She Revels on Parade

Men aren’t the only ones who may demand our attentions, of course, for whatever fine attributes they share with us, whether with showoff intent or mere magnetism. Men, women, and others of indeterminate sex, age, style, or even species all deserve a moment in the spotlight. Equal time for all kinds of beauty!Photo + text: Some Cleavage is Best Appreciated in Retrospect

Unnaturally Lightfooted

We’ve long since established that I can’t dance. I couldn’t dance well enough to stay in a second-grade dance class; heck, I couldn’t even be trusted to remember whether we were supposed to show up wearing tights with our tutus or not, for the class picture before the big recital. Though it’s only fair to give myself credit for having been obsessed with the ugliness of our getups to such an extent that I forgot the part about the stockings, and I promise you, they were hideous costumes.

But you also know that I am enamored of beautiful dancing of nearly any kind, if allowed to watch it from a safe distance. So I think I can be forgiven for letting others take to the floor in real life and only doing so in my imagination and, occasionally, in my poems. I think any creature, real or imagined, that can dance beautifully deserves my attention and admiration (as long as it wears the correct tights with its tutu).Graphite drawing: Swinging Dragonflies

 

Text: Waltzing

Lesser Lights

digital illustration

The major stars are always more visible than those around them. It’s demonstrably true not only in the galaxies but in the more modest constellations of humanity. Our attentions are naturally drawn toward those who shine most impressively and dramatically—for good or ill; those more modestly gifted or less showy mostly find their own lights muddled or even eclipsed by the intensity nearby, and as a result we seldom spot and take note of them.

Even those of us who are not only accustomed to, but also aware of, being humbled and diminished by comparison to others’ flashier character can easily forget how this applies to others. Just because I might feel neglected doesn’t necessarily mean I notice others being equally shortchanged; indeed, it’s more likely that if I’m feeling under-appreciated I get too preoccupied with my longing to be Special and resentful navel-gazing to think that I’m probably in the majority rather than otherwise.

Still, there’s hope. Just as a supernova will someday burn to nothingness, human stars tend mostly to flash into the general notice, burn however brightly for however long, and be dimmed by eventual inattention or death. They, too, will eventually be outshone and/or replaced by other stars whose time has come.

And if I, or any other, should in the meantime feel unreasonably hidden from sight, we are still free to seek our own bit of gleam. For some folk, that seeking comes in ambitions for accomplishment and fame. For the rest of us, the surest way to kindle the blazing fire that gives off sufficient heat and light to be noted by anyone else is to turn our focus outward. Devoting energy, attention and love to causes and works outside of our petty selves, and especially to other persons, is the spark that, when kindled in their spirits, creates the steadiest, most lasting kind of light. Even the smallest and weakest among us shines brightly in this tiny act of selfless will.digital illustration

Over the Top

photoFew people have as many reasons to be happy as I have. Being aware of that fact is, in a maybe slightly tautological way, a great reason for happiness in its own right. And so: I am happy. Very.

One of the finest reasons to be happy–and forgive me if this sounds a little tautological too–is that I am not depressed. Having spent as many of my younger years clinically depressed and struggling with anxiety as I did before getting treatment and medication that allowed me to be at ease, healthy, hopeful and, well, happy, I may have a deeper appreciation of simple, ordinary happiness than many. Every day that I’m not depressed, sad or anxious is a gift. I think I can be pardoned for thinking myself one of the happiest creatures on earth, even if I don’t go bounding around giggling to prove it.

Another chief source of my joy is the tremendous community of friends and loved ones surrounding me at all times. This has served not only as an essential part of my recovery and continued success in keeping my mental health and spirits on a positive trajectory since my emergence from the chrysalis of that darker self of years past. If that isn’t reason for being well and truly happy, I don’t know what is. I suppose it’s a further sign of general contentment and happiness that when there are times of stress, struggle or sorrow that are fleeting, they serve to reinforce happiness rather than otherwise, since they serve to remind me of the contrast between those times of trial and their wonderful opposites.

The biggest mystery in all of this is perhaps the astounding truth that I keep getting rewarded further for embracing my sources of happiness. Good friends come into my life and share their kindness and wisdom and humor and expansive spirits with me and I respond as any such fortunate person would, by turning to them like a flower to the sun. And then they in their turn give me more of their kindness and so forth. I am overwhelmed with thanks.

Among bloggers, one of the signs of mutual support and friendship that arises in this setting is the sharing of blog awards, and of late I seem to have built up quite the collection once again. So I am taking this moment to express my deep gratitude! Given the range of kindnesses being showered upon me in recent times, I am taking the liberty of blending the recognitions into one post and revising all of the requirements–with an invitation to those I nominate in response that they might follow this new rubric as well.

First of all, I present to you the generous friends who have shared their blog awards with me, and the awards they have passed along on the way.

