Tuesday, June 30, 2009

At The Mouth of the Well of Magic Water

Turning 50 this summer? Here's a vacation idea to celebrate the half - century mark. Go to the Yucatan Peninsula and stand in awe before the imposing monuments of Chichen Itza. Peer deep into the sacrificial wells. Gaze in wonder at the beauty of Tulum. Fall in love with the Mayan Riviera. Feel at one with the Cosmos and the Centuries and the Precession of the Equinoxes. More sobering than the ghosts of human sacrifice, however, will be all the imploring little children racing up to you with $5 tee shirts in hand, chanting their sales pitch: "Cheaper than Walmart! Cheaper than Walmart!"

The very best part was standing in awe before the ancient temples at Tulum (on the coast) and Chichen Itza (further inland); that part was sacred; the commercialism was profane; the poverty demoralizing. I was glad I went; glad to be back: I guess that's the way an adventure is supposed to be.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer's Lease

Last summer, my brother asked me some existential questions:

Where do you and I fit into this amorphous world?
Can we create a whole new us simply by saying its so?
How many of our friends, associates, work colleagues, and people at large are simply a fabrication?

"Personally, I have decided I am a retired brain surgeon who succeeded brilliantly and retired on a very comfortable stock portfolio that sadly was ruined by Enron. Don't pity me though. I still have my Swiss bank account to fall back on."

His questions, and his concluding "fabrication" brought to my mind a number of people I knew in college, anywhere from a couple of years younger than I to a couple of years older, who all liked to "pretend " that they had experienced first - hand the "cool" 1960s -- Woodstock, Viet Nam, Martin Luther King. Never mind that they would have been little kids in 4th or 5th grade (as was I).

Yes, I learned of those things, and perhaps partially understood some of them at the time; but only on a second - hand basis -- from my big brother, who actually went to Viet Nam, from Newsweek, Readers' Digest, popular music ("Hair," "Abraham, Martin & John," etc.), eaves - dropping on adult conversation, trailing my older sister and her husband around their college campus, and so forth. But I don't think I was out there dancing in the streets during the Summer of Love when I was 10 years old, was I?

However, there they were, these peers of mine, passing themselves off as having marched on Washington and burned their draft cards. Yeah, right. I used to really want to burst their sham conversational bubble by inquiring what year they were born, but instead I just rolled my eyes and accepted the sad reality that I myself had been born too late to be truly hip. Alas.

These days -- now that I'm older -- I summer in an old mansion in the South of France -- or Italy (you pick), lounging around the pool, reading in my p.j.s most of the day, maybe swimming a few laps or strolling leisurely up to the village market for some fresh vegetables and bread, but never really cooking or cleaning or paying any bills (hey, there aren't any!). No major pool upkeep or yard work required, just the odd bit of light gardening here & there. We pick a lot of berries, but nothing so strenuous as turning them into jam by standing, stirring over a boiling hot stove. The tomatoes are abundant but never need to be processed or canned or frozen . . . just sliced and eaten with feta cheese and olive oil.

If you can make yourself believe it, then it's true.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Gone Too Soon

Remember the lovely words that Michael Jackson sang for Ryan White (December 6, 1971 – April 8, 1990) the Indiana boy who died of AIDS, back when it was still so misunderstood? Michael was a friend and advocate for Ryan, who had endured so much prejudice in his short life. What a sad time it was for the State, with all the flags flying at half - mast.

You can listen to "Gone Too Soon" on Jackson's CD, Dangerous; and also on the Diana, Princess Of Wales Tribute CD:

Like A Comet Blazing 'Cross The Evening Sky
Gone Too Soon

Like A Rainbow Fading In The Twinkling Of An Eye
Gone Too Soon

Shiny And Sparkly And Splendidly Bright
Here One Day Gone One Night

Like The Loss Of Sunlight On A Cloudy Afternoon
Gone Too Soon

Like A Castle Built Upon A Sandy Beach
Gone Too Soon

Like A Perfect Flower That Is Just Beyond Your Reach
Gone Too Soon

Born To Amuse, To Inspire, To Delight
Here One Day Gone One Night

Like A Sunset Dying With The Rising Of The Moon
Gone Too Soon
Gone Too Soon

~ music: Larry Grossman
~ Lyrics: Buz Kohan

Michael Jackson
August 29, 1958 - June 25, 2009
~~ Gone Too Soon ~~

Thursday, June 25, 2009


You know what just seems wrong to me? When I'm in the kitchen cooking and my family is right next door in the TV room watching a cooking show. Does that seem right? No! "Hey!" I shout out, trying to budge them, "Come on in here and experience the real thing!"

But what fun would that be compared to Emeril and Paula Dean and Iron Chef? Never mind that I'm the one making the real food, the edible, three-dimensional food that we are actually going to eat!

I feel the same way about those fakey, screamy child-birth scenes that show up all over the place on television. Who are they kidding? Child-birth can't be acted out! I finally told my sons that I could not stand to hear one more fake TV birth until they had taken the time to read the real life accounts that I had written after each of them was born. My older son was willing to do just that, bravely confronting every gory detail; but the younger one is still stalling. I'll give him a couple more years.

In the meantime, he walked in the other day after a very early morning football practice, and I asked, "How was your workout?"

Son: Imagine the hardest thing you've ever done.

Mom: Childbirth?

Son: Harder than that.

Mom: Yeah, right! Okay, I know going to the weight room for two hours at the break of day is tough, but harder than childbirth? I don't think so!

Holdin' Out For A Hero

In the course of making some plans on the family e-mail circuit, my brother-in-law Tom expressed some travel concerns about my sister Di's health and safety.

To calm the rest of us down, Di wrote back: "Hello again. Kit, Tom is just my worrier. Heeheehee. I will be fine flying alone."

On the next message, Tom chimed in: " Hey, Babe, don't you mean Warrior, fighter for the common good, defending the world from evil and making a difference. Well in my mind anyway..." (ellipses, Tom's).

Our big sister Peg provided the perfect summary: "Di is very lucky to have her "Warrior-worrier" in her corner. We all need someone who looks out for us and makes sure we don't extend ourselves too much. Thanks for taking such good care of my baby sister."

And brother Bruce concluded: "Here, here. I think all of us feel the same way, Tom."

Summer Solstice Connection

10 - 03 - 2011

"Oh, what a catastrophe . . . when we cut ourselves . . . off
from the rhythm of the year,
from our unison with the sun and the earth.
Oh, what a catastrophe, what a maiming of love
when it was a personal, merely personal feeling,
taken away from the rising and the setting of the sun,
and cut off from the magic connection
of the solstice and the equinox!"
~ D. H. Lawrence ~

09 - 13 - 2012

I can only hope that D. H. Lawrence will not mind that I have edited out the sexist language of the above passage for an inclusive version which does not sound insipid or detract from his original. Suffragettes forever!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

One of my favorite diet tips ever was this recommendation for a healthy snack: "all of the unsweetened rhubarb and cranