Sunday, April 21, 2013

Three Haiku - No, Four!

Did you know that the plural for haiku is "haiku"?

I just did a dance with a spider that attempted to wriggle out of the paper towel I was using to get him from the inside to the outside of my house.  (Of course it was a him!)  My dance started to sound a little like a haiku - you know, three lines with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second, and 5 syllables in the third... So I wrote one.  Then that haiku felt lonely, so I wrote another one.  And a third.

Wait - is that a fourth?

A lonely haiku
Had me write another one
And then another.

Here are the first three:

spiders are scary!
when they try to escape from
a Bounty-full jail

buckets of rain pour
from sky to rusty buckets
so rainbows emerge

just as night begins
a star shimmers to the west
adventure awaits

Random Reactions

On Facebook, I am seeing friends and relatives post how they would have wanted a gun in their home had they lived in Boston this past week - or how people in Boston would have wanted that, I should say.  They must be watching Fox News.  I turned on Fox News for a minute - one minute - this past week, and that was what the announcer said.

I have hidden the Facebook posts.

It is one thing for Fox News to be opportunistic on behalf of the NRA in this time of crisis for our country.  It is another to watch friends and relatives buy into the story and assist in politicizing this moment via a nonsequitur cry to arms, for guns in the home (something that is not even in the pool of debate on Capitol Hill).

It was a week of tears for me - often tears of gratitude, that I am a citizen of this great country where the good hearts of people can overcome the attempt of terror by a few. I'm a little dehydrated, especially after watching some of the pre-game ceremonies for the home game of the Boston Red Sox yesterday.  Beautiful.  Am so glad the Sox won, 4-3.  I am so proud of our law enforcement, and of our Boston brethren, stepping up when needed.  Boston Strong.

I saw this article today, about how the NRA's successful lobbying against "taggants" in gunpowder likely slowed down law enforcement this week in Boston.  I post it here (not Facebook, since I try to keep my Facebook postings far away from politics):

Politics aside, it is a really interesting article.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hearts Broken, Spirit Intact

With everything else that happened this week...

I was watching news so I happened to watch the entire press conference of President Obama expressing disappointment at the 54-46 "vote for" proceeding on a new background checks law that lost because of Senate filibuster rules.  I am dejected, that our country has come to this.

Expansion of our background check law - to include those background checks at gun sale shows and for Internet sales - this is too controversial?  Really?

Starting the press conference, and introducing the president, was Mark Barden.  He is the father of one of the children killed in Newtown.  He had worked to help get this law passed.

When he talked, my heart broke.  I felt so bad that our Senate had let him down.  Perhaps this is why one sentence he said stood out for me more than any other.  He said, "Our hearts are broken.  Our spirit is not."

Powerful to me in those sentences is that he switched from the plural ("hearts are...") to the singular ("spirit is...") and yet, in both, used "our."  I don't know if he misspoke, or he intended it.  But these two sentences, structured this way, switch so that individuals feeling the same thing transform into individuals uniting as one voice.  I believed him, when he spoke.  Some day - this too shall pass - and I mean that in every sense of the expression.

Here is an article on what he said:

Also powerful to me was the president's sigh as he took the podium.  People are saying the president spoke more forcefully yesterday than they have ever seen him.  When he took the podium, and gave that sigh, he expressed how I felt.  When he started speaking, he put into words the words I would have said, had I had the heart to say words.  In his demeanor, he spoke for all of us whose hearts were broken.  As he spoke, I realized that our spirit can remain intact, just as Mark Barden had said.

I thank them all for their hard work - especially the work of yesterday, of standing at a podium and speaking in the face of despair (as they faced the truth that, on this day, the simplest of amendments could not be passed). They spoke with a determination that salved, for a moment, my broken heart.

Monday, April 15, 2013

"Mary and Martha" and Malaria

This is something I did not know - that there are nearly a million children dying of the preventable and curable malaria every year in Kenya, and that it is inexpensive to take the steps to prevent it (a mosquito net costs about $7.50, the rapid testing kit costs about 60 cents, the emergency drugs cost under $2).

