Blog Archives 2004
Blog Archives 2005

Meredith Sue Willis's Blog Archives 2006

July 3

Stasha Hughes' wedding reception yesterday at St. Marks in the Bowery, that wonderful 1799 church that I had vaguely thought wasn't really a church anymore, but it is, along with poetry and theatre and all kinds of cultural events. The party was in the actual sanctuary, tall and splendid, after hors d'oeuvres out in the garden, with Greek food, wine, coming-storm breezes, sirens.     The main meal was Middle Eastern, delicious, toasts to the young people including in Greek from the groom's father. Arthur and Lainie, Ingrid and Jay, all reading poetry saying nice things. I got to meet Ingrid’s sister Nora at last, and also saw her brothers. Stasha gorgeous in a strapless ivory sheath gown, hair the same ivory color as gown, a superb silver bracelet of peas in a pod gift of the Mellissis family.  I talked with Ingrid's Jay about fantasy fiction (he turned me on to Philip Pullman) and also some length with Sondra Olsen and Jean Verthein about state of publishing, reactions of people to 9-11, still living in New York, still afrair or not. I sat with Katherine Sorel and her husband. Katherine a childhood friend of Aaron Hughes, Ingrid's friend now. She teaches third grade at an alternative school in Carroll Gardens. Lots of talk about schools, about poetry, especially with Myra Shapiro whose memoir about coming to New York to write poetry is going to be published, and she and I talked about the difference in poetry and prose: she kept speaking of poems as something you can hold in your hand and also eat, which struck me as most interesting, that she conceives of poems not as something that comes out of her but as something she puts into herself. Novels, in particular, to me, are rivers you push your little boat into--so I suppose you put all of you into them in a way.

Myra's husband Harold and I talked about Israel: he flies over frequently, works with Peace Now and other pro-peace groups. Yay Harold!

And then, afterward, walking in mild rain, end of the storms, hurring across Manhattan once again to catch a train.   


Yesterday’s running haiku:


Heat has settled in:
A low haze blankets the town,
Heavy green pleasure.



June 28, 2006

Last night's reading at the Clement Soto Velez Cultural Center on Suffolk Street on the old Lower East Side went very well. I read with poets Iris N. Schwartz (who kindly invited me) and her best friend Madeline Artenberg. They have a new book out, Awakened, and both of them are super readers. I read "On the Road with C.T. Savage," which is slated to come out in Appalachian Heritage in the fall. Iris even sang!

It was a small crowd, as these things often are, but I was delighted to see old friends and meet new ones. My friend writer and activist Shelley from writers group came, and there were people with connections to the past-- Brant who was a close friend of the late wonderful Maureen Holm who was very supportive of many writers, including me, published my work in her 'zine BigCityLit, invited me up to the Catskills for a lecture and workshop. It was such a pleasure to think about her again with someone who knew her. Also there was Bob Heman who was part of the Print Center in the seventies where we used to produce The Spicy Meatball and other books by kids. Wow! It's like you reach a certain age, and your past is this huge field with beautiful groves of memory to visit when you lift up your head to notice.

Iris and Madeline are also good friends of Aunt Ros Rabin, who wanted to be there and couldn't be.

Also strange to be down there on the Old Lower East Side strangely mixed now Chinese take out ("The Best Fried Chicken!") next to comidas criollas next to a nameless bar tiled black with very uptown looking white young adults drinking martinis (well, I couldn't really see what they were drinking, but they looked like martini drinkers.) Open fireplace sitting in the middle of the dark space. The Williamsburg Bridge dumping onto Delancey Street. But not the old Lower East Side at all-- all of Manhattan seems to be becoming a playground and affordable housing for affluent or at least middle class young adults.

Shelley has a story online that captures one person's changing Orchard Street.




Photos of the Black and White Salon!


The West Virginia Encyclopedia is officially out!

Learn more here.


It's a huge, beautiful book with tons of information about history, natural history, the arts and all in my home state. Very proud to have been a part of it-- I got to write entries on "Life in the Iron Mills" by Rebecca Harding Davis and the Shinnston Tornado. I spend so much time reading on the Web or in cheap editions of books that this enormous heavy, high quality book is a real treat. It's sitting on my coffee table.


June 22, 2006

Well, we've reached summer officially, and I borrowed a summer solstice photo because I loved the bright blue of it. Most of the summer solstice pictures are of Stonehenge like that is the only place it happens. Today is gray and damp and is supposed to get hot, but cool so far. I was in New York last night, all the way over to Kips Bay, NYU logo in sight, getting coffee and cake before my class at the Norman Thomas Center. Walking back to Penn Station afterwards, tour busses disgorging on 34th Street at the foot of the Empire State Building, which is suddenly a big friendly bulk on my left with a nice brick red metal trim. Lots of light haired white young people in shorts, with chaperones, taking pictures of each other with the Empire State Building's brass identifying place. It all seems so clean and family oriented on these warm Wednesday evenings.




June 21, 2006

We’ve got a hot day coming but less humidity, and I have NYU tonight.

I've been thinking about my political views lately-- I still am emotionally most responsive to the Wobblies (Joel gave me a great graphic novel history of them by his history teacher for my birthday) and the Port Huron Statement , but at the same time, after ten years, I am eager to see the Coalition move towards the stability of being a real nonprofit. And there really is a new generation with very little interest, unfortunately, in seeing themselves as part of the Working Class or even of fighting for Integration, if it's called Integration. Then there are the web-democracy issues that brother-in-law David Weinberger and others write about. Anyhow, I know what's right and wrong, but not exactly where I fit in.

I stayed up too late last night watching the Miami Heat win the NBA championship. I was rooting for them (after all, since they beat the Nets, one wants them to go all the way). Familiar Shaq, onetime Net Alonzo Mourning, Pat Riley who I still think of fondly in the back court with my homeboy Jerry West, and then there’s this All Star kid Dwayne Wade with the long eyelids and high eyebrows who looks just like the Williams family I knew in East Ghent, Norfolk. Well, anyhow, I stayed up late watching basketball and spent the last couple of days thinking more about teaching than writing, but want to advance my story some more today before I go on to NYU and Coalition issues.




It's feeling like real summer now, or almost-- hot in the afternoon, but today wasn't so hot that I couldn't sit on the back porch and do papers for tomorrow's advanced novel class. This evening, though, it's cooling fast, more like spring. We sleep well at this time of year.









Chiaki Achiwa sang two songs at Ethical Culture on Sunday. Acoompanying her was Jim Harington. For more info about them professionally, click here. Chiaki is married to our friend Takeshi Achiwa, who is Joel's cousin Alex's cousin! And Jim is our excellent cross-the-street neighbor who bought the Sciaino's house.



