to Bill Keller’s piece on how Supreme Court Justice Kennedy might handle a same-sex marriage case.

I don’t object at all to home studies in the adoption context.  Where I think the animus behind the first half of my comment came from was actually the talk I went to in April by Martin Guggenheim, a law professor at NYU.  (I mentioned it here and here.)  He made the point that we Americans claim we as a society love and care about children generally, but that we don’t (if you look at our behavior, for instance), that it’s just a myth we put out there — we may care about our own and some other people’s children but we don’t generally care about everybody’s children, especially the children of people we deem different from ourselves — “those people’s children,” is the way I think he put it.  Hearing that made a lot of facts I have had trouble piecing together fall into place.  I think Prof. Guggenheim came to his conclusion as the result of his professional work in the field, so I was less worried I was just hearing a distortion resulting from personal issues.

I guess what I was wishing in the context of Bill Keller’s column was that he, too, would not allow people to take cover behind empty platitudes about concern over children’s welfare.

Unuseful presents

May 28, 2012

The first time around, this year, I ended up selecting a book for my Dad for Father’s Day that he once checked out of the library, so I found him another instead (at least it confirmed I know his interests).

Some gifts are less easily rearranged.  I remember what happened when a favorite aunt gave my sister a pair of gloves she already owned.  Or it can be like preparing a meal for a guest without having sufficiently understood dietary constraints.

Now suppose we have a warrior king with an excessively strong sense of his own value.  Suppose in addition to being somewhat of what we would call a narcissist he also takes things more literally than most, kind of like someone I think nowadays might be labeled “on the spectrum” or an “Aspie.”  (I suspect these conditions may have a high co-morbidity, and both seem to involve limited capacity for empathy, at least of some sort.)

This king is young, he meets an older leader of a subordinate clan.  The king wants tribute.  The elder talks about giving him the most precious gift on earth, himself reborn.

This, of course, to the king is a son, an extension of himself.  The elder means to give him his daughter who is a “mirror,” who can lead (most) people towards self-awareness and eventually spiritual rebirth.

The king says, “Send her to me.”  It’s a long trip.  After many years and no surviving sons, the king is angry, demands a replacement, keeps both women as wives and abuses them.  (He had promised to send back the first, but it’s a long trip, and when he didn’t, the subordinate leader didn’t try to retrieve her.)

But here’s why this story never got properly resolved over many iterations: the young king had the spiritual equivalent to a dietary constraint, he couldn’t make use of mirroring.  Eventually someone figured out that the best way to resolve this story, however it got started, was to remove the grudge on which the king-character was stuck — to give him that son he insisted he was promised (of course, with someone else, not a mirror, not someone who could lead him to his spiritual rebirth) and to achieve the spiritual rebirth component through someone else.  That role no one wanted — it was like Hercules cleaning those Augean Stables and without a prize on the physical plane at the end of it, only (!) enlightenment and detachment.  For example, that person had to experience the king’s own disappointment, frustration, and anger on her way to her spiritual rebirth and then re-compose herself, mirror his behavior so the cords would be cut, and walk away with charitable love for him in her heart.  She also had to experience what it’s like to be on the receiving end of his previous behavior towards others, as if she were paying off his debts.

I don’t know what he makes of it.  I suspect there’s hurt involved.  But he finally has the son he thought he was promised, only one wife, and his debts paid.  She can forgive whatever he might be seen from some perspectives as owing her.  Maybe he pays it, maybe he doesn’t, maybe only part.  She has to find her own way of accepting whatever he does do as the best he can do and to find another source for the part she can’t continue without.  And move on.


A Japanese girl long ago

May 27, 2012

A Japanese girl very long ago drank from a public offering bowl, I heard the story told.  The bowl was meant for something else, her tisane cracked the vessel, and its contents, meant to be spread over the world at large, fractured her mind.  It was all too much for everybody, girl, bowl, world.

But steadily the dust settled, the pieces were collected, the whole was reassembled but for a piece large enough to make sure the same event would not recur.  In the place of that part the heavens substituted some neutral substance, poured it in from above, but that substance, so unadulterated from its source, was difficult to hold, even for the moment while it passed through, even for the most adept conduits.

We each took a turn, and eventually enough was added to complete the whole, but of a different cast.

Eventually, even later, the story came to be told not as one of disaster and repair, but as one about how God (the divine) shared himself with this world, how the divine interpenetrates within us.

Richard Shindell

May 27, 2012

I found myself listening to a lot of Richard Shindell yesterday, including this one.  I even checked out his website to see if there was something new going on with him, maybe tour dates or a new album or a post.  I considered the possibility, since he has had some guitars of his for sale a short walk from where I live, that maybe he was in my neighborhood tending to that.

