Category Archives: blogging

Mouse droppings and global humanity

When you live in a 200 year old structure with a stone foundation, you share your life with mice.* It’s just a given. I draw the line when and if one of two things happen: I find teeth marks in the butter or I catch the smell of dead bodies.

Mice like pistachios, it turns out. Note to self: put the bowl of nuts away at night.

Weeks of catching whiffs of that distinctively fruity and repulsive stench of death got me going. There I was down in the basement sniffing at the joists and lifting up the sump pump well cover to stare down into its depths with a flashlight. Nada.

But this morning, my hound-like powers of detection pinpointed the source of the stench. It was coming from under the fridge. We pulled the appliance away from the wall to a horror show of dust and grime and mouse droppings, urine stains and yes, pistachio shells.

No dead bodies, though.

A thorough cleaning has not eradicated the smell. Could a few little grey corpses have slid along the undercarriage of the fridge when we pulled it from the wall?

Ugh. Now what?

Meanwhile, I’ve been piecing up a whimsy (when I should have been folding up the ironing board and putting some of my piles into closets to get ready for company).

But hey.

I’ve picked up our 15 pound organic, free range turkey from across town and stirred up the brine. And my apron is on and recipes located for candied yams and maybe? — a chocolate pie (others are bringing pumpkin and apple). Before I get to it, you might like to hear this.

Today’s Indivisible Group tele-call became dispirited with news regurgitation. We’d somehow strayed from the more usual constructive format of sharing possible action steps or venues for education. One member said, “I can’t take this. I get enough with the news. I’m going to sign off”.

I piped up that I completely understood but could she hang on a minute more if the talk turned positive? Then I shared about International Peace Day … about love being the answer and peace pins and peace leaves and about making peace a daily conversation. My voice shook, for some reason.

But here’s the thing — the tenor of our call was radically transformed. I have many of you to thank for that! I sent links to some of your websites to the group and to my own and for the first time wasn’t compartmentalizing political and artistic work. Until this morning, I hadn’t even realized I’d been doing that. It was liberating, somehow.

In that positive second half of the call, this event came up: starting on December 2 there will be a 24 hour global vigil for humanity. You have to register but it’s free and you can show up for any part of the 24 hours.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends! This week, love and food will be the answer — especially if that food is made with love.

P.S. I’ll take this moment to be grateful that most of my family doesn’t bother reading my blog (who says they should? but then again, why don’t they — at least once in a while?). With this post, it’s probably a good thing in terms of keeping their appetites for Thursday’s dinner!

*autocorrect turned my first attempt at typing “mice” to “love” … Does that mean even when dealing with a mouse infestation that love is the answer?

Don’t you just hate posts about blogging?

Posts about blogging often have a Catholic air of contrition about them: “Bless me Father, for I have sinned — I have not posted in six days.” Ach, indulge me as I cast before you a post about blogging!

img_2353Earlier this week, I published a few paragraphs about K traveling to a city in China very close to North Korea. It was freaking me out, etc. I thought maybe I could institute a practice of sharing his absence in real time because of our barky friend, Finn — but then thought the better of it. Why advertise vulnerability? (Since K’s now en route from Beijing to Newark, it’s public again).

[By the way, I don’t need my husband to be within Seoul’s radiation range to care about nuclear escalation — (in fact two others in my indivisible group and I have an appointment to speak with Representative Joe Kennedy about this next week). Let’s just say that the possibility of immediate personal harm amplifies concern].

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Then I started a post about housekeeping. Part nod to the need for discrete tasks with tangible results in a world spinning out of control and part nostalgic lament. (And yes, I really am picking detritus out from between the floor boards with a fowl pin!)

The house is tidier than ever. The raking more thorough. It’s hard not to wonder: what was so impossible about keeping a neat house while the boys were growing up?

Not wanting a question so fundamentally unfair to myself to linger unanswered, I considered an exercise in prescriptive memoir. Let’s document the positive!

I have a terrible memory, but this warping of recollection in the direction of personal failing is something else. It hurts.

But then it all felt incredibly disingenuous and anyway, in the process of rereading journals to “build my case,” I kept finding stuff that highlighted my missteps. Whoops! I got jammed. Really jammed.

I consulted my dear Byron Katie and got a little unstuck.

I’m tired of taking sides.

And anyway, wouldn’t a disordered lament make me more vulnerable and therefore be more interesting than some tidy, upbeat chirp of a post, which corrective or not, is ultimately self-congratulatory?