Afsheen http://afsheenanjum.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/awards/ Dragon’s Loyalty Award + Versatile Blogger Award + Blog of the Year 2013 AwardDragon's Loyalty AwardVersatile Blogger AwardBlog of the Year Award 1 star jpegRosemary http://randomrose.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/the-sisterhood-of-the-world-bloggers-award/ The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers AwardSisterhood of the World Bloggers AwardCarolyn http://carolynmalone.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/best-moment-award/ Best Moment AwardBest Moment AwardAnne http://talesalongtheway.com/2013/12/01/sunshine-award-and-inner-peace-award/ Inner Peace Award + Sunshine Award + Versatile Blogger AwardInner Peace AwardSunshine AwardVersatile Blogger AwardDimple https://shivaaydelights.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/liebster-awards-ii/ Liebster AwardLiebster AwardSamina http://saminaiqbal27.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/most-influential-blogger-award/Most Influential Blogger AwardMost Influential Blogger AwardDiane http://bardessdmdenton.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/inspiration-awarded/ Very Inspiring Blogger AwardVery Inspiring Blog AwardKind friends all, I am once again moved and daunted by your generosity. But I shall do my best to be worthy, or at least appropriately thankful and generous in my own turn. For my  official dance of acceptance, I shall share a selection of revelations, factoids and other wildly inspirational (or mildly amusing) items to divert you for a while. First, however, I must tell you there are a number of darling persons of my blogging acquaintance and friendship who deserve your visits, readership, following and devotion. And any number of awards. So whichever of the awards you below-named friends have not already received (multiple times, some of you!), I will be ever so glad and honored if you will accept my nomination to share with me. For I am glad and honored to be in your company, just as I’ve been saying.

Ginger, purveyor of outrageously great humor and creative writing at gingerfightback; Marie, lovely proprietress of her own Little Corner of Rhode Island (where wildlife and fabulous young household members run wonderfully rampant); David Reid, insightful and gloriously gifted artist; Antoinette, Spree-cooking in a magical kitchen and celebrating family love; Mark, overseeing a variety of creative marvels through graphic design, music, travel and more, at The Vibes; Mandy the magnificent at The Complete Book, where cats and cookery and the sweet beauties of South Africa abound; Bishop, the master of clever home gardening, beer making, whiskey tasting and regional explorations; Claire, who Promenades through England and France with exquisite gardening and travel and foodly inspirations; Nitzus, gloriously photographing travels and family with equal aplomb; Diane Denton, Bardess of a multitude of grand artworks combining poetry and paintings and all sorts of visual and verbal art; John, busily cooking up family history and delicious dishes with which to ingest them in the Bartolini kitchen; Lauren, who writes love poems so well that instead of making me feel like a spy on her personal life they seem admirably universal; Tyler, the superb writer-photographer-poet-biologist at the helm of The Ancient Eavesdropper; Jeanne Kasten, queen of her beautiful art studio; Mick the Meticulous and his great and celebratory photographs of people, places and things in ways that remind us to see with new eyes; Laura Macky, outstanding and artistic photographer-blogger; Michael, Taggart and his Amazing Flower Photos; and Anne-Christine, the great lady presiding over the joys at Leya: please step up and accept my accolades, my admiration, and my best wishes for your continued success and happy productivity.

Friends, if your name doesn’t appear on this little list, rest assured that I am pleased to share my blogging life with each and every one of you whose blogs I visit and follow as well. Your work makes my days so much the richer, and I consider myself privileged to be in the midst of this entire blogging company. Those of you who read here now and have not yet ‘met’ the bloggers whom I am naming above, please take a cue from my list and pay a visit to these terrific people’s places the first chance you get!

Now, a selection of bits about moi, in case you haven’t already been sickened by the TMI that is my blog. Happy perusing.

1   One of the very few sport-related things I ever did with reasonable success was drop-kicking in football. Surprisingly, I did not pursue this as a career.

2   I love the scent and taste of cardamom.

3   I’d like to own less Stuff. Trying to be smarter about that.

4   I’ve only been under general anesthetic twice. As far as I can remember. Not counting a few speeches I’ve sat through.

5   One of my early boy-crushes was on Morgan MacLaren, with whom I shared a double desk in first or second grade, and I swooned and mooned over him for a long time, but it ended abruptly when he contracted the current plague of the Hong Kong flu and threw up all over our desk.

6   I really like sitting on a swing, and I like standing on it even better. But swings are made too Safe nowadays for properly aggressive elevation. Thanks, lawyers.

7   I’m a huge fan of Mid-century Modern design. Not very surprising, I suppose, as I grew up surrounded by the stuff when it was new. But I admire its clean lines and grace anyway.

8   My pet goldfish, the first and only pet I ever had, had a middle name. Turns out to be the first name of the first-and-only man I ever married, too.

9   Eating raw eggs doesn’t worry me (but I wouldn’t choose to eat them plain).

10   I prefer thigh-high stockings to pantyhose.

11   I’m generally an optimist. Is that why I prefer thigh-high stockings to pantyhose? Oh, come on, I was simply referring to the relative probability of their staying properly in place during the regular course of a day without help from garters.

