Saturday, July 31, 2010

very little ado about nothing

the ipad and don't get along.

it's one of the few things an ipad won't do elegantly, conveniently, and better than anything originating in redmond, wa.

like many things in this life, however, there are workarounds. in this case, it's the ability to put up a blog post straight from email. i compose said email, send it to a specific address, and viola. instapost.

* * * * *

the excruciating, months-long implosion of the seattle mariners continues with nauseating predictability. it goes like this: the starting pitching is stellar, giving up two or three runs. the offense doesn't score at all. mariners lose.

in the alternative, the starting pitching gives up bunches of runs, but the offense accidently puts up bunches plus one. the bullpen then blows the lead in gut-wrenching walk-off fashion. mariners lose.

another, less frequent, aberration: in a riveting pitchers duel, the game goes into extra innings. seattle puts hundreds of runners in scoring position in every frame, but can't push anybody across. eventually, inevitably, mariners lose.

today, seattle ace felix hernandez gave up three runs in the first inning, then dug in and allowed nothing through the next six innings. the offense responded with familiar futility, picking up their teammate by runs. mariners lose.

somewhere in the middle of a 6-23 july, a player went berserk in the dugout and showed up the manager on national tv. the front office responded by saying...nothing. the player wasn't even reprimanded, let alone suspended. the manager, we assume, isn't long for his job.

i know: it's only excruciating if you let it be. still...damn.

* * * * *

the seafair torchlight parade made its way through downtown seattle tonight. the highlight of the evening was the seafair pirates, who glowered and waved swords and fired their cannon and said "arrrgh!" in a pirate-y way.

the crowd applauded loudly for the police, fire department, and military drill units that went by. oddly, they cheered the guys cleaning up after the horses just as loudly. no idea what to make of that. the mayor of seattle was neither cheered nor jeered as he rolled by in a red corvette. given his environmentalist credentials, he must've been conflicted about riding in a corvette. given that he's a politician, he must've felt odd about the total apathy he inspired.

* * * * *

it's late. mrs. spaceneedl is asleep on the couch. the dogs are snoozing in their various spots around the living room. the little needls are asleep, finally, after spending last night at a "lock-in" sleepover at boys and girls club...where they apparently slept not at all. not coincidently, they were surly all day today.

* * * * *

tomorrow: a walk to the village for coffee, followed by yoga, laundry, grocery shopping, and listening to new music (downloaded to the ipad) while cooking dinner.

lather, rinse, repeat as necessary.

Sent from my iPad

Friday, July 23, 2010

survivors guide to living

just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone
suzanne the plans they made put an end to you
i walked out this morning and i wrote down this song
i just can't remember who to send it to

oh, i've seen fire and i've seen rain
i've seen sunny days that i thought would never end
i've seen lonely times when i could not find a friend
but i always thought that i'd see you again

won't you look down upon me jesus
you've gotta help me make a stand
you've just got to see me through another day
my body's aching and my time is at hand
and i won't make it any other way

* * * * *
in "deep survival" laurence gonzales writes there are two kinds of people. survivors and victims.

survivors, he says, are rule breakers. they are independent in mind and spirit. in a tough situation, they do better than people who follow the rules and stick to the plan, no matter how badly the plan has gone awry.

"when a patient is told that he has six months to live, he has two choices: to accept the news and die, or to rebel and live. people who survive cancer in the face of such a diagnosis are notorious. the medical staff observes that they are 'bad patients,' unruly, troublesome. they don't follow directions. they question everything. they're annoying. they're survivors.

"the tao te ching says, 'the rigid person is a disciple of death...the soft, supple, and delicate are lovers of life.' "

boys, quite often, don't fit that last description. not on the outside, anyway.
the boy at our house is soft-hearted and emotionally susceptible, but he wants
the world to believe he's wizened and grizzled and hard-shelled.

we're willing to play along, sometimes. to that end, we recently sent him to a
week-long ymca b.o.l.d. (boys outdoor leadership development) camp in the north cascades.

the idea is to cultivate confidence through the development of wilderness survival skills, some of which might be applicable elsewhere in life. or to just hike around and do some fishing outside the city. whichever.

the boy came back complaining bitterly about a week of privation and forced marches and giant mosquitos and an epic failure, fish-catching-wise. and yet on his return, he was inexplicably exhuberant, as if he'd passed a great test of pre-adolescenthood.

there's no telling what of any long-term value he may have internalized, but maybe he picked up one insight that'll help turn him into a survivor.

maybe somewhere down the road he'll stop and think, "you know, when i went in the lake with my boots on, my feet got wet and stayed that way for two days. that experience taught me that it may not be a good idea to pee on this electric fence, or to pet this pit bull, or to get in this car with my drunk friend."

all we can do is put him in position to learn, and hope for the best.

* * * * *

my friend kary was a survivor. life handed her a raw deal several months ago, but instead of accepting the bad news, she stood and fought.

she endured chemo and bone marrow biopsies and seizures. she ignored an indifferent doctor who told her she had a week to live, and lived on. she kicked a dangerous lung infection so she could undergo a bone marrow transplant, which was cause for much hope.

but acute myelogenous leukemia is a bitch of a disease, and eventually it fought kary to a draw. life's rulebook tells us that in case of a tie, death wins. but kary never gave up, never let the specter change who she was. she showed us what it means to be a survivor instead of a victim.

since no one gets out alive, that's about the best example any of us can set.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

at sea

several years ago i fell in love with a painting.