Messy then. Less messy now. So what.

I’ll leave you with a few of the pictures I scared up. I’ve made no attempt to span the years or to be thorough in any way (you know me better than that!)

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Hail Mary, solicitors, and hope

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Two days ago, when I was editing a published post about the only Catholic prayer I still say and a little about travel by air, the phone rang. It was a persistent solicitor — a number I’ve been seeing every day for weeks. I picked up to politely request my removal from their list while simultaneously saving the post —

and the whole thing vanished. Not just the updates — all of it.

I walked away, resolved not to let negative narratives spin up around the glitch, but also without the energy for a re-do. The negatives arose anyway (was silence imposed because the post was braggy instead of vulnerable? was it too facile with the Catholic rituals? not remotely concerning what is truly and deeply on my mind?)

What IS truly and deeply on my mind?

Yesterday, the wordpress app on my phone seized. Geez! Haven’t I said, I’m not shutting up?

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So by way of recap, here’s a little from the other day — I hope I never stop feeling a sense of wonder about being up in the air and seeing the coast lit up below. I hope the Virgin hears our prayers. I hope Mary’s mercy can guide me to learn more about the complicated landscape of South Carolina. Help me filter history through a tender and flexible compassion.

Here’s one surprise from my recent trip. The most restorative aspect of our visit to Charleston came from a major reduction in news consumption. Not the sun, the 70 degree temperatures, the incredible food or historic sites (though they were amazing, too). It was LESS NEWS.

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For wisdom about the business of balancing duty and lightness, I turn to Rebecca Solnit (“Hope in the Dark”). Even though since November I’ve had a hard time reading political commentary that predates the election, she will be an exception. She wrote:

“Joy doesn’t betray but sustains activism. And when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated, and isolated, joy is a fine initial act of insurrection.”

Giving is an act of insurrection, too. Did you hear about the crowd sourcing that planned to raise $20k in a month for purposes of repairing the vandalized Jewish graves in Missouri? They exceeded their goal in THREE HOURS. Or about the million-plus dollars raised to rebuild that burned down mosque in Texas? Twenty-three thousand people contributed.

Closer to home, my city just voted to be a sanctuary city.

Powerful examples of our collective goodness absolutely abound right now. To stay sane, I really need to pay as much attention to them as I do to the ugly and dark work of the GOP.

  • Photos of Virgin, magnolia tree and house were shot at Magnolia Plantation, SC last week.

H is for humor C is for courage

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Rethinking this platform big time. Bear with me while I re-jigger it enough to keep my own interest (and hopefully not lose yours). Otherwise, I need to just walk away.

First up, name change. This blog is now called: Pattern and Outrage. It more accurately reflects content and I have always hated the primacy and repetition of my name. If you list me, please revise when convenient (the url will not change).

I’m remembering Austin Kleon who said, ‘you don’t blog because you have something to say. You blog to find out what it is you need to say’. Bingo. I’m thinking of Jude, too, who over the years has consistently modeled blogging as a way to track her creative process. What I track may or may not inspire or even interest others, but I don’t have much to lose (as long as I keep my 35 readers, that is).

Here are a few things begging for regular mention: what I’m reading; what is inspiring; political resistance resources; the scary antics of the new administration (something along the lines of: ‘favorite lie of the week’); digital photo collage; and maybe, if I am courageous enough, deeper level thoughts about race — what I’m learning, where I’m stuck, etc. (that’s a  mighty ‘etc.’)

Also considering an occasional semi-private post — not sure how to do this (with a password?). It’s a strain to censor myself, but it strains me in a different way to air private matters. A recent revealing post brought this into sharp relief (now it’s tagged ‘private’). Unlike in the past when I have overshared and taken the post down immediately, this time there was an interval. In that space, many of you made generous and caring comments, both here and on the phone. It felt like part of the point. (NB: can my ADD-addled frontal lobe organize this?).

This is all very fluid. Input is welcome. Are there any improving tweaks obvious to you? What would make you more inclined to come here and/or comment more often? Would you prefer a different platform, like typepad? What form of social media draws you in the most right now and where do you read it?

So today for humor, I am going low. I find this absolutely hilarious.


And for courage, I go to the word itself and the inspirational Brene Brown:

“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage.”

