Pinterest, My New Guilty Pleasure

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Yuko Hosaka

By Yuko Hosaka, a Japanese illustrator and printmaker

I’ve been on a Pinterest kick lately that’s taken me into the wee hours of the morning, searching for images to pin to my boards. I don’t know how to describe the pleasure it brings, searching through pages and pages of artwork and photographs to chance upon the perfect one that lights up my mind and makes me purr with delight.

Capturing these images to visit again and again on my boards feels like a real achievement. Like I’ve created these personal cupboards filled with rare scents I can sniff and swoon over to my heart’s delight.

I have 7 boards now. My first was Illustrations of Nursery Rhymes & Fairy Tales. I began collecting these when I was working on a blog post about childhood influences in literature and art.

mudwerks:    (via Golden Age Comic Book Stories)    Jessie Wilcox Smith - water-babies

Jessie Wilcox Smith – Water-Babies

✯ The Crimson Fairy Book by Andrew Lang :: Illustrations by H. J. Ford✯

✯ The Crimson Fairy Book by Andrew Lang :: Illustrations by H. J. Ford✯

from Grimms' Fairy Tales by Marija Jevtic - http://www.behance.net/gallery/Grimms-Fairy-Tales/5411205

Grimms’ Fairy Tales by Marija Jevtic – http://www.behance.net/gallery/Grimms-Fairy-Tales/5411205

Story Book Sundays - The Wind - Illustrated by Ruth Hallock

Story Book Sundays – The Wind – Illustrated by Ruth Hallock

More recently I started one called Blue & Gold because these are my favorite colors, and the two together does something to me that I cannot describe.

Maurice sapiro The Six Foot Sunset   48"x72"

Maurice Sapiro, The Six Foot Sunset 48″x72″

Indigo: In Search of the Color That Seduced the World

The Sea at Dusk, watercolor by Emile Nolde http://paintwatercolorcreate.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-vibrant-watercolors-of-emil-nolde.html

The Sea at Dusk, watercolor by Emile Nolde

Galle, Sri Lanka

Galle, Sri Lanka

That one led me to create a board dedicated to images of the Sea & Boats. Blues and golds are featured here as well, and my life-long love of the ocean and sailing. There’s something that strike me as deeply feminine and mystical about the sea and the boats that sail there.

"Alomg the Nile" - by Sergej Ovcharuk ~ Oil

“Along the Nile” – by Sergej Ovcharuk ~ Oil

Arte!: Konstantin Korovin, a Russian Impressionist Constantin Alexeevich Korovin - White Night in Nothern Norway - circa 1895

Konstantin Korovin, a Russian Impressionist Constantin Alexeevich Korovin – White Night in Nothern Norway – circa 1895

 

Howard Pyle: Attack on a Galleon, 1905 - oil on canvas (Delaware Art Museum)

Howard Pyle: Attack on a Galleon, 1905 – oil on canvas (Delaware Art Museum)

Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh

A newer board is The Art of Zen. Here is where I collect images that speak to the spare and subtle “imperfect” perfection that lies at the heart of things.

Six Persimmons

Six Persimmons, Mu’ Chi, 13th century Zen monk

Jacques Henri Lartigue

Jacques Henri Lartigue

Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) - "Blue-03", 1916

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) – “Blue-03″, 1916

吴冠中江南水乡绘画艺术桌面壁纸

吴冠中江南水乡绘画艺术桌面壁纸

I hope you enjoyed this peek into my cupboards of delight. You can see more here.

Do you collect things on Pinterest? What and why? I’d love to see them.

Walking in a Green-Winter Wonderland

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IMG_4904Here on the central coast of California, we look forward to a green, rather than white, Christmas. While we love our golden hills of summer, we crave green in the winter. During last year’s drought our summer hills turned dun. Even the golden grasses dried up and blew away, and this lasted through winter. But this year our green came early and I’ve been revelling in it.

Here are some recent photos of the green-wonderland behind our home.