This morning I found in my inbox an email from the elves at telling me that Richard Shindell released a new album on May 24, 2012.  It seems to be a re-release of an old album, on demand or something.  I have a copy, maybe even a used one in the car, too, of that album.  So I don’t need it.  Shindell does have another old album that I don’t have that was only available as a download when I was looking to buy it a couple of years ago, and I asked his distributor then whether there was any chance that one would be re-issued.  They said they’d pass along the message.  I’m going to guess there were other people, and more of them, who were asking for “Somewhere Near Paterson” (the one that has been re-released).

I don’t know how much I like hearing things the way I do.  It can be confusing.  I used to think of it more in terms of the individuals involved, but now, as this episode implies to me, it seems to me to be more about information and energy — like a weather forecaster saying the radar shows a disturbance in the upper layers of the atmosphere but we don’t know what kind of precipitation we’ll be getting from it.

Sometimes the information I hear seems to be old, too — like an email that got held up somewhere and comes through belatedly.  And I’ve learned that even with people I know personally, what I think I am hearing from them can have little to do with what my direct physical interaction is about — I can even hear it upside down and backwards, similar to the way I can be thinking, “Wow, no traffic on the road today,” round the bend, and be in a back-up for miles.

Since I know I’m supposed to figure out what to do through inner listening, getting heads-ups in this way, accurate or not, shouldn’t really matter.  They matter to the extent I get distracted by them, react to them, coat them with my own wishes and fears.

I’m glad Richard Shindell is re-releasing an album, whichever one it is.  I do like “Somewhere Near Paterson” — it’s got “Transit” on it, and “Wisteria,” and a cover of “My Love Will Follow You” that gives me a richer sense of a story behind it than the original.  And maybe this activity by Shindell will turn out to facilitate the release of an altogether new album by him in the not-too-distant future.

Corrective note (June 8, 2012):  I stand by my point that Richard Shindell’s cover of “My Love Will Follow You” gives me a very rich sense of a story behind it, but it came to my attention today that I was comparing it to another cover of it, not to a version by its writers, who turn out to be Buddy and Julie Miller;  I had mistakenly thought its author was Dierks Bentley.  In fact I have never heard a version by Buddy and Julie Miller, but would like to.

The same thing

May 26, 2012

I had a friend in college who shared with me that you could use hand cream on your lips, that the emollients were the same and what your skin would tolerate your lips would too.  I don’t know whether that all is true — my friend knew more about that sort of thing than I and I never bothered confirming or refuting it — but I like the concept (and I use hand cream on my face, including my lips, and if the hand cream is any good, it seems to work just fine).

I was thinking today as I was mowing the lawn, and having to do the whole thing myself because Jordan had shut down, that acceptance and willingness are really the same thing — getting myself out of the way.  Like the same emollients in lip balm and hand cream, I was thinking:  the thing’s the same, just channeled into a different format.  Or, one could say, the thing’s the same in essence, just apprehended from a different perspective or through a different approach.

Maybe I was also thinking about beauty products while I was mowing because the scent of that mock orange was stupendous.

Computers sharing

May 25, 2012

Tony came by yesterday with my new* computer, which is really my old computer (it includes a clone of its hard drive) with greater capacity, plus another computer that runs Windows 7.  He then put the hard drive from my very old computer on the third floor into my less old computer that was replaced by the new computer, and he installed the less old computer up there (and took away the very old computer and an ancient monitor).

He arranged a way for me to import files from one system on my new computer to the other — from the Windows XP side to the Windows 7 side, and vice versa.  He networked the computers on the different floors and he set up things up so the printers can be shared (all this for $265, and we had a lengthy conversation about politics, competition over resources, exploiting fears over such competition, and the pursuit and maintenance of power).

Of course, I see a metaphor in all this networking and sharing between machines that are in some ways separate and in some ways merged.  In fact, my favorite part was when Tony showed me how, when there are different versions of what started out as the same file on multiple machines, the file can be replaced by another version, or the files can be merged into one.  This merger idea I find helpful.  It seems to me related to the concept of a corporation, only less hollow at the center.  Both seem to me ways that express what happens when seemingly independent parts form a whole and a new entity.  I think there’s a spiritual analog, I think Plato mentions it in his discussion of a female aspect that is a vessel in which things can mix and combine — I’ll have to go look it up.  But for now I’m enjoying the concept of computer file merging, in which there are contributions from multiple sources towards a whole shared by all.  It feels less exploitative than other ways I’ve had of understanding something similar, where one contributor contributes content, another format, another distribution, etc.  It allows me to let go of something like resentment, which I think will free me up for some kind of progress.  It also seems less cold and impersonal and hollow than the analog of a corporation, and easier to understand in detail than the concept of soul groups.  The shared printers help me let go of a sense that some forms of expressing the shared file are inferior or less bona fide than others.  And if every contributor has access to the work product, that is, to the shared file, as well as to a means of disseminating it in some form, there seems to me an improved sense of fairness to the system through using this computer networking situation as a metaphor.

Regardless, in the meantime, I have improved computing capability.

*I should probably note again, as I have in previous posts, that this “new” computer is actually a used computer — it’s new to me, but second-hand.