Last night, I was reading the graphic novel style history that Joel gave me for my birthday,  Wobblies!, edited by Joel's Sixties Without Apology teacher, Paul Buhle, which I am really enjoying– it’s doing what I like a history book to do, getting things I’d read about (those Utah mine strikes) in perspective, Emma Goldman’s relationship to the Wobblies, why they liked Eugene Debs but not Samuel Gompers, and on and on. Brief life of Joe Hill. I'm starting to sing "Solidarity Forever" and "Rebel Girl," but mostly “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night.”   Especially intersted in Lucy Parsons (see photo at left) and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn    (subject of Joe Hill's "Rebel Girl.") Ah those good old days, except for the fact that I would probably have died in infancy or childbed or the Influenza.

Some of what I have to say about politics and art and history is in my new story that's going to be published shortly in the Saranac Review, "Triangulation." I had fun with that one, plotting positions with my grandmother, Emma Goldman, and Gustav Klimt.


So last night I was reading Wobblies! in bed, and I closed the book and turned off the lights, and the phone rang, and I sat up, grabbed it, always fearing the worst from midnight phone calls. Andy picked up too from his office, and it was Joel on the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco, on his way to dinner– calling to tell us there’s a Gap clothing store there!

But a bong shop a few doors down.


For pet fanatics, photos of Taxicab.






Everybody's gone! Andy out, Joel in California, Mom off to Harley and Faye's in Cleveland. Nobody here with me for the moment but Taxi the parakeet. The house is empty and at once sad and invitingly solitudinous. I know that isn't a word, but I wanted one that means a spaciousness full of echoes of people and ideas they have given me to mull over, but no one immediately needing attention. My mother is an exceptionally easy guest-- she takes naps and weeds the front walk! -- but I love the space to wander and think and be dreamy and turned inside and back.   



Joel is in California!  He had his orientation today and likes his fancy Menlo Park hot tub apartment as well as the campus of VMWare which is in Palo Alto.  He and roommates went to small dirty but delicious Indian restaurant called Shalimar in San Francisco last night.  Whew.



First photo of Taxicab! Actually, I have one from the breeder, but this is mine, Taxi looking greener than yellow, a little dubious, but extremely trusting: lets us rub head, chest, steps up, eats out of your hand, still quiet, but moving ahead rapidly. I think what I like best about parakeets (probably all the birds from the parrot family) is how interested they are in everything.

This one is remarkable for how tame it was when I picked it up: eating out of human hands, excited by fast movement but happy to interact. And now, after three days, remarkably advanced. I remember poor Charley Brown, who was a typical bird-from-a-bin, refusing to do step up, flying to the tops of things, me chasing her with a broom stick until she went into the cage. This one hasn't been out of the cage, but should be willing to come to a hand at some point in her liberties. I hope I'm not being too optimistic...









June 2, 2006

Now it’s Friday morning, and the house is full and quiet. Andy seems to have gone out early, to do his dexas no doubt at the office, although he’s not seeing patients. The others are asleep: my mother, Joel, and Sarah. I ate too much rich last night, also they had a lemon coconut cake from Cait and Abby’s. My new bird is downstairs watching and watching, so quiet. I keep thinking it isn’t eating, but Lisa-on-the-web, who runs a homemade parakeet answering site says they eat when we aren’t watching, only drink once or twice a day anyhow. Eating secretly.

So far, I’m calling her Taxi, which my mother thinks is a terrible name (she wants to call it Biscuits and Gravy). She has chirped a couple of times, no doubt seeking the lost others. Such a lovely little bright eyed thing, peeking and peering. Now I worry about the bird, and about what happens next with it.



We're having some real heat here, the first this year, and Joel is home--Sarah and friend Benj were here last night too, a vegeterian dinner with salad from the garden and an herb pasta plus a berry pie of the last of last year's berries plus various berries in the freezer. My mother made little chocloate mortarboards for the graduates (that was Sarah and Benj sort of-- he has another semester to go). Then I had to go off to the HSA forum. Benj left for home, Philadelphia, and Sarah drove to Washington looking for an apartment. She may come back if she gets one.


Today, I teach, Andy off to work, Joel ensconced in front of the t.v. My mom asleep.






On the porch, with my laptop! Just what I've been yearning for for several years. Sun on the overgrown grass down at the point. I don't know how long I'm going to last up here-- it gets to me, the communal life sometimes, but on a morning, with no motorboats yet, it is so lovely. Also, a kind of psychic quiet, without immediate access to the Internet to ask any little question that comes to mind. If I'd been home with the always-open DSL connection,, I'd have looked up ducks sitting on their eggs (or is that setting?) among other things this session.




This is memorial day at the lake-- My mother is here, sleeping in the middle room through folks walking by on the way to the bathroom, napping, missing out on a lot of conversation because she can't hear. But the gang's all here: Ellen, David Ann Leah Nathan Andy and me, and Joel has been calling it seems half a dozen times from the Post office from the bookstore. Unusually warm week-end. Oh lying on the hammock between the white pines.




My mother is arriving later, and it's quite chilly and gorgeous and I'm all excited about what I'm not even sure.



May 20, 2006

We have been having very mixed weather-- our share of rain after a couple of sunny dry weeks, clouds, thunder, more rain. I've now gone over all of my porches-- can open doors without eight months of dust blowin in. Today I'm going to cut some grass, take a run for the first time in a couple of days, help out again at the EC White Elephant sale, maybe put the beans in the ground.

I'm also still chipping away at the longest of these page, trying to get rid of the fonts, get it into decent code. Why do I bother? Can this be an addictrion?



Hours later...


Saturday night, and a real physical day, cutting grass, sweeping grass cuttings, a run, planting the beans, helping pack up the leftover stuff at Ethical after the White Elephant sale. And throughout, splendid weather:


High sky, sun and wind:
A spring day with everything.
Open, open now!


The beans are especially vivid in my mind: I have been making short little curved paths as I finish beds, and this time I put down salt hay and sat on it, sprinkled the beans then pressed them into the earth: orange and maroon Vermont Cranberry, purple and white Jacob’s Cattle, a white “experimental green bush,” nearly black Fortex pole beans, white Romano, brown Northeaster-- and of course dear old Dragon Langerie, just brown seeds now, but their pods will be striped with purple and red. To hear the list, you’d never think I was planting about ten square feet of the little devils. But, I'll get enough to freeze and eat. Nothing more beautiful than bean seed against damp dark dirt. I love it that they want to grow, that the flea beetles that appeared en masse when the Black Seeded Simpson lettuce came up have mostly gone-- eaten by the scads of small spiders that were running around over there? Or someone else?

This year, anyhow: at this time last year, I was beginning to feel the painful puzzlement over what was destroying my garden.

I have been sitting on my porches, my clean porches, reading, talking on the phone. It is such a pleasure to have the porches clean, to be out of doors and in at once. No mosquitoes for a few more weeks. They'll come with the raspberries and heat.

I was watching the sun come through the trees just as the day ended. This is a new view with the mulberry tree down to a third of its old size. Low sun golding the green. Straight lines of a house I didn’t used to be able to see but not recognizable as windows or porch, just some tan human straight edges. The tall column of very yellow light. Rays coming at me, leaves suddenly abundant, only a moment at its maximum, and then fading. The exquisite thunder of change, the ultimate entertainment.




May 18, 2006

Well, I need to move on to working on Melisandre. This is the time of year when I can sink into writing and gardening at least a little, and I even do some reading! I find myself doing more and more with web pages and the Internet, though, and I am wondering if this is becoming an obsession.

I reviewed some of my old journals and discovered that back in June, 2000 I was writing Ingrid to tell her I used “free software I downloaded off the web, aolpress at” I’m not sure what I was using for ftp at that point– Malaney’s dedicated software? For my aol site I was using their ftp.

(I just did a typical Internet activity: looked up old AOLPRESS to see if it still existed, and discovered that it’s long dead, but you can still get it, that Wikipedia has an article on it, and then I went off on Wikipedia articles on various html editors, etc. etc.)

But the point is, I was dipping my toes into html well before the beginning of 2000, and while I wasn’t writing to recommend it to friengs, I was experiencing wild frustrations over the hateful little repetitive precise instructions that you had to do. Actually, the way things are now, having used various programs, plus discovered that learning an html editor is valuable only if you also know something about html, and also other programs like CSS– the underlying big picture, as it were.

Anyhow, I actually experience less frustration, which may be what leads me to spend ever more time on this stuff! It’s become satisfying! Those hours of suffering and frustration were dark and thus likely to be buried in memory. So now what’s bothering me is that I wake up wanting to do it (or Coalition work) instead of wanting to write.



May 16, 2006


We've finally been getting some rain, and when it stops, I go down to the garden and dig and put in the tomatoes. ALso sowed cucumbers today, laid out some salt hay. I have this love of my garden being without straight lines-- that is, a plant a corner and then dig up another part for plants to set out, and then I tear up the overwintered lettuce, and sow fall greens there. I like the way one thing leads to another with salt hay paths where I find myself walking. Plus the whole thing is covered with deer netting, strung from posts from the old swing set-- my little dirt beds and salt hay paths under the great spider web of Anti-Bambi.

And the other thing fascinating me is CSS, which I am suddenly using on my web pages, with encouragement from Joel. For those who really understand it, there is a kind of magic, viz. The Zen Garden examples. Digging in the dirt, paths just big enough for me, squatting at the edges because the netting overhead hangs low, and borrowing code for web pages-- these seem to be my obsessions this month.



May 13

I had my reading at the Goat this afternoon, small but fun, with people from two to eighty seven and everything in between. Petrina Livecchi took a bus from Belleville to South Orange station, small, very sharp, dressed neatly in black and white, black patent leather pumps and black stockings,black shirt, black and white jacket.
Joyce and Hannah Hart; Kristie and Caran Harrington; Robin Burns Saunders husband John and the redoubtable young Aaron; Linda and Tarik Gadsby, the Sciainos!; others-- Small but cherce, and I released the kids except Hannah and Cara stayed and read a chapter for the grown-ups. Q&A: Hannah asked where I got the names of the kids in Billie of Fish House Lane, and Robin and Linda knew at once. Sold several books, served Goat cookies. Learned the origin of The Dancing Goat, which is an Ethiopian folk tale about a runaway goat that was found dancing wildly after eating from a strange berry plant-- which proved to be coffee berries, the Goat high on Caffeine. Thus, the coffee shop's name.

We drove Petrina back to Belleville. She has never driven, lives in a condo opposite a mini shopping center with an A&P and a Walgreen and a pizza parlor. And a bus stop. A sharpness in her, of one who has been through a lot and is still going through it, but in charge.


May 11, 2006


Whew! I am fighting off the urger to work on the websites instead of writing. I feel it in my forearms, like they want to click keys. It has been going very well, finally, figuring out how to clean up the code/use CSS which means everything will be easier in the future. Or that’s what I think it means.

The written word this morning seems slow and dreamy to me, books have an aura of mahogany shelves, booklined study with French doors to a deep green out-of-doors almost rainy. A little like today, only today still has maroon beech leaves on the right and trees still thinly foliaged with brownish new leaves. A quieter, more patriarchal plac-- mood of Peter Taylor's book A Summons to Memphis that I just finished.

That was where I imagined myself being at this age, back when I was thirteen. I think I pictured myself as having finished all kinds of adventures and retirign, still me with the brown hair almost to my shoulders but in a tweed jacket with a pipe, gazing out and thinking big thoughts as someone kept the world from my door until I was ready for my pronouncements?

Instead, here is this nervous clicking darting byte world, me writing code in order to have some place on the web, this enormous new world, but one that is not rich and green and mahogany but livid pinks and yellows dancing.

And no one in the conventional publishing world waiting for my pronouncements. Hanging on by my fingernails, me and the rest of the writers I know.



May 9


It’s our anniversary today, Andy and me, 24 years married, twelve before that living together. Our first date, April 15, 1965, Joel born twenty years to the day later.

Last night, Carol, Robin, Burt and I made a Powerpoint Presentation to the South Orange trustees. We had already made it to Maplewood. A little glitch with getting the PP started (I had never done it before!) but Trustee Stacey Jennings came down to help out. Lots of compliments. That was my third Coalition meeting of the day yesterday: 7:30 a.m. at the high school, 2:45 with a reporter, the 7:30 p.m. Today, I go to New York for a Hamilton Stone Editions co-operative meeting, but I've pretty much cleared the next three days for advancing on Melisandre. Three days with gardening and writing the main center, that would be a delight. I’ll have to take the phone off the hook to do it.




May 8

This is what I see when I take the train in to New York. Andy took it on the way to the Cousins' party on Sunday, much fun with Berliners, Rabins, Weinbergers, and Nickelsbergs: the children and other descendents of Mary and Hymie: Lennie, Roslyn, Sherry and Irene.





May 6




This is from last week-end, "What's On Tap?" Joel's tap dance group at Brown. Joel the standing guy. They were all totally excellent.