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My husband and our dog Mitzy.

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Amazing oaks!

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A fallen giant.

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Shadows and moss.

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Sunlight breaking through.

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The Three Sisters.

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Home again.

Dawkins and the Wonder of It All

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Hubble Mist M43_HST

Hubble Mist M43_HST

It is true that the unknown is the largest need of the intellect, though for it no one thinks to thank God. –Emily Dickinson

If one of the greatest attributes of a book about science is its ability to incite readers to think, to argue with its premise, pick it apart, wrestle it down, and inspire new lines of inquiry, then the opening of Richard Dawkins’ Unweaving the Rainbow, which I critiqued and rewrote in my last post, succeeds. Exceedingly well.

After reading his opening, like Jacob wrestling with that angel, I could not let it go till it blessed me.

The problem with Dawkins’ musing on the wonder of birth, the near-miraculous odds that any one of us was born at all, is that he did not take his argument far enough. He stops with our death, as if that’s the end of it. But does the mind-boggling chance that I be born at all preclude the equally mind-boggling chance I be born again? Within an infinite set of possibilities, why couldn’t we, with another roll of the dice, each be born a second time?

I’m not so much interested in arguing that such a thing is possible, as I am wondering why it would be impossible. Improbably, yes. But impossible?

If there is some natural law prohibiting it, I’m sure a scientist will tell me. But she will be speaking from her own limited understanding of the universe as we now know it. There is no ultimate authority on this subject or any other. There are no final answers in an infinitely expanding and evolving universe, or in the science that explains it.

The most wondrous thing I can think of is how miniscule our knowing is, and how huge our unknowing. We’ve touched our toe on a beach of understanding that stretches beyond an endless horizon.

One thing I do commend Dawkins for is his eagerness to show us how a scientific understanding of the natural world, the “unweaving of the rainbow” as Keats put it, need not dampen our wonder and awe of creation. As children we looked up in wonder at those twinkling stars that seemed so magical, and we do so still. Our delight in them is not diminished, but heightened by our knowledge.

Wonder itself is a marvelous thing in the old-fashioned sense of the word (miraculous) and defies logic.

Perhaps humankind’s “need for god” that Dawkins and others so lament, is not so much, as they surmise, to create a super-powerful supernatural being to pin all our hopes and fears upon, but to give a name to our awe and wonder, to whatever wove this amazing phenomenon of creation into existence. The knowledge that our universe was spun out of nothing and is spinning still past anything we can ever hope to grasp only increases our sense of awe and wonder, as well as our need to name that which makes us to bow our heads in humility before it.

If stones can speak, dust shape itself into flesh, and atoms evolve a consciousness, as our current understanding of the universe has proved itself capable, then what not is possible?

Dawkins decries humanity’s need for mystery, as if it were the enemy of science. But I would argue that mystery is the handmaid of science, spurring us to understand what is, and to dream of what is yet to come.

Not what the stars have done, but what they are to do, is what detains the sky. –Emily Dickinson

Good Prose and Good Science — Quibbling with the Masters

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IMG_4897At first Steven Pinker was my new hero. Within the first few pages of reading his widely acclaimed “The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century,” he debunks the long-standing myths about the evils of passive voice and killing one’s darlings.

We now know that telling writers to avoid the passive is bad advice. Linguistic research has shown that the passive construction has a number of indispensable functions because of the way it engages a reader’s attention and memory. A skilled writer should . . . push back against copy editors who, under the influence of grammatically naive style guides, blue-pencil every passive construction they spot into an active one.

Finally! Someone is speaking my language.

And he doesn’t stop there.

The classic manuals . . . try to take all the fun out of writing, grimly adjuring the writer to avoid offbeat words, figures of speech, and playful alliteration. A famous piece of advice from this school crosses the line from the grim to the infanticide: “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetuate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—wholeheartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.” (Though commonly attributed to William Faulkner, the quotation comes from the English professor Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch in his 1916 lectures On the Art of Writing.)

