Archive for the 'parallels' Category

“‘TO ALL AND SUNDRY — NEAR AND FAR …'”: Burgundy pullover

December 22, 2015

The weather here has been unseasonably warm, but some days the wind has been chilly and brisk and I have found warmer layers to be welcome when I go out walking.  So choosing what to wear has been a little more of a challenge for me this season.  Compounding this is my discovery recently that it now costs $5.20 to dry clean a heavy sweater at my local dry cleaners.

Anyway, I was trying to figure out layer #2 this morning, the one that comes after the cotton shirt, and I got stuck.  Do I want to get back out clothing I thought I had put away until next year?  Do I want to risk having to take another sweater to the dry cleaners after only minimal wear?  I had a number of specs and was having trouble figuring out what garment I owned would satisfy all of them.

So I did what I usually do when I get stuck and I threw it out to the universe for some guidance, and from that, I opened my closet, went straight to moving a couple of shoe boxes aside, and immediately discovered the perfect layer on a low shelf — an old burgundy pullover, washable, seasonally colorful, warm.

I remembered the article of clothing once I saw it, but I don’t think I could have actively named it as something I owned.

I think I had put it away somewhere obscure because I thought it was beginning to look a little down at the mouth.

This time of year I think about A.A. Milne’s “King John’s Christmas.”  My mother read it to us with great passion and fervor when we were young, and with especially great enthusiasm at the part near the end when the india-rubber ball makes its dramatic appearance.

Well, it’s not yet Christmas (then again, I’m not King John, nor even a Christian), and a pullover isn’t a ball, nor is burgundy really red, but I enjoyed seeing a faint parallel and thinking about what comes to us as a surprise from the outside may actually be something within us that we had merely lost sight of.


Déjà vu

December 3, 2014

I took my mother to see a surgeon today, someone who had operated on Willy.  The doctor even seemed to remember me, although it was over eleven years ago.

A specialist to whom my mother had been referred by her primary care doctor had arranged for her the appointment with the surgeon, so it wasn’t an arrangement I had made.

There are so many parallels.  There are also a lot of what I might call “unparallels,” what feel like ironies — very similar issues coming up in very contrasting ways.  My mother notices them too.

The thing my mother and I differ strongly on is our reaction to her needing medical care in this way so shortly after she moved up here.  She thinks of it as surprising, whereas I felt for months before she moved that she needed to get out of there so I could provide this kind of help in just this kind of situation, that she was staying there “on borrowed time,” so I react to it more as playing out in clear detail something I sort of had a vague hunch about.  (And, of course, she needed to get into a home without steps, and her apartment up here provides that.)

Over a year ago I started looking into assisted living places in town, on my mother’s behalf, but my mother didn’t want to move into one.  So I found her an apartment in a complex with about 30% senior citizens.

In many ways, I feel now as if she’s in a sort of “assisted living” situation, but much of the assistance is coming from me.  Sure beats having her too far away to help.



More on mosaics

July 23, 2014

When I was watching the co-owner of the mosaic studio begin to cut the broken cup pieces in preparation for reconfiguring them (see previous post), one of the things she showed me was how by cutting a curved piece, she could in effect flatten it.  (I think it was that by cutting the curved piece along one plane and making it smaller, the contrast producing the curve became reduced in each of the smaller pieces, and so they were flatter.)

Now that suggests to me a spiritual parallel, because I think we human beings are faced with trying to perceive more dimensions of the universe than our everyday world deals with.  So when we perceive something from another realm, maybe we hear it as music, maybe we channel it into poetry or a visual art;  but some of us plug into a small fragment of the much larger thing with many dimensions and try to translate it into linear rational thought and language.  When we try to do that, I think it’s only by limiting the attempt to bringing only a small piece of it into this world that we are able to bring it into this world at all.  It can feel as if we are flattening the idea in breaking it into smaller pieces while we are still remaining consistent with the curves of the original idea as a whole.