May 5


This is Cinco de Mayo, not a holiday I celebrate, but it feels like a good day to have be special. I've got an entire day with no meetings, which doens't mean there is nothing on my mind or nothing I have to do. In particular I have to get an article drafted for the Coalition Newsletter, but I'm trying to get deep enough into Melisandre to feel really in touch.


April 30


Big day here in the northeast. David Weinberger is here to speak at Ethical Culture on "Is the Internet Moral?" He came last night, and we had a nice vegetarian dinner with the last of last year's pesto and garden salad of overwintered lettuce. I love it that the pesto was labelled "9/17/06," a specific day when I made that pesto that was served to David today. After he speaks, we'll be head northeast to pick up Ellen and go on to Joel's  What's On Tap performance. Ann and Nathan are coming down from Boston, and after the performance, they take David home, we take Ellen home plus Joel who has to take care of his licenses renewal tomorrow and then takes a train back late. Whew. It's a beautiful day, and I had a call from Elaine Durbach on the bus to the Darfur demo in Washington about the platform. It's a beautiful day, and it's still early, and I'm full of excitement about life, in spite of a crisis of confidence over my novel manuscript Martha.

Much easier to think about this new hobby/project of learning how to use CSS to make my web pages look good. Wait till I fix up Hamilton Stone's too!


April 28

Large chunks of yesterday lost in the excitement of getting the web page transferred. I wouldn’t say it went totally smoothly, but not bad considering how bad technical things can get. I researched by review sites the cheap hosts, and liked the one I finally chose, for having a relatively bearable-to-look at web page of its own, plus, it had a live chat room and phone people to talk to. Compared to old never-available Mark at, it’s a huge improvement already. Of course, I also know better how to do these things. I forget them between crises, but I can reconstruct faster, that is, that you have to get your domain holder to redirect your domain name, and of course I couldn’t remember who holds my domain, but then it came back– The Authors Guild, who gave me a great deal, and I’m paid up for till 2012 or something like that. They redirect the name to the new impossible-to-remember-numbers-that-are-the-address. Then the new hosts, after being paid of course, take a while to make it all so.
    The whole thing took me about six hours once I’d paid, which is not bad at all. Anyhow, I feel terribly empowered to have done it, and even if StartLogic turns out terrible– as indeed some of the comments said they are– I can switch again. I almost chose a different host, but then I started to discover that the customer comments (not the reviews by review sites) were almost all horrible, and of course it’s the unhappy campers who write. Well, we’ll see if this was a bad decision or good later.






April in South Orange

April 24
I'm doing haiku when I run a lot these days:

Oh tender green grass
Light breeze and sun on eyelids
It is spring’s piercing–

Yellow breaks out first
(After dun gray mud season).
Next? Magnolia blush!

Say another way:
Domination of yellow
Before worlds of pink.

Pink cherry! dogwood!
April showers dancing by–
Delighted, not dead.


April 23, 2006

It’s Shakespeare’s birthday, and Boe read Sonnet #29, “When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes” for opening words. Very nice. And the rain let up, and the sun is out, and I took a walk in the cool and pink with tender green in horizontal clouds overhead. I felt like I was in Natsume Soseki’s book The Three-Cornered World, which I just read.

When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.


April 17, 2006

I've been on the phone with Carol talking personal and Coalition business. This is a big teaching week coming up, but I've had an extremely fruitful few days– I’ve begun weeding the day lily garden, planted more lettuce and greens, and I've begun hardening off the cabbage. I got the basic emails out changing my email address, and I’m ready to finish the research on agents for this coming round of solicitations.

I also find myself really fascinated by the possibilities of CSS and html and websites. I have a feeling I am either (a) wasting a tremendous amount of time or (b) training my aging brain in new flexibilities. Sometimes I am thrown back to something old– music, a told story, dreams in a hand written old diary of mine–and I know I’ve lost things, or at least not traced some things as far as I might go with them– but isn’t this true of a hundred other things? Sewing, which I gave up long ago except for hemming and taking in the odd shirt, algebra, which I had an insight into forty five years ago– how we do change.

It’s Joel’s birthday. I’ve been doing business all morning, checks, computer, and last night I read a story I wrote about childbirth called “Operations” and cried, and this morning I’ve been reading some of the old “To Joels” that I wrote when he was a baby. These are at once wonderful and very odd: They are totally upbeat and full of humor and fun. I addressed them to Joel, but really wrote them for my mother, I think.

Anyhow, they bring back a tremendous amount of detail: above all how he just reached out and grabbed for the world all the time. There was lots about nursing, about Joel interacting with people, Alourdes' first day. This example is from September 2, 1985:






Dear Joel, You are sleeping spreadeagle on the living room floor on the old quilt your Grandma Lou wrapped the refinished trunk in. You are almost always sleeping when I write to you. This is Labor day, which is of course a holiday, but Andy has gone off to the hospital and then to do some shopping, including a look at some cars. We took you car shopping on Saturday, too, looking at a Galant from Mitsubishi. You sat in your car- seat-chair on the floor next to the big shiny cars looking cute and getting a lot of surprised glances and approving remarks from the salespeople and customers.You are always terrific in public: you stretch your neck around and study all the activity, smiling less, moving less, but oh-so-interested.

Rita, the big brusque cigarette smoking proprietress of Bellamellio's deli thinks you're great: "I love that kid. He's all boy, he is a boy isn't he?" she says. We went out last evening to Rose and Miguel and Francisco and Diego's and had take-out Chinese dinner, and you were in that same alert, interested state, especially looking at Diego, who is two, and kept bringing you things and talking to you. "Baby is tired," he said when you got a little whimpery. I did have to get up from dinner finally and walk around with you, and give you a snack.

Francisco, who is going into first grade, said, "What are you doing?" "I'm nursing him," I said, "I give him milk from my breast." "Diego doesn't have to do that anymore," he said, and then added, "I only bit my Mommy once; Diego did it a lot of times." Rose told me later this was absolutely true: Diego was a chomper, as you were, but only for two and a half months. Now you are an efficient, powerful, and painless nurser.


April 12

I'm working hard on putting together a Passover Seder for tonight. The Gentiles are going to out-number the Jews seriously. Usually we have Andy's aunt and a couple of her sons, but cousin Sam has organized a Cousin's Party for the first week of May and Aunt Rosyln-- a life long poet, very active in the Brooklyn poetry scene and in the Institute for Retirees in Pursuit of Education at Brooklyn College-- wasn't up to the long subway ride followed by the long train ride into Jersey. Anyhow, we're having Bill and Lorraine Graves (that's one secular Jew) and the Harringtons from across the street (that's two adult and two child Episcopalians). I'm trying to do it all right, a Fleishig meal with Sherry's brisket (actually from G'ma Emma). a potato kugel and a veggi kugel, matzoh, charoseth, and all the fixin's. I even made (from a mix) matzoh balls for the soup.