I was thrilled. My top two pet peeves on bad writing advice soundly tromped by the latest style guru.

Pinker goes on to say what most writers would readily agree with, that to be a good writer you need to be a good reader. What’s more, you should acquire “the habit of lingering over good writing wherever you find it and reflecting on what makes it good.”

That’s what he proposes to do in his book, to teach the principles of good style by “reverse-engineering examples of good prose.”

By now, I’m bubbling with enthusiasm, and eagerly turn to his first example, the opening lines of “Unweaving the Rainbow” by Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and popular science writer.

That’s when my giddy glide toward Pinker fandom comes to a screeching halt, because this paragraph is a ghastly example of good prose.

Shouldn’t, above all, good prose make sense? Failing that, what good is “style”?

But this example is so full of logical inconsistencies and pure nonsense, I’m amazed that a scientist (the supposed epitome of logical and rational thought!) would write it, let alone that a stylist would recommend it. Surely Pinker could have found a better example of good prose.

Don’t take my word for it. Read it for yourself. It’s not so much the style I object to as its substance:

We are going to dies, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds, it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

Okay, he has an intriguing premise in his opening line. It makes you sit up and take notice. It makes you want to find out more. I’ll give him that.

But the next sentence is clearly nonsense, and rather than intrigue me, it makes me question the author’s intelligence: not a good sign of good prose. He says, “Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born.” But if “most people” are not born, “they” are not people. His sentence makes no sense. He’s referring to something that doesn’t exist and calling it a person. His terminology is all screwed up. He goes on to call these non-people “potential people,” “unborn ghosts,” and “possible people,” when, in fact, “they” are nothing, non-entities.

What he’s really trying to say, in what he thinks is a clever way, is: “We’re lucky we’re alive.” Because in the bijillion possible ways our DNA could have been strung, it was strung in the way peculiar to us, thus making me “me,” and you “you,” and not someone else.

Fine. I get that. I’m lucky I’m going to die because I’m lucky I was ever born. I’m also lucky I was born a person and not an ant, or algae, or a cancer cell. I’m lucky my daddy’s sperm beat out all the other sperm to penetrate my mother’s egg, and that it was that particular egg, and not another, or I could have a sister I never knew existed because I never would have been born. I’m lucky in a bijillion ways that doesn’t include a specious argument comparing me with “potential people.” Which makes me wonder what caused him to choose that clumsy and rather irrational example?

But let’s move on. Next he claims those potential people (or potential ways of stranding DNA) “will never see the light of day.” Never? Really?

Who is to say that one of those potential people, as he calls them, or possible DNA strandings is not being born as we speak, or will not be born next week, next year, and next century? In fact, aren’t all people pulled from that pool of DNA possibility, including future generations, which will go on peopling our planet onward to eternity, or at least the end of the human race?

If you really think about it, based on his logic, it’s not so much that we “actual people” are luckier than those “potential people,” but that while we are lucky now, at this point in time, they will be lucky later on when our luck has run out.

So, that sentence about “the light of day” makes no sense either. But the next one is even sillier.

He says “certainly” the set of as yet unborn potential people includes poets and scientists greater than the set of already produced people. Certainly?

There’s two things wrong with this sentence.

First he’s presupposing that DNA alone is responsible for poetic and scientific greatness, when certainly our parentage, education, place of birth, economic status, and any number of other criteria is equally important. We could almost certainly say that people who had the potential to be greater than Keats and Newton have already been born, are alive this moment, but sadly for them and us, they were born to a Pygmy tribe in Africa, a female in Afghanistan, or a crack baby in the ghetto. None of which would have had the education or opportunity to reach her or his full potential as poets and scientists.

The second problem with this sentence is that it does not belong in this paragraph. It does not support his topic or strengthen his argument about how lucky we are to be alive. A good editor should have deleted it.