The blind men feeling the elephant in the traditional telling of the tale generalize from their personal understanding, and my usual understanding of the tale is that we all need to communicate and share our understandings in order to get at a more profound understanding and peaceful relations with each other.  But today I got to thinking more along the lines of the difficulty of bringing the whole (understanding) into the world at all, no matter the method employed.  With the arts, something of the multidimensional experience I think is being reproduced, but it doesn’t usually become understood in rational thought and integrated into our mundane activities.  So it seems to me there is a trade-off even there, and that it is difficult if not impossible to bring the curved surface completely intact into a realm of flatness:  the universe is curved but our material world is in a sense flat.  When we as inhabitants of this material world poke our perception into, or permit our perception to take in, other realms, we perceive the curves of things.  Bringing them back into this world to share with others here is a whole other project.

Falling tree limbs

June 1, 2014

The other day I was engaging in behavior Jordan associates with “old people” and watching out the window what was going on in a backyard up the hill.

It was tree trimming from a huge cherry-picker truck.

An additional point of interest for me was whether the trimming would include trees that had grown along the stockade fence that had been erected after that neighbor and another had had a dispute over the clean-up of a fallen limb from one neighbor’s tree into the other neighbor’s backyard.  Those trees along the fence seem to have remained untouched;  the work seems to have consisted of thinning the lower limbs and branches of older trees elsewhere in the yard.

This occurred the other day.

Yesterday I was refilling a birdbath towards the back of my yard, and discovered behind the area in which it sits a substantial downed limb.  It was from a maple and from a tree rooted elsewhere but which provides shade for my yard.

It was big but not huge.  I carried it out front, lopped what could be lopped with the loppers, and then Joe broke up the thicker parts into sections we could dispose of.

It was not a big deal, especially with Joe around.  (My sons were otherwise engaged, one in New Hampshire, the other more locally.)

When tree limbs fall softly and with no discernible damage and are easily put into the composting stream, I feel some cycle has occurred successfully.

It also reminds me of understandings people receive from what’s beyond us:  they should fall into our perception without harm and we should incorporate them into our life stream easily, they should not fell us as they fall themselves.  So when the physical tree limb falls harmlessly, I am hopeful that it echoes a safe landing for other falling phenomena, too.


Sell a Mercedes, buy a Focus

December 25, 2013

I didn’t actually sell Willy’s old Mercedes, I donated it.  I kept it way longer than I probably should have.  It never felt like mine and it was expensive to fuel and maintain.  I put much too much money into it.  When Willy first discovered how sick he was, one of things he tried to do was to get a different car, now that I was driving again — but there just wasn’t time and health for that, things went too fast, I certainly didn’t have time to do that, either.

I discovered when I bought my (used) 2001 Focus years later (I think it was spring of 2007) that I no longer got “attitude” from other drivers.  I guess driving around in a 1989 Mercedes wagon implies something to many people.  The Focus is also a better physical fit for my (small) size, too, although it turns out to be a terrible fit for Jordan’s — he can’t get his knees in a comfortable place with respect to the steering column.  It’s color scheme is the same as the Sable Willy’s father gave him when he received his Ph.D. — white exterior, beige fuzzy interior.  My Focus was clearly previously owned by someone who smoked, Willy’s Sable had been new, although, if I remember correctly, its first incarnation was a lemon and had to be replaced by Ford.

So I was tickled pink to read in James Carroll’s piece on Pope Francis in the current issue of The New Yorker that the papacy de-accessioned the papal Mercedes, as well as acquired a Ford Focus — I hadn’t realized there was that first step, too, in how Pope Francis came to be riding around in a Focus.

It’s interesting.  I think the Pope is physically a big man, and they went with a Focus for the sake of modesty when they really didn’t have to, so the dynamics are clearly different in the two situations, as well as plenty of other details, big and small, being different, but I like that there’s a parallel sequence of putting aside a Mercedes for a Focus.  Somehow I find it reassuring, in the sense of being suggestive of the idea that this is “what one does.”

A spiritual parallel

November 21, 2013

The creative gap-filling I wrote about in my last post I think has a spiritual analog.

We’re here, live human beings.  We’ve forgotten why we’re here, and we are unaware that we’ve forgotten.  And so we get creative and try to fill that gap.  The result is all kinds of human art, technology, innovation, production, and consumption.