April 9


As red as autumn,
Bud tips are about to burst
Into green, green, green!



April 6

A super busy several days: Tuesday night the Schools Committee of the Coalition ran a Candidates’ Forum, successful, with Carol's leadership and Jane doing a fantastic job of facilitating and I had the fun of waving the signs “thirty seconds” and “Time.” Hard work, but nice to be part of the thing and not in charge. A great team: Alice and Linda and Nadaline and Dorothea and Audrey and Nancy and all the others. It took place in the Marshall school multi-purpose room: colorful and welcoming, big signs, little kids, “If it’s to be I have to do it,” or something like that. Then yesterday my hour and a half at Ramapo College, an extremely pretty college, a decent crowd, given that it was late afternoon on a Wednesday. One who class came, several professors, elements of other classes. I made my dinner afterwards (and saw a lot of students doing the same thing) on little tuna sandwich, cheese, fruit, and petit fours!

The reading itself was in a lovely theater, full sized but intimate, and I was in spotlights unable to see the audience but I read very well, good mike, and I introduced (this is a new idea that I like) by saying how people used to listen to stories read and told for entertainment, often with some work for their hands. At least one student told me at the reception that she had wished for her knitting, said how her family always talked instead of watching t.v. I read “Tales of the Abstract Expressionists." Not a lot of questions afterward, but one student said he had an aunt who supported her husband, a musician. Questions about authenticity and inauthenticity from the philosophy course and students. And today, my best day yet at Park Ridge High School. I don’t know why–I guess I'm getting comfortable there, but also figured out what lessons I wanted to teach. Now that I only have one more day of course.
And tomorrow we're going to see Ellen and then on Saturday to see Joel.


April 4, 2006

April makes me feel all Canterbury Tales-ish!


Whan that Aprille, with hise shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open eye-

So priketh hem Nature in hir corages-
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially, from every shires ende

Of Engelond, to Caunturbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for the seke
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke.

Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales


March 31

A busy day here: unseasonable warmth, so they say, but there are always a few March and early April days with no leaves and sun that glares down like summer. At once exciting for its brilliance and shocking for its heat with no shade. Anyhow, it's one of those days, and I've already had a meeting at the high school about the Coalition co-sponsoring a round-table with the Home and School Association an the high school's CCN news station. This is an ongoing project, but especially relevant right now with all of what's been going on at the high school, which has been making t.v. news. This afternoon a meeting with my editor at Montemayor Press . Meanwhile, it's great to be home for a few hours making some changes on my novel manuscript, Martha at the Love Palace. My recent titles seem to be following a pattern: Proper name and prepositional phrase. Billie of Fish House Lane, Oradell at Sea.

Parrots Coming-at-Ya-- Photo by Steve Baldwin.
See his neat site on feral parrots of Brooklyn




March 28
     It's a windy, wonderfully typical March Sunday. Joel and Sarah were here for two nights, and are now driving to Stowe, Vermont, to meet Seb and his family, to ski a little, then go on to Montreal. The two of them share an absolute delight in friends and communication. Joel calls from his cell phone time after time, and both of them are on phones, on email, talk about their friends' personalities, successes, problems all the time. They amaze and delight me with this sociability. I miss having Joel in the house sharply, but also enjoy the solitude, the quiet.
     A day like today, after they left: I spent a while outside working on my deer netting “tent,” which is now more than half done. And I'm counting on the deer to have good enough sense not to get tangled up in it. There’s a ton more garden work to do, and I’ve spent a lot of time on papers today, started on lengthening the house dress, watered the indoor plants. Generally setting things to rights.



March 20
   This just in! Photos from Sarah and Joel of the Gala at Brown last week-end! See March 12 below.








March 18
     Just barely past midnight, and we’re at the downtown Sheraton in Boston. Boston always looks so well-groomed to me compared to New York– smaller, cozier. In spite of the John Hancock building. We’re on the 17th floor, view of a flat roof, but beyond that, the Charles River, MIT, Cambridge. Lovely lights in the night, bridges, cars. We had dinner with David and Ann and Nathan, and will be meeting Joel and Sarah and Ryan and Anne tomorrow night

In the morning....almost ten thirty, and I’ve finished by NYU papers, diddled with email, been for a swim! Looking out at that vast dun and dark orange/pink brown and brick and gray city scape, although it should be noted that there are hills in the distacne. Now some museums.

Ten thirty again, but p.m.!   Andy studying, belly full from dinner at Durgin Park with Joel, Sarah, and Ryan. Earlier, I went to the Isabelle Stewart Gardner museum, totally delightful, brand new Italian palace created for her art collection in early 1900's, a splendid central garden with a skylight, long loggias and halls and galleries, a Botticelli, various other Renaissance pieces, a John Singer Sergeant of Mrs. Jack herself, a wonderful Dutch room with a Vermeer of Phillip of Spain, a youngish self-portrait of Rembrandt, and the empty frames of the 13 masterpieces stolen in 1990 and never yet recovered– who has them? Long walk to get there past the Boston Symphony, Northeastern University, Museum of Fine Arts. Bright sun, very cold, then walking around on Newberry Street, lunch of noodle soup with kimchi, then Joel and Sarah and more walking around.


March 16
     Busy day in Shinnston! Got up, took a run, ate a bagel, showered, then mom and I went to Clarksburg, had breakfast at a Denny’s (my first senior meal! Coffee one egg grits one slice bacon one biscuit.) then a real West Virginia treat: Wal-Mart where she got groceries and I got some neutral pants for summer wearing and a couple of overshirts, $3.00 apiece! Everything needs a little work, shortening narrowing, but I had a good time.      Next, back in Shinnston, we dropped off the ice cream at the house and went out Enterprise road to the Maley place where my old school fellow Woody Maley has-- a camel. Mercy upon us. Thick brown fur, very eager to stick out its nose–for food no doubt. Why?
     Then it was off to Lumberport and Shelley Z’s birds! I got to hold two Senegal parrots and a white cockatoo, big fluffy Maggie who wanted to rip off my cowrie shell earrings and necklace. All the birds willing to be handled, even liking it. Maggie’s enormous black beak and black feet deliberately one over the other on my hands. One gorgeous blue and yellow macaw who Shelly had to buy back from an abusive owner who beat it with a belt and threatened to shoot it and stuff it if she wouldn’t buy it back. Later, dinner at Jimmy’s where some people I know were having the Lions club meeting in the back in yellow vests with a big yellow Lion's banner. Mom is doing cross word puzzles to keep her mind busy. >