But his most stupefying statement is his last, remarking on the “stupefying odds” that “you and I, in our ordinariness” were ever born. How strange he would come to the conclusion of how “ordinary” we are, for it defies the very point he was making all along. In the terms of his own argument, the very point he is advancing, our very lucky and exceptional birth would qualify us as extraordinary; indeed, far surpassing all those innumerable unlucky, unexceptional, unborn ghosts.

Pinker claims that Dawkins’ purpose, as an “uncompromising atheist and tireless advocate of science,” is to explain how “his world view does not, as the romantic and religious fear, extinguish a sense of wonder or an appreciation of life.”

If that was his purpose, then he failed miserably. For all he did in that opening was to irritate this reader with all his non-logical arguments. The only “wonder” of it for me was how a scientist could write it, and how a stylist could praise him for it.

If I could rewrite his paragraph to remove the logical inconsistencies and yet retain what Pinker claims was Dawkins’ purpose–to move the reader to marvel at the wonder of existence–here is how I would do so:

We are lucky to be alive. That joyous fact should far outweigh any grief in the knowledge of our eventual death. We are lucky because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people containing you and me. Our birth is an exceptional and extraordinary accident. Out of all the innumerable sand grains among the sand dunes of time, the winds of chance happened to pick up the ones producing you and me and spun us into being. In the teeth of these stupefying odds, you and I, in all our uncommon glory, won the mother of all lotteries.

Lucky indeed.

Blogging A Trail of Bread Crumbs – 2014 Recap

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Hansel and Gretal Offterdinger_Hansel_und_Gretel_(1)Blog posts are like a trail of bread crumbs leading you back through a misty past. They tell you where you were, not where you’re going. I can’t say I’m unhappy to leave 2014 behind. And if a few of those bread crumbs get gobbled up by birds, so much the better.

Still, it’s instructive, looking back before you plow forward. Here are a few trends, challenges, and highlights from my last year of blogging.

Is Less More, or Just Less?

I wrote fewer posts on this blog in 2014 than in previous years. But I’ve always been a slow blogger. Even at the beginning in 2012 I was posting only twice a week. Eventually it turned into once a week, then every ten days of so. I’ve gone as long as two weeks between posts now. I seem to be racing toward some decline. But it worries me. I don’t want to stop blogging. I don’t want to lose you, the readers who have come to mean so much to me. I love blogging. I want less to be more. Is that possible?

Into the Pit and Out Again

One reason I’ve blogged less is because I’ve been challenged more–both personally and professionally. Early last year, I thought I lost my son to addiction for good. I’d given up hope. In desperation, I created a new, anonymous blog, just to vent all the rage and grief and craziness I was feeling. And it helped. It brought me back from the brink, and him as well. Now he has 8 months of recovery behind him and still going stronger than ever. Still, we take it one day at a time. There’s no other way.

Professionally, I was thrown down into the pit as well. I finished the last draft of my novel in December 2013.  2014 was supposed to be the year I sent this darling out to agents and publishers. I put it aside for a few weeks so I could re-read it fresh. That’s when it all came crashing down. I hated my novel!

I was devastated. After so many years of tender loving care, this baby too was lost to me. In a frantic, I reached out to a few writer friends and researched the web, searching for a life-line, hoping this was a normal reaction. Did all writers end up hating their novels? It turns out, most don’t, but some do. It’s not uncommon. I found a new beta reader and, working with her strong encouragement and deep insight, went through the draft one more time. (Thank you, Kerri!). Now I’m back on track again. I’ve finished what I hope will be my final draft, and set it aside for another read. I’m keeping my fingers crossed I won’t hate it this time.

I had one more personal crisis in 2014, but I’m saving that for another blog post. All this did slow me down and drain away some of the energy and inspiration for keeping this blog going. In retrospect, I’m surprised I wrote as much as I did. Maybe I’m more resilient than I thought.