(which is something i hardly ever do.)

it's a riot of blue in a spray of hues and textures. the color explodes off the canvas like a serene bay befrenzied by a hurricane. the eye is frantically led across the scene, top to bottom, corner to corner, but never finds a safe place to land. the patterns we all instinctively seek to help us make sense of our world are nowhere to be found. the chaos is as profound as the very human need to either organize it or escape it.

to that end, in the midst of the bedlam, my eye sees the suggestion of a sail. there's no encouragement that the ship it might be attached to will find its way to safety... just an inkling that such a thing might be possible.

the painting was created by a friend who was going through a difficult time, and to me it exudes the powerful emotions she might have been feeling. i was mesmerized the first time i saw it, so much so that i offered to buy it. (purchasing art -- something else i hardly ever do.) i think eventually i might've offered two or three times, but she wasn't ready to part with it.

flash forward several years to a couple weeks ago, when this note came from my friend...

"So, I have been thinking for the last week and a half that I need to ship the blue painting to you. It's been really strange -- a really strong feeling that I should give it to you. So, dammit, I am. :-)"

i will tell you i stared at those words for a long time, trying to paste together a narrative, a logical explanation for why they came when they did. sitting here tonight, i still can't do it. because the timing coincided with the waning days of another friend who was transitioning through the last stages of leukemia.

she died the day before the message arrived.

i have no idea what metaphysical forces swirl around us. i can't say, "i was feeling pain for a friend, and another friend on the other side of the country came along at exactly the right time to pick me up in a way that defies rational thought."

i don't know what any of this says about anything. but knowing how much i don't know...i'm willing to go with the flow.

and to be grateful for friends, across time, and in the face of the unknowable.

* * * * *

the painting arrived at our house yesterday. it's as beautiful and moving as i remembered it. thank you, maggie.

* * * * *

for kary and frederica

Friday, July 09, 2010

anadarko stormy night

so i'm sitting here looking out the window at a hummingbird.

it hovers, moves in for some breakfast, backs out, takes another look, goes back in. and so on.

and i'm thinking, "what an amazing and startling and beautiful adaptation. fast yet maneuverable. delicate and absurdly strong. nature does some nice work, doesn't she?"

and then i think, "wouldn't it be neat to dump a couple barrels of oil on that hummingbird? and all the flowers in our yard, while we're at it? after that, we could set the whole scene on fire."

that would be fun.

if you're BP. or halliburton. or the aptly named anadarko. they love that kind of spirit-obliterating overkill. why dump one barrel of oil on a hummingbird when you can dump two?

or two billion?

i'd be a little vexed, however, if hell's oil hounds wouldn't at least let us take a few photos of our newly and gloriously besludged homestead while it was still smoldering. i mean, if you're going to go to all the trouble of despoiling and defiling and de-lifing an ecosystem, no matter how large or small, why not take a little pride in your work?

inexplicably, that's what's happening on the gulf coast. anadarko (one of the hosts of the gala in the gulf) is scuttling away from its friends like a crab off a rotting sea turtle. they're refusing to help pay for damages, insisting BP is the reason for the goo-covered season.

BP says it is disappointed by the announcement and will evaluate its options about what to do next. "They have failed to live up to their obligations," BP spokesman Mark Salt said in a statement.
if you can see the incongruity of BP scolding anyone for failing to live up to obligations, perhaps you can appreciate the irony of sending Salt to bemoan BP's wounds.

but back to the hummingbird.

you know what'd be really fun? if the bird fought back. not in a global warming kind of way, which is gradual and imperceptible and totally unsatisfactory, justice-wise.

but in a "carrie" kind of way, in which nature, drenched and demeaned and debauched one time too many, just. plain. snaps.

in our little dramedy, we'd cut to wide shots of countless deepwater oil rigs all over the globe. without fanfare, all of them are sucked down in violent whirlpools, disappearing without a trace.

next, we'd cut to mid-shots of oil executives, sitting in obscenely plush board rooms, sipping black pearl brandy, laughing about "the little people." they spontaneously combust (the brandy, however, is spared).

at this point, we cut to a long shot of a massive sandstorm enveloping the athabasca oil sands. the project sign is broken off and comes to rest on top of a dune. the project itself is buried, impenetrably, forever.

the music builds as we see a horrifying, extreme close-up of dick cheney. his face gets increasingly red as he reads rolling online reports of the demise of his favorite hobby (after war profiteering and torture). his head explodes.

outside cheney's window a hummingbird appears, hovers briefly, then turns and flies away, toward a panoramic wide shot of the wyoming mountains at sunset.

dissolve to a medium close-up of the hummingbird, accompanied by the sound of a symphony of strings, flying high over the earth, surveying the beginnings of the healing.

fade to a clean, gauzy white.

the end.

* * * * *

yes, the fantasy would be fun. a lot more fun than the reality we're getting instead.

apropos nothing, this evening i saw an eagle flying low over our neighborhood.

* * * * *

h/t to pete wung for the atlantic link.