This article - by Richard Curtis, the screenwriter of the film "Mary and Martha," on HBO this week - is a short, compelling description of the problem he saw, the confusion he had that there was no media attention on the problem, and the journey he took to become part of the solution.

Compelling in the article is Mr. Curtis' description of a speech given at the end of the film by the character Mary's father:

Did you know that if you take every single person killed in a terrorist act around the world in the last 20 years -- and add to that every life that's been lost in the Middle East since the Six Day War in '67 -- and add to that every single American life we lost in Vietnam and Korea -- and every single other military conflict America's been involved in since then, Iraq, Afghanistan... If you take all those lives -- that we'd all have given so much to save -- you've still got to multiply them by two to get to the number of kids who die of malaria every single year.

A dear friend of mine who passed away in 1994 (torn from us too soon, only 36) was a champion of Kenya, loving the country and the people, inspiring others to help the country through annual donation drives of eye glasses and the like. So the headline of this story caught my attention. I could not be Claudia's friend and fail to read the article. Now it does appear that I will be watching the film. I hope you do so as well.

"Mary and Martha," written by Richard Curtis, is directed by Phillip Noyce ("Salt" and "Rabbit Proof Fence," among many others) and stars Hilary Swank and Brenda Blethyn.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Beethoven Outbreak

Just saw this clip from October of last year - have watched it twice - cried, both times - am unsure why - it is alchemy, by the way - Beethoven's Ninth?  It is alchemy.  Ask me sometime, what I mean by that.  But it is.

Beethoven was deaf when he wrote the Ninth.  As the story goes:

"Although he attended the premiere of his 9th Symphony - on May 7, 1824 - Beethoven heard not a note.  Sitting on a stage for the first time in twelve years - with his back to the audience - his gaze was on the orchestra, choir and soloists.

"History tells us that Beethoven, who was beating time to the conductor’s movements, did not know how the people responded to his Ninth Symphony.  Taking his arm, the alto soloist (Caroline Unger) turned him round to face the crowd.

"Although he could not hear their roaring approval, Beethoven saw their clapping hands and smiling faces.  Bowing deeply to the premiere's concert-goers, he began to cry."

Friday, April 12, 2013

A New Spring

Years ago, I found the story of the 1946 Spokane Indians - the team that died in a bus crash midway through that season.  It was the first season after World War II.  Eight of the nine who died had served in the War in some capacity.  I had learned of them in the summer of 2003 and done some research on them for another potential project that never manifested.  So there I was, knowing about this great group of men who had sought one destiny and ended up with another, with no place to share it.

So I decided I had to write about them.  I thought maybe I could write a short story.  A novel appeared instead - ultimately titled "Until the End of the Ninth." (Coming up with the title is another story altogether.)

But between the urge to write and a finished novel, there comes a first word.  For as much as I loved these men and wanted to tell something of their story, I sat without words, in frozen state, with the enormity of the thought of where to begin.

I had a table full of news articles, printed from the microfiche at the local library, all from the spring and summer of 1946.  I randomly pulled out an article.  I would start my writing from there.

It was not a particularly auspicious beginning, is what I thought when I saw the article's heading.  It was from midway through the season - sort of a muddy place.  It was nice that it was an article about a game the team had won - at least I would be writing about a win.  Its headline, from May 16, 1946: "INDIANS STOP NEAR SHUTOUT: Tia Victoria In Ninth; Win In Twelfth."  They did have a way of winning in the ninth (is what I thought when I saw the headline - this was something I already had learned).  So it was a good article to have randomly selected in that way too.

That headline begins Part 2 of the novel.  They were the first words I typed.  From there, I wrote what came to me:

To the Victor goes the Victoria.  Or so it seemed on May 15, 1946, the day the game was played.  Nine was the lucky number - "in the Ninth," the key phrase.  Winning was the ultimate result.  In extra innings, no less.  It was in the ninth that they tied Victoria.  It took more than nine to produce the win.  They needed three more innings that day to get the win. They needed 12 to win.