Now for the 2014 highlights:

Most Viewed Posts: A Blast From the Past

According to my WordPress Annual Report, my most viewed posts in 2014 were written in 2013. Hmmm. What does that mean? Well, I could take it sunny-side up: My writing has staying power, or so WordPress euphemistically suggests.  Or it could mean my best blogging is behind me. Well, time will tell. Here’s my two most viewed posts:

Binge Blogging

Series are all the rage now, both in television viewing and reading. We love characters who linger, whose stories become our stories, who return to us day after day, week after week. Even season after season and book after book. We boast of our binges: mine was Downton Abbey last week. I re-watched all of Season 4 during the afternoon, then watched the premier of Season 5 that evening. I went to bed fully sated.

Binge blogging, sadly, is not quite the same. It’s done less for the pleasure of readers and more to accommodate long-winded writers. Like me. I take more pleasure in my series than my readers do. It’s a guilty indulgence.

The first one was a 4-part literary deconstruction, tying together the themes found in the writings of Milton, Wordsworth, and Lacan. (I know, ouch!) The first and last posts in the series are listed below.

The next 2-part series on Annie Dillard’s writing and my own was much more popular:

Hu-More, Not Less

Three personal favorite, which readers also seemed to enjoy, were attempts to lighten an otherwise overly heavy and oh-so-serious blog load. Not to mention, help me lift my head out of those pits I mentioned earlier, if for just a moment. It was quite refreshing. Maybe I need to hu-more in the future.

Freshly Pressed (Again!)

I’ve been freshly pressed three times now. Each time is a surprise and delight. Gifts that come from out of the blue. The last time was in June 2014. This one’s about marriage: drifting apart, pulling together, and finding that magic balance.

My First Guest Post!

I was also honored, and delighted, to be invited to write a guest post on poetry for the lovely Luanne’s blog, Writer Site. I posted it on my site as well.

Your Favorites and Mine

Surprisingly, and happily, some of my readers’ favorite posts were mine as well, and several featured my poetry. I can’t tell you how gratifying that is. I haven’t written much poetry in my life, but all of it is deeply personal. I think sometimes that to truly know me, who I am at heart, you would have to read my poetry. And you have. Without blogging–without my poetry being read–large, intimate parts of me would remain relatively unknown.

Three of your favorite posts featuring my poetry:

Two of my favorite posts featuring poetry from my favorite poet, Wallace Stevens:

Two of your non-poetry favorites this year was a photo-essay on fallen oak trees, and a list and lament about all the books I’ve abandoned this past year.

Hugs and Kisses

Thank you for bearing with me through this long post, and through this last challenging year of infrequent posts–those bread crumbs scattered along a dark trail with its few gleams of light, and rare laughter.

Your comments and encouragements have meant the world to me, and made all the difference. May you all have a truly marvelous 2015.

A Cranky Reader: What I Crave When I Read Poetry

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Reading CzakoAdolf-2I was invited to write a guest blog post about poetry on Luanne Castle’s Writer Site. The following was first published on her site in a slightly different version.

I’ve been thinking a lot about poetry lately, how some speaks to me and some not at all. While reading recent issues of prestigious literary journals, I was surprised to find that not one poem—not one—moved me. Amazing!

Most seemed like intellectual exercises or obtuse offerings of random thoughts and images. None engaged me intellectually, or stimulated my sensibilities, or even challenged me—let alone invited me—to a second reading. Instead they were studies in disappointment. I left them unfulfilled, still hungry and, admittedly, cranky.

Is it me? Is it them? (Sigh).

Just what is it I crave from poetry?

Wallace Stevens once famously said: “You can’t get the news from poems, but men die every day for lack of what is found there.”

That’s what I want: The thing we die from lack of. That’s why I read poetry. What I look for in other works of art too—in prose and painting and music that rise to the level of poetry.

I want what Emily Dickinson referred to when she says, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” Something that tickles the hintermost parts of my brain, where I feel the synapses stretch and snap, reaching toward something just past my grasp.