Brené Brown, I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame

Teeny screen

 

 Thinking about technology and blogging habits. I don’t know what’s happening these days. I seem to have wandered away in a more thorough way than I have in the past. So little photography happening too. It’s just weird.

I think I need to either throw myself in with renewed and amped up commitment or walk away.

And if it’s the former (and of course it’s the former. I would miss my cyber-fiber friends way too much), I’m guessing that an iPad would make all the difference.

I rarely sit at the desk top anymore. I have an old iPhone with a teeny screen and it’s tough to read and comment on others’ blogs from here.

So. What do you think?

The capacity to surprise yourself 

I woke with a dream about an old boyfriend. Never got around to my pages. Puttered here til it was past rush hour and headed to Salem, where I promptly locked my keys in the mini-van. Somehow, it didn’t do me in. Just called a guy. I was mostly worried about being distracted around my sister, which can be a set up for disaster. Today it was fine.  The sun exhausted me on the drive home. It was almost as if I was about to fall asleep at the wheel, but really it was just a squinting weariness brought on by the intense glare. I said OM TARA TUTARE TURE SWAHA for myself on the way up, and for the boys on the way down. I am wondering what is making me so draggy right now. The state of my sister’s health? Maybe. It’s never good. The empty house, wondering who’ll show up for dinner? Nah, I’m used to that. A long, hot walk with Finn? No! That’s good. India Flint’s new book arriving and being blown away by her work and feeling more than a little inadequate? Yeah, definitely. Some sore spot opening up.  And this blog. I think I have to take more risks. Just have to. Or I will bore myself into silence. I plan to publish (yes, that IS the right word) some of the sketch-writing done in my class over the last year and a half. It will be scary — really scary — but I think it’ll add some much needed immediacy.  Until the novel is done, I don’t really feel comfortable talking about THAT process, which is too bad because it takes up a fair portion of every day. Maybe I need to rethink that, too?

And recipes. Why not? Isn’t this MY blog?! I just want to just throw them into the mix and tag them well so that the boys will be able to find them — both will be cooking on their own this year.

So. Some plans. I think maybe I am just tired.  

fade and wonder and authorship

collage light deemallonTry to answer the question ‘what is art’ and find half your audience in a narcoleptic stupor in a heartbeat. But ASKING the question and PLAYING with it in your hands and your lens and your canvas, is a fiery, soulful exercise.

If you make collage using magazine images, you can’t help but feel a little sheepish about matters of originality. When is borrowing theft? And, how important is endurance, anyway? Fade, fade, fade.

I made and framed this collage about thirty years ago. I can’t remember if it’s under archival glass or not (probably not. I was a law student paying for tuition with loans). Does the fact that I covered and cut the images of an artist’s clay masks turn them into ‘my’ work. Probably not, which is likely why I’ve kept this framed piece to myself all these years.

collage light deemallonBut now — look at the light angling across the glass! The light adds its commentary, without my authorship, and changes the stolen images yet again. Does my capture NOW make it more ‘mine’? And if paper is ephemeral, what is light passing over paper — even if captured in a photo?

“Light eats cloth” commented Mo yesterday. Fade, fade, fade.reveled in light passing through clothPart of me shrugs — or even yells a New Mexico YES —  because maybe that is part of the point — this mixing up of signature with indices of time.

I once sent a piece of patchwork to Grace in New Mexico. I had pulled some inner knots tight and didn’t know how to undo them. It seemed a simple thing to ship cloth west. I got energized by the idea of some fabric I had pieced together being touched by her, being blasted by the desert sun and sniffed at by goats.

The exercise gave me this idea of shipping sections of patchwork around the world, and asking others to let the elements ‘do their thing’, then return them to me so that I could piece them together into a more meaningful Global Warming quilt than I’ve made to date. (Still just an idea).

Jude plays at these edges all the time. Think – Magic Feather cloth, which gathered up hand sewn bits from all over the world, stitching a community together in the process (and a masterpiece cloth). Think of her play with light and shadows. A recent post showed one of her spectacular quilts with a shadow of her hand splayed over one side. Is the work the photograph of Jude’s hand casting a shadow on the quilt? Or the brief event of the shadow? Or is it ‘merely’ the cloth afterall, but now with a memory of the shadow?

Enough words. Time for a run to a garden center. It is an absolutely stunning day and I have both boys home!! Happy Mother’s Day to me!!! And Happy Mother’s day to all of you. We all mother something — ourselves, our pets, our ideas, and some of us, children.