March 12
    Andy and I went to see Madea’s Family Reunion last night, and I believe we were the only white folks in the Essex Green theater-- still after all these years not easy to be a "minority." But it was a good crowd to see it with– enthusiastic and appreciative. A movie full of stock characters and melodrama, yet sincere and moving. I could have done without some of the long speeches, but even those ended up touching you, and of course you knew they would be followed by something funny and irreverent. Tyler Perry is a very talented young guy, and if he gets really taken up by Hollywood in a big way you have to wonder what will happen to him.
     Afterwards, Andy went to the Sears tool store that is shutting down and I went to the pet store and looked at the parakeets being charming and squabbling, but discovered in their closed room some gorgeous finches and cockatiels and a Jenday conure that I was allowed to pet! What a charmer! Small northern Brazilian parrot orange, red, gold and green that looked just like the one to the right. It delighted in finger-sitting on my finger through the bars, wanted its head and belly scratched, black bill bit a little, but not so much I pulled away. Only $599, Yeah right.
     Later, Joel called to ask whether the bow tie goes over the tuxedo collar or under–I’d say it was really to let us know that he and Sarah were going to the Brown gala! I’d love to see them all dressed up.

March 11
   Here's something interesting: something called the mirror project in which people have submitted photographic self-portraits of their own reflections: my friend Jill's son Scott Perez-Fox has one. We spent last evening with Jill and José at Alice Robinson Gilman's little surprise birthday party that Howard set up at his cousin's house in Maplewood.

March 7
     Well,here's something I really like. The Museum of Bad Art (in Boston). Especially enjoyable is the story of how the first painting in the collection ("Lucy in the Field with Flowers") was found in the trash, became the heart of the collection, then was put in the newspaper--where "Lucy"'s granddaughter saw it. And became a supporter of the Museum... It's a funny idea, moderately mean (after all, those paintings were all painted by someone), but I couldn't help giggling, especially about what a good sport "Lucy"'s granddaughter was.

>March 3
     I really love these photos of Mars. I've got another one below. This one is from back in 1996 when the first Mars Probe, the Pathfinder. I'm using it as an idea for material in a novel I'm drafting, possibly young adult, called Melisandre. I'm enjoying this writing, probably too much, just coming up with stuff that appeals to me. I think I don't spend as many hours writing as I used to, but I have more fun...






March 2
     Takeshi sent a photo of him, Chiaki, and Alex that I like: I wrote him to say that I thought they were very handsome young people.  Alex, of course, is Alex Kato Willis, my sister's son, Joel's cousin of the same exact age, and Takeshi is Alex's cousin on his father's side and of course our friend too. Chiaki is married to Takeshi, and we are extremely fond of all of them!






     Well, yesterday Andy and I met the governor and the secretary of state! I finally found out how I got invited-- it was from the NJ Council on the Arts, and they pulled out their list of Distinguished Teaching Artists, and I got invited and BJ Ward and Ruth Clark the dancer who is now at the Morris County School of Technology special program for performing arts and Randy James the dancer and a couple of other people I knew more or less. I met Robin Middleton and David Miller of the Arts Council along with Secretary of State Nina Mitchell Wells and Governor Corzine who was much better one-on-one than as a public speaker. When he found out I was a writer, he asked if I knew anyone to help him write speeches! He says he writes his own, but wants a "shadow" to think as he does and help him write better speeches. I was amazed he writes his own (I bet that doesn't last), and he had this pleasant way about him that made me think he actually would take a suggestion for such a person, to spend time with him and help him write his thoughts!   I guess that's part of political talent-- to seem-- perhaps even be-- very open and connected. They say Bill Clinton makes whoever he talks to feel like the most important person in his life at that moment. They really thrive on this, shaking hands and connecting. Me, it exhausts totally.


February 28
It's the last day of February! End of the month! I'm all wrapped up in teaching, doing NYU papers, setting up a spring workshop at a high school. And needing to get to West Virginiafor a visit! I haven't been there in months!


February 27
Well, let’s see, what’s right with the world? Sunny today, if cold. A splendid party for Betty Levin at Cryan’s in South Orange on Saturday, which had lots of testimony about her friendship, including mine which was that she appeared to me when I first started going to the Ethical Culture Society as an alternate future for me– that is, my mother’s life was not the only option, and by seeing Betty with her new beginnings and peace projects as a role model, I came actually to value my mother’s path more.

Yesterday afternoon, a last minute invitation from Christie Harrington via Lienne to go hear classical guitar at Saint George’s played by Leighann Narum, who we had met. It was at St. George’s, and I almost didn’t go, but at the last minute said yes, and enjoyed it so much, Scarlatti sounded so warm (Andy’s description) on the guitar and there was a piece inspired by Turkish music that I liked a lot. All of it, really. Then we tried dinner at Ginger Taste in the old IHOP in Millburn.

I haven’t cooked in days, it seems like. Until this morning, when I put some chicken and veggies in the crock pot with a Jyoti simmer sauce for Andy’s dinner. (I buy cases of these things, turn the most ordinary stuff into tasty Indian style flavors if not really Indian). I’m off to see Ingrid and teach Making Your Novel Happen.


February 24
Snapshots below are from last night's South Orange Maplewood Community Coalition Trustees meeting. We have a new Executive Director and a new Chair; an interesting exericise last night thinking about where we were ten years ago, where we are now. This is coming up our tenth anniversary year. Big changes with new people, and we're about to move into a new office, and there's a not of upheaval, but I'm happy to be a past chair, don't mind working, but mind thinking about it all the time.

Coalition Folks: New ED Robin, Old Chair MSW, New Chair Carol B-A

More Coalition pix: Trustees doing an exercise about what the organization has accomplished and failed to accomplish; South Orange Trustee Arthur Taylor, Carol, Maplewood Mayor Profeta



February 19
     Well, Joel is in Las Vegas with Sarah and her family–for her grandparents’ 58th wedding anniversary! They are putting the whole family up (probably fifteen or twenty people) in a hotel, with theater tickets, food, etc. Meanwhile, along with having to keep Joel's plane in the air tomorrow when he flies back to Providence, I’m giving the platform at Ethical Culture today.  You’d think I would be calmer about giving a talk–to friendly people, many of whom have parent-to-child feelings toward me. But no, I'm a mess, can’t remember the point of this talk, etc., or why anyone would want to come to it. This is called stage fright, and what I can never tell is if it’s necessary to having an edge or if it’s a waste of energy.