I want what T.S. Elliot meant to when he writes that “poetry is a raid on the inarticulate.” Something dark and dormant, lying just below consciousness, rising into the light: a curved fin, a humped back, gliding momentarily along the surface of thought before dipping below again.

We have all felt that, I’m sure. Something deep and delicious, once known and now forgotten, woken momentarily. Something within us re-ignited, flashing briefly before dissolving into darkness again.

In “Ars Poetica,” Archibald MacLeish says: “A poem should be palpable and mute / As a globed fruit.”

He says: “A poem should be wordless / As the flight of birds.”

He says:

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

Reading his poem, I’m with him. I’m saying: Yes!

But then he almost ruins it with the last two lines:

A poem should not mean
But be.

Pointing to something static. Not in motion. Art for art’s sake. An artifact showcased in a museum.

Gwendolyn Brooks writes:

Does man love Art? Man visits Art, but squirms.
Art hurts. Art urges voyages–
And it is easier to stay at home,
The nice beer ready.

If it doesn’t make us squirm, if it doesn’t hurt, if it doesn’t urge voyages, is it art? Is it poetry?

Stevens calls modern poetry “the poem of the mind.” It’s “the act of finding what will suffice.”

He says:

It has
To construct a new stage. It has to be on that stage,
And, like an insatiable actor, slowly and
With meditation, speak words that in the ear,
In the delicatest ear of the mind, repeat,
Exactly, that which it wants to hear, at the sound
Of which, an invisible audience listens,
Not to the play, but to itself, expressed
In an emotion as of two people, as of two
Emotions becoming one.

A poem must construct something that it inhabits, that speaks to the reader, in the “delicatest ear of the mind,” “exactly, that which it wants to hear,” what the reader, that invisible audience, wants to hear—which is not the play, not the poem, but “itself.” Itself “expressed / In an emotion as of two people, as of two emotions becoming one.”

It must
Be the finding of a satisfaction, and may
Be of a man skating, a woman dancing, a woman
Combing. The poem of the act of the mind.

Stevens is saying that a poem can no more “be” than “mean.” Rather, it must act. It must unite poet and reader in the act of finding what will suffice.

It is not static: It is “a man skating, a woman dancing, a woman combing.” It is always moving. It moves us to capture it in its passing. It moves us beyond ourselves, where the top of our head lifts away and there we go unbounded, grasping for a brief moment what lies always, already, just beyond our grasp.

That which suffices. That which the lack thereof we die of every day. That’s what I’m looking for when I read poetry.

I want to feel my synapses snapping.

O Holy Night – The Sacred and Sublime in Art & Images

deborahbrasket:

I hope you enjoy this. Wishing you all a Holy Night full of light and love.

Originally posted on Deborah J. Brasket, Writer:

Wikipedia Commons A_Rose_Made_of_Galaxies_Highlights_Hubble's_21st_Anniversary_jpgI’ve gathered some images, sacred and sublime, to scroll through as you listen to Charlotte Church sing “O Holy Night“, one of my favorite Christmas carols.

I love this song, not only for the haunting melody and beautiful  lyrics, but also because night has always seemed holy to me.

When I walk out beneath the stars on a cold or balmy night, I’m awestruck by such beauty and mystery and magnificence. I feel humbled and incredibly grateful, as if witnessing the hand of the divine writ large across the sky.

The images below are my gift to you. They reflect what this season is all about for me, a sense of the sacred and sublime–scenes of the birth of Christ and families celebrating Christmas.

Photos of spectacular sunsets and winter wonderlands–nature in all her glory.

And finally, images of an infinite universe stretching out and wrapping about the earth as…

View original 129 more words

Sweet Whispery Sounds for a Wintry Afternoon – The Moon Song

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IMG_3148 (2)I don’t know what it is I love about this song by Karen O, which debuted in Her, the acclaimed film by Spike Jonze. I think it touches something sweet and innocent, safe and warm inside me, and hints at some similar presence out there in the universe, in some “quiet, starry place,” as the lyrics suggest, “a million miles away.”