So these fruits of our creativity are not necessarily bad, on this view, just kind of the equivalent of going off “on a frolic and a detour,” to use one of my favorite phrases from law.

Spitzer repairs

July 8, 2013

I just read how Eliot Spitzer is getting back into elected politics, and it made me smile to think of the recent repair I had done for a framed photograph taken by his brother — I could see a metaphor there.

When I was emptying the room I had replastered a week or so ago, I had to take out the photo of the Flatiron Building Willy had bought from his old childhood friend Daniel Spitzer.  Somehow they had gotten back in touch.  I can’t remember all the details.  I do remember being put in the position of replying to Daniel’s emails, after Willy no longer could, of trying to explain [how ill Willy was], and of trying to convey back and forth between the two of them whatever I could.

Anyway, the photo was framed to sort of float in the glass, and I wondered, when a corner of the glass cracked as I took the picture out from where it was ensconced between a bookcase and the door frame molding, whether I could get a similar picture frame to replace it with.  I took it to a local framing store, and the guy just replaced the glass, right then and there, no big deal, no big charge.  Back in business.

So to read that younger brother Eliot is back in business with his own repair in place, apparently, well, that was an interesting parallel.


December 9, 2012

I ate a marzipan representation of a Torah scroll.  The marzipan (almond-paste candy) I bought is seasonal — symbols of Chanukah, and I suspect fits in with seasonal sweets of other religions this time of year.  (I grew up eating — very small amounts of — marzipan year-round; for that matter, latkes were not a seasonal food in my family tradition, either.)

Given the metaphor of divinity as sugar or candy in some Eastern religions (and the teaching of how we have to experience it ourselves to get it) and the place of the Torah in Judaism, I liked the idea of eating a candy Torah.  I don’t think I will probably ever experience the divine through adherence to orthodox Jewish teachings, but maybe this experience allows me to connect it to my own ways of understanding and accept that some people actually do.

It’s interesting, because I had a friend who was trying to do that, to recapture a Jewish upbringing she didn’t have as a child.  Through her brothers, I eventually was introduced to Tracy Grammer’s music, and it was before her concert last night that I bought the marzipan.  (There’s a gourmet food store I know carries it, around the corner from the club.)  To me, putting together these pieces of experience into a picture that helps me understand better is like finding bits of ribbon and scattered beads and including them in a collage.

One of the things I got from listening to Tracy Grammer sing David Carter songs last night was more acceptance of the variation of roles within similar patterns of life.  A strand within me has questioned why my version of a pattern can’t be more like someone else’s, and I’ve come to think that there are trade-offs — we can’t focus our energy on pursuit X if we’re using all our energy for pursuit Y, and there may be reasons why we’re better suited or positioned to focus on one pursuit or another.

I’ve lost a lot of the need of another strand within me, too, to try to explain my version of the pattern, or even to explain how I see patterns, period, how I see similarities in other people’s lives and can fit them into, if not an archetype, then a tradition or a lineage.  I used to think people would want me to explain, for instance, things like why Tracy Grammer is having trouble actually writing up a memoir of her time with Dave Carter, how it fits into what I know of an Ur-story, why she is instead telling the reminiscences between playing his songs in concert.  But I’ve come to see that that’s part of my stuff, the need to try to get other people to see what I see.  They don’t need to see it, just as I don’t need to (try to) learn to become a poised and accomplished musician, either.  And neither of us could do as well what the other one does.

I find myself stumbling into gratitude for differences and for other people having talents I don’t and having experiences I won’t have.  The world needs all of our variations.

Another Moses

July 11, 2012

Jordan and I had some extra time between his doctors’ appointments today, so we stopped in a bookstore in Arlington Center which sells mostly used books.  When we went to pay for Jordan’s books, the cashier asked if we had an account, because if you sell them your used books you amass a credit you can apply to purchases.  Jordan thought that if we did it would be under my name, so he gave them “Moses” and they asked “Dawn?”  I said no, we paid, and I gave a brief moment of thought to being interested in the fact that there was apparently a Dawn Moses in the vicinity who used the bookstore.

Well, tonight I was looking at today’s Boston Globe, and I noticed an obituary for Dawn Jahn Moses who apparently lived in Arlington and recently died at age 46 (same age as Willy did) from cancer.  She grew up in New Jersey (as did I).  She worked on homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse policy issues and for Tipper Gore.  There will be a service at Town Hall this Saturday.

I feel bad for her, her husband, and two kids, and I also feel peculiar about the odd coincidences, including a couple I haven’t noted here.

Life report, death report

April 3, 2012

I have a lot of mixed feelings about the publication of Charles Snelling’s Life Report by David Brooks and the NYTimes and then Snelling’s ending of his own and his wife’s lives.

Well, to be perfectly honest, I had a lot of misgivings about the Life Reports, at least the ones published, anyway.  Horatio Alger, I kept thinking, stories for our self-improvement along certain lines, like hearing from one’s parents about a particular child in another family held out as a model for imitation, or, at least, aspiration.  I am sure the particular templates the published reports offer are helpful for some people, but I felt frustrated reading them.  They didn’t help me learn who I am and what might come next for me in my life and how to move towards that.  I don’t think I am unique, but as Gita put it pointedly to me last week, I am an outlier.  I don’t want to hear what works for other people because most if not all of it doesn’t work for me.  That may be my lesson from the Life Reports, but I came to it with some amount of annoyance, if not anger and alienation.  (Which, of course, is to say nothing about their intention, which I take to be very good.)

Another misgiving I have had has to do with the traits screened in and out by an assignment like the Life Reports and the criteria for publication.  I worry that we got a lot of David Brooks clones planted in other scenarios, or at least the kind of people David Brooks admires.  We could, of course, do worse than hearing about such people.  I also worried that we got treated to the lives and perspectives of people with a lot of ego, and I don’t think that’s particularly helpful.  I think I felt at the time that the reports were organic outgrowths of the beliefs and values of David Brooks and of The New York Times, not a cross-section of insightful older people or a group of people who could point to a way of living life that would translate to other people’s reaching their own potentials.

Of course, that’s probably not what the intent of the Life Reports project was, it’s what I would have wanted to do with the idea.

But when I read that Charles Snelling had apparently killed his wife and then himself, I thought, “So here’s what an example held up to us does in his own life.”  Well, Snelling was consistent: he got attention.  From his wife, from David Brooks, fromThe New York Times.  He and his publishers helped each other promote their brands, in a way, both through the Life Report and the death report news article, however much controversy was involved.

I think there’s something very positive about the combination of reports prompting more conversation about health care, old age, and death.  I think if Snelling was held up as worthy of our attention, it’s good that we can see many facets of him and think about him from more than one (his) perspective, by reading about how he died.  I guess my question would be whether his Life Report would have been published had we known how the rest of his life would play out.  He was, in effect, a death panel for his wife.  He wasn’t a government or private insurance bureaucrat, or even a medical professional, and he had that affective relationship with his wife, but he went further with visiting his will on another person than many of us would be comfortable doing.

My own elderly dad is a caretaker for my elderly mom (and sometimes vice versa).  Does he take care of her the way I would?  No.  Is it my business?  I think up to a point but only up to a point.  I’ve always felt that it’s their marriage, it preceded my birth, and it’s not for me to interfere in it.  But I don’t see things as my dad does.  Which makes me wonder whether I would have seen things as Mr. Snelling did.

Finally, I step back and try to look at the whole picture.  I see patterns.  Multiple iterations of the theme help me see that each is by itself insignificant in the great scheme of things, just a particular turn of a kaleidoscope.  My pattern itself is of no great significance, either.  I share parts of patterns with others, our lives may even intersect, but I need to let go of a need to have the patterns play out in particular ways I think I would prefer.  I think Snelling’s life contained elements that are also contained in my own, but in mine they have played out differently.  I think the sum total of energy in our lives will have been the same, just channeled differently, into different actions, from which our respective lessons may be learned (or not).  I think the hardest thing for me is to be forced to view a similar pattern and let go of a need to make mine conform to it or it to mine.  That, to me, is a lesson from this drama.