12   One of the stupider things I’ve done was responding to having come back to my car after visiting the library one night, finding a teenager in a hoodie inside it going through my glove compartment, and instead of going off to call the police as I should have done, opened the door and yanked the kid out by his jacket, yelling at him, and shoved him away while he, stunned, regrouped and ran off to catch up with the confederates who had failed to warn him I was returning to the car. I am happy he was even stupider and more afraid than I was so I’m here to tell the tale.

13   I like cedar better than pine. Mostly.

14   I learned how to drive a manual transmission vehicle, but I’m terrible at it. You should all be thrilled that automatic transmissions exist. The world is a safer place.

15   When the space shuttle Challenger exploded, I was standing in line at a paint store where they had a television on behind the counter, so despite the improbability of it all, I saw the disaster on live TV anyway.

16   I’m very intimidated by singing in front of anybody. I know there’s no earthly reason to be afraid of it, but it frightens me all the same.

17   I was fond of vampires and monsters and that sort of stuff long, long before they entered their current phase of popularity, but I still don’t think of myself as dark and morbid (even if others might)–I only like that stuff for its amusing entertainment value. Maybe that in itself is morbid!

18   If an Agatha Christie villain had ever tried to poison me with cyanide I’d probably have been an easy mark, because I find the smell and flavor of almonds enticing.

19   Birds love the seeds I put in two of the feeders out back of our house or on the patio but they won’t touch the remaining feeder, with the same seeds in it.

20   I would’ve made a good architect, if I hadn’t been such an awful mathematician and, oh yeah, also had no engineering knowledge and a pretty poor work ethic. Great sense of practical yet beautiful space and all of the smaller designs within it, though.

21   I am in awe of people who are great at any service profession (teaching, medicine, humanitarian work, and so forth).

22   My parents never disowned me. Go figure.

23   A man of Norwegian descent taught me my first Chinese words and taught me how to use chopsticks.

24   I had the chicken pox as a kid.

25   If all of this isn’t more than enough information about me, I don’t know whether to be astounded or just feel sorry for you, but I hope you’ve been a little amused along the way. And considering that you’ve stuck around this long, I thank you for your patience and good manners and hope you’ll extend your attentions enough to visit some of the many great blogs of my friends’ that I commended to you above. Cheers!   photoWith this, I am going to cease accepting blog awards henceforth. Obviously, I am not opposed to them in any way! But I have already been so generously inundated with awards that I have no need of more, and the companionship, advice and friendship I receive has always been the richest of the rewards. I thank you one and all and wish for everyone as much happiness as I am blessed to enjoy.

Please Vote Responsibly

You know how much I hate politics. I almost titled this post ‘Friends don’t Let Friends Drink & Vote’, since it seems like a whole lot of people prefer to find a specific agenda that appeals to them on a visceral level and shape all of their votes around it willy-nilly, without either differentiating between candidates that do or don’t have any power to guide said agenda wisely or, worse, without first thoroughly checking their own facts regarding that particular point item of passion. Mostly, I hate that what I see and hear of politics is the brainless ranting of people who hang out at the various extremes, and very little of civil discourse and logical, reasoned thinking. Nothing would please me more than to believe that every person with the privilege of voting would not only do so, but do so after serious thought and careful consideration and with a certain amount of faith that the other voters and their points of view matter, too. But to be quite honest, I think we (at least in America where I’ve observed it in person, but I gather this is so in many other places as well) are mighty far from this my ideal.

So I tend to shy away from all things political as much, as long and as often as I can.

Yet I can’t help but wish, and sometimes a little peep of this pained wishful thinking leaks out visibly or audibly. Especially around election times. At least, given my particular bent, I’ll keep trying to publicly disguise my whines and rants in slightly more lighthearted forms when I get my own political itch.

poem [typeset text]

graphite drawing

 

‘Twixt Heaven and Hell

graphite & pastel drawingMuch of the repertoire categorized as Early Music by us modern folk was, whether religious or secular in nature, directly connected with the ideas of Heaven and Hell. Not surprisingly, a great many of these songs used love–doomed or newly married, joyful or unrequited, chaste or wildly earthy, or whatever brand was of interest in the moment–as the vehicle for exploring the concepts of Heaven and Hell. We are only able to conceive of and interpret any grand philosophy or construct through the lens of the familiar, and best so, through what excites our attention and preoccupies our waking hours. Love, in all of its myriad aspects, is a logical choice indeed for such explorations.

The programs sung and played thus far this week at Berkeley have been unsurprisingly full of love, lust, longing and loneliness and all of their cousinly affections, then. I had to laugh when a humorous piece contrasting Heaven and Hell included text and visual references in the performance that made Hell seem remarkably likely to be just another name for Texas, but that’s merely a reflection of this same recognition factor that makes songs of love such a universal language, so globally appealing.The whole festival this week is in itself a fine microcosm and affirmation of this communal language, created by not only the sharing of these great and even the not-so-great pieces of music, but also richly by the sharing of our common interest in music and the arts and the newly fledged acquaintances and enriched relationships that come from our all crossing paths in this event, by coming together as it were to sing the same song and revisit our sense of love and its wonders.

Now, let the players and singers strike up another chord!