It probably also has to do with the film itself, which, for all its simplicity, and even silliness, spoke to something deep and complex about life and love and its potential. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should.

You can listen to the song here.

When you are done, listen to “The Moon Song” by Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden from their album Beyond the Missouri Sky (Short Stories). It’s not the same song as above, only shares the same name. But it tells a story too, without lyrics, as Metheny’s work always does. And if you are watching the rain or snow fall outside your window, this will warm you.

Here are the lyrics from Karen O’s “The Moon Song”

I’m lying on the moon
My dear, I’ll be there soon
It’s a quiet, starry place
Times were swallowed up
In space we’re here a million miles away

There’s things I wish I knew
There’s no thing I’d keep from you
It’s a dark and shiny place
But with you my dear
I’m safe and we’re a million miles away

We’re lying on the moon
It’s a perfect afternoon
Your shadow follows me all day
Making sure that I’m okay and
We’re a million miles away

Read more: Karen O – The Moon Song Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Happiness Like Holiness

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Poppies by The Yes Man under Creative Commons Licence

Poppies by The Yes Man under Creative Commons Licence

I’ve been ill–nothing serious–but lying in bed day after day, even surrounded by good books, tends toward melancholy. Reading Mary Oliver’s poetry this morning is the perfect cure. This one especially speaks to me.

Poppies
by Mary Oliver

The poppies send up their
orange flares; swaying
in the wind, their congregations
are a levitation

of bright dust, of thin
and lacy leaves.
There isn’t a place
in this world that doesn’t

sooner or later drown
in the indigos of darkness,
but now, for a while,
the roughage

shines like a miracle
as it floats above everything
with its yellow hair.
Of course nothing stops the cold,

black, curved blade
from hooking forward—
of course
loss is the great lesson.

But I also say this: that light
is an invitation
to happiness,
and that happiness,

when it’s done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.
Inside the bright fields,

touched by their rough and spongy gold,
I am washed and washed
in the river
of earthly delight—

and what are you going to do—
what can you do
about it—
deep, blue night?

Turning Anger into Action, in Ferguson and Elsewhere

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justiceI am so angry at the outcome in Ferguson, that there was no indictment to allow a court of law to settle the matter of guilt or innocence in the killing of an unarmed young Black man. It seems this tragedy was bungled from day one in every way imaginable. At the very least a special prosecutor should have been brought in rather than allowing a district attorney that the community did not trust lead the investigation.

I do not know, now does anyone, whether Officer Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown. If he was truly so in fear of his life that he shot an unarmed man who in self-defense–a man who some witnesses say was surrendering and that others say was charging him. No one will know now, because the case will not go to trial to determine that guilt. It was a small thing for a grieving family to ask for–a trial. How could such a simple thing be denied?

I feel for the family of Michael Brown, for a community that lives in fear of the police, who seek justice for their dead sons. I can’t imagine what that would be like–to raise a black son knowing that any kind of brush with police could end in his arrest or shooting or death. And that it was far more likely for my son than for the son of my white neighbor, or the son of a police officer, or the son of a mayor.

When I look at how angry this injustice makes me–when I am so removed from the situation–I can fully understand how the anger of those who are intimately affected could turn into a rage that would upturn police cars and set them on fire. I can understand, without condoning, because anger, unchanneled, is wild and destructive.

My prayers now are that this justified anger is channeled into action, into changing an unjust system of law that allows community oversight of police departments, that requires body cameras for police officers, that ensures members of law enforcement represent demographically the community they serve. And that channels that anger into political action that unseats mayors and governors who are as tone-deaf as these in Ferguson, Missouri, were.

Today I am trying to channel my anger into action by writing this blog post. I know that not all my readers may feel the same as I do about the outcome of that Grand Jury, but I hope that all can sympathize with the mothers of Black sons the way that I do. And pray for the day when all our sons and daughters, whatever their skin color or economic status, will be treated equally in the eyes of the law, with justice and restraint and compassion.

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