If they hadn't put it together in the ninth, they would have been shut out.  Silenced for the day.  All that effort, all that batting, all that work, all for naught.

The Indians were lucky to beat Victoria that night.  It took a lot, to beat Victoria like that.  More than perseverance, more than hope - faith too, and maybe a commitment to the mundane.  Always a commitment to the mundane.  Playing day in, day out, game after game, pitch after pitch - and then, in a moment's silence, when all seems statically standstill, someone does something to change the flow, or create it. ...

So what is the consequence when you tie victory in the ninth, and then have the audacity to surge on beyond it, going all the way to the twelfth to beat victory itself?  Is it transcendence?  Or is it a foolhardy version of Russian roulette? ...

It goes on from there, including how they got close quickly that year - perhaps because they were back from the War and were playing for the love of the game - appreciating life itself - "Maybe the war had taught them how to appreciate things like playing in the moment, breathing in the grass, standing in the sun..."

It's baseball season now - a new spring.  Here's to hoping that the people playing ball right now are loving the moments of the game - and are doing something (in a moment's silence, when all seems statically standstill) to change the flow, or create it.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Cycles - With Update

I'm worried about Annie.

Annie is my angel cat. Alex is the incorrigible one, but Annie is the one who has the light spirit of an angel.  She is the one who knows when something is wrong, knows when someone is in need of care.

And now she is the one in need of what she provides to others.

She's about 17 years old now.  I got her in August of 1998.  The vet estimated her age at 2 1/2 then.  So she is about 17 now.  Apparently that is about 85 years old in human years.

She's got arthritis now.  There's a cupboard of clothes where she likes to sleep but it is up high, so I have put a chair and phone books underneath the cupboard so she can step her way up and down from this favorite napping place.

She stays inside now.  She used to love to go outside and she does so every so often now, when the weather is warm.  But I don't think her eyesight is as good as it used to be, so I am content with keeping her inside where she won't get lost.

She's eating mostly wet food now.  I did find some kitten dry food on Saturday that she seems to like, but she is short on saliva these days so the wet food is just easier to eat, I think.

Her fur is not pristine clean anymore.  She was always such a fussbudget about that fur.  But it's hard for her to keep it clean these days.  I have given her baths which she tolerates, and then sort of preens around when she is dry again, as though she realizes she looks so pretty.  I've organized her first-ever professional bath for 1:30 today.

She's still alert, and active.  She still knows when I need her company.  She still is happy when I come home from a long day of work.  She still purrs.  She has the greatest purr. 

She played like a kitten just now - looking adorable, as always, when she plays like that, rolling a little on her side and looking at me to see if I'm noticing how cute she is being.

I've written at least four books (two published, two not) and several screenplays on my computer.  From the beginning, she has sat on the table where I worked, curled up next to the computer as I wrote, holding the space still so that I could focus.  When I have written on the couch instead (like I did for my most recent script), she has sat next to my head on the back of the couch while I typed.

I'm not sure how I will write when she is gone.  I'm not sure how to imagine any part of my world with her not in it.  But it's got to happen, right?  She's 17.  She can't live forever, can she. 

I'm  taking her to the vet this week.  Keep your fingers crossed for my good friend Annie.

UPDATE: Well, it is as I had feared. Annie has kidney disease.  Her numbers are not the worst in the world, but they are not the best either. She now has a whole new diet, new medications... I will get trained tomorrow on giving her injections of subcutaneous fluid, which I will give her two or three times a week.  She seems pretty healthy under the circumstances, and the vet hopes the treatments will stabilize her, but people keep expressing their condolences because I guess the outlook can be grim.   Actually, she seems in pretty good spirits. It is hard to believe she is sick.  And she looks so pretty!  Here she is, right after her bath:

I love this girl. We will see how things go. Condolences aside, I'm feeling cautiously optimistic.