Me speaking today at Ethical Culture on children and literature

February 16
     Some reading I'm doing: I finished Freedomland by Richard Price who I don't know but was in the Columbia MFA program when I was. I enjoyed it, partly. I think all this stuff is much better than the average best-seller-to-movie stuff out there, but after awhile all the sweat and funkiness began to get to me. Price likes his characters to breathless as they rush up stairs and sleepless with crummy apartments they rarely use, needing a shower and a shave etc. That kind of male-world-view of the jaded-but-still-idealistic-inside character as the ultimate hero, and even better if he suffers a lot. The movie is coming out this week, with Samuel Jackson and Juliann Moore, which make good choices, although she’s probably a little old (unusual complaint for the movies– a too old actress). Towards the end, the book borders on, and maybe crosses the border into, the imitative fallacy, that is, to create a turgid atmosphere, the story gets turgid. I wonder, do black people read Richard Price's books? Spike Lee must, because he's used Price's work.
     Meanwhile, I'm in the middle of Iris Murdoch's The Sea, The Sea and I am just blown away by her total conviction about the quirky world she writes about. Does she know how off-kilter it is? Or is it like El Greco, according to one theory, whose attenuated figures looked normal to him because of some astigmatism or something in his eyesight?


February 12
     We've got 14 inches and counting: a really big snow storm. Ethical cancelled (Boe stayed over last night, slept in her office on the futon), and I don't know if the executive committee will meet tonight or not. I did some shovelling, Andy is out snowblowing, although snow is still coming down). Joel called a few minutes ago to say he had been to tap dance rehearsal ("What's On Tap?" -- see below-- Joel's the male dancer!) and was walking home in the snow.  He doesn't have boots with him at college (of course) but does want us to send him his skiing bibs for a ski trip the first week-end in March. He's studying several high level computer science courses plus Greek History in the time of Alexander and an economics class on Race and Inequality.       


Happy Valentine's Day from the Monk Parrots

Photo Courtesy of Steve Baldwin

February 10
Steve Baldwin, who keeps a delightful website called gave me permission to use an occasional picture of his of the wonderful Monk Parrots he tracks, writes about, and photographs.  I've had some of them at my bird feeder here in New Jersey in the past and have seen them squawking around the South Orange train station as well. Noisy and social, quarrelsome and infinitely interesting -- what other species does this remind you of?


Feb. 4
    Pleasantly warm again, fourth warmest January in recorded history, which is only about 130 years. I'm gearing up for a big week, starting two new classes at NYU and a new school in Basking Ridge. Plus I just got the text for Hamilton Stone Review # 8, which means a lot of tedious spacing out the poems and nonsense-- considerably better since moving up to Dreamweaver 8, however. Calls from and to my mother. Andy and I watched Drumline, which was a ton of fun!


February 2-- Groundhog day, and his shadow is in full view!
    Sunny and warm today, and I’ve just finished my last two days at Ridge Street     School in Newark, kids I especially enjoy– mostly Latino kids, with an easy expression of affection toward adults (maybe cultural?) that reminds me of when I worked in New York at the very beginning of my career as a writer-in-the-schools.
    H ow much is oddly the same– and how much different.
I wonder if those New York schools P.S. 75 and P.S. 84 are as well integrated as they used to be?
    New Jersey School “report cards” came out today, and of course there are the usual statistical penalties for being an integrated school– Columbia High School has an 18% poverty rate, as opposed to 1% or 0% in good old Livingston and Millburn/Short Hills. Of course, in our neighbors to the eats, the poverty rate is over half and rising: East Orange, Irvington, Newark, including the test-in Newark schools, which have skimmed the best students and do very well. The only places in Essex County with poverty rates (and racial mix) comparable to CHS are, of course, Montclair and West Orange.
    South Orange and Maplewood also have, of course, lots of affluent people of color, but poverty still correlates generally with race. This makes for complexities and difficulties– assumptions by white people that if you’re of color you must be poor, which is a bad assumption – also needs for services which are harder to get if you’re middle income. Financing schools through property taxes is essentially a regressive tax system, causing tax burdens that favor segregation– Abbott districts get state funding that middle class districts don’t get, and the lily-white suburbs in Western NJ have low taxes (lots of corporate headquarters, malls).         People are thus systematically encouraged to move west, encouraging further segregation, because people of color who can afford the move, prefer not to go out there and feel isolated.
    More to this story, of course.

January 28
   We went to the Berkshires for the day! That's Andy, standing on the lake! We went out and examined some ice fishermen's lines and took a look of pictures and ate sour dough bread and bought Polar diet orange that you can only get in New England and otherwise enjoyed ourselves. See some more pictures.

January 2 7, 2006
    I am no longer chair of the South Orange Maplewood Community Coalition on Race. My good friend Carol Barry-Austin is the new chair. I don't feel that a great burden has been lifted in the usual sense of a lightness of my being, but I had a moment of intensely enjoying the colors and arrangement of the plaid in my flannel nightgown as it was stretched over my knee last night: a sense of being able to focus on the world in my way, not to strain to be something I am not, don't want to be (a Board Chair!). I continue on the Executive Committee of the Coalition, and I have ideas for parts of the mission of stable and continuing integration that I particularly want to work on, but I am deeply relieved that the world will now call Carol first. We have a contract with our new Executive Director, we voted on a public statement on gang activity and ordinances, and I felt that the Trustees had a sense of satisfaction in last night's meeting. We are still about to be turned out of our office and have to find a new one; we are on probably the last year of one of our major grants, and all of our money is continually shaky. Still, we had a good meeting last night and made a good statement.

January 25
     The famous Mothers' group last night at Caffe Rosso in the West Village. We love seeing each other– we smile a lot because our pasts of beginning a family are in each other's eyes. Evelyn brought photos of the party last June with fathers as well as mothers and a few kids too! She's going to be presenting a paper on Hemingway and Cather at a conference, Nancy and Jody have been madly working with younger daughters on college applications, Jody going to London to visit Kate who is over there for a semester, Julia in Argentina– we talked about our kids’ love lives! Ate salmon, cod, bucatini, mista salad with pears and gorgonzola. Drank wine. Twenty one years. Matt turns twenty one in a few days, Theresa’s already twenty one, Joel in April, then Julia and Kate. It’s been a lovely river of life.

Photo of me and Andy by Evelyn Codd:





January 21
     Exceptionally warm and pretty today, houses a little naked without their  bushes and trees, generally in colors of dun brown and a fair amount of green. I've been working on what seeds I have in the freezer-- next comes ordering seeds, then preparations for the Big Deer Exclusion. Meanwhile, on the family front, Joel is about to rent an apartment for next year! I remember my apartment when I was at Barnard. Not my first, because I had two the year I was in VISTA, but the 929 West End Avenue was the real thing.


January 18
    Well, the power finally came on-- Just four houses were without it, due to a blown down tree, and the almost-twelve hours due to the tens of thousands of other folks without power.  Total disruption of my day's plans, of course, but at the end, I was in front of a fire with a candleabra burning beside me, reading-- and the light of fire and candle was making me calm in a way that these flickering screens can never do, which makes me wonder if we're really living right.  But when it came on-- after I'd gone out on the porch and cheered for the "overhead" crew up in a cherry picker -- I got so excited: setting clocks, starting a wash that had been planned for first thing this morning, listening to the heat go on-- checking the stove with its electric spark-- the old light calm and making a safe place in the darkness, the new light all eager and chipper and full of activity! 

January 16
     The Interfaith Outreach Committee's MLK celebration was excellent today-- Dr. Clement Price was the speaker, with Muslim, Jewish, Baptist, and Unitarian prayers or readings. The Voices in Harmony choir sang, with a super splendid solo by someone I don't know who just woke me up and got me soaring up into the arches of Our Lady of Sorrows. A big crowd, and downstairs, Barbara Heisler-Williams's book collection plus several tables suggesting help on the Academic Achievment gap, so the Achieve tutoring program was there, and a mentoring group or two plus us, the Schools Committee of the Coalition and the Coalition itself. It is so good at least once or twice a year to be part of something harmonious-- a hint (as several of the speakers said) of what we are all struggling to create, the taste of the Beloved Community, which is of course what all of our wrangling is about: the possibility of a place where people really do live together across races and religions and not lose their group identity, but learn from each other and sometimes create something new. Music always does it for me.

January 14
      More thoughts on magical thinking: My insistence on doing whatever seems to have worked in the past to keep airplanes in the air: staying awake, tracking its progress across the continent, etc. The strange ordinary marvel of a cross country flight. Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking is on my mind too, of course, and how what she marvels at– her own irrational belief out of grief that she can bring back her husband if only she has everything ready for him– is really totally common and maybe even normal. We are the animal that understands the existence of cause and effect, and understand it over greater distances of time and space as the other animals don't, or at least I don't think they do. We are thus are tortured by a sense that if we play the game right, we might manage to influence it.
     This is probably one source of religion as well as of superstition and magic. Probably another source of religion is what I think of as the deep calm, the serenity of the center– the feeling of well-being and oneness that may be as natural as the cause-and-effect nonsense. Both of them probably essential to the full human experience. What wise friendly aliens in science fiction always refer to as the youthful, unfinished, and even callow quality of our species...


January 13
     My mom is safely back in Shinnston, WV, after her marathon travels: from before Thanksgiving to now, West Virginia to Tennessee, to California, to New Jersey to Cleveland and back to WV. Now I have to keep Joel's plane in the air tonight as he returns from California with Doug and Alex K. after their Kobe versus Bron Bron basketball game last night.



January 11
     5:10 PM or so and my new Toshiba laptop is on my lap in front of the fire. This is what I’ve been waiting for, preparing for. I’m sitting on the couch, with my feet on the big pine IKEA coffee table with a duraflame log flickering away in the fireplace. It’s rainy and I’m damp from having gone out to the garden to get some mâche and greens for salad. Small red pool of Three Buck Chuck in the goblet. I just read an article in The New York Review of Books about Fra Angelico, an exhibition at the Met, which I might possibly see, but even if I don’t is a direct line to having been in Florence and having been in those old churches where the candles for sale and the fresh modern kids are mixed in with the altar pieces that are studied around the world and stun with their human apprehension of what they perceived to be the divine. I have not had an easy day–woke with concern aboutr some phone calls, various difficult business with the Coalition. So there was (to me) strenuous work on a document, various phone calls, schlepping the publicity box back to the Coalition office, difficult phone calls I had to make, and an unexpected invitation to speak at a college in a couple of months and be paid nicely. But all of that nerve wracking in different ways, and this fire and glass of wine and article about the Florentine painter like a sweet song, a deep breath.


January 9

Small sunset on once familiar and very, very strange...


January 8
   Andy and I went to the Beloved Community Award of the South Orange Civic Organization-- a forty year old local civil rights organization that did realtor testing and such way back. This was their 36th Martin Luther King celebration, and getting awards were Carol Barry-Austin, Mila Jasey, and Nancy Heins-Glaser, all associated with the Coalition one way or the other. Coalition trustee and priest at St. Andrews Sandye Wilson spoke; really super music from the choir of the East Orange Elmwood Presbyterian church. Best rendition of "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" I've ever heard.

January 6
     Three-thirty– Joel arrived at LAX. And here's the brave new world: first he called from the plane shortly before take-off to ask me to wash his black skully cap that he left inadvertently in the driveway at home, then called from the runway after arrival 5 and a half hours later and left a message he’d arrived. I gave a quick call back as he was deplaning.
     And in between, I watched the little white cut-out plane as it moved over Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, eventually over the edge of Arizona and on to L.A. Where, as Andy says, the really dangerous part of his trip begins. I’m appalled by how poorly I do on recognizing the big rectangular states Out There. There are some map games that are fun to learn on, though.

Think Light Thoughts : Joel is almost halfway across the country now-- left at 8:45 this a.m., going to L.A. to visit with Sarah and meet her family. The Zakowskis, according to Sarah, are preparing for Joel by having their dog groomed two weeks early. I continue to be terrified of airplanes, but after last year's Xanax soothed trip to Italy, I am willing to say the terror is worth it. Maybe. Sometimes.


January 2, 2006
     Fun fact of the day from the New York Times: if the minimum wage had gone up at the same rate as CEO compensation since 1990, the minimum wage today would not be $5.15 but rather $23.00 and change. Greed and injustice. And how many of your think you could live on $42 or even $45 a day? Raise children? make car payments, buy a computer? A house?

January 1, 2006
     This is my decade year--always the sixes, born in 1946, turned ten in 1956, twenty in '66 and so on. I've always thought of sixty as officially old, and I certainly don't like what the mirror tells me, which is that, point by point-- hair by nostril, by tooth-- there's not much that gives pleasure to the eye. In motion, teaching, listening, giving a talk, I think I am attractive enough, but there was a time when the body parts were intrinsically beautiful, and that is what goes-- goes bit by bit, long ago, but I think there is nothing left of it now, just personality, experience, what I've done, what I do, how I make people feel, respond.
      It's a strange thing, because I still often feel pretty, if the real meaning of pretty is a kind of glow, a lightness of weight and atmosphere, music in the joints and the voice-- the repeated reflections in one another's eyes and we enjoy and like and feel our natural state of relationship to one another.
     This is more serious than I usually write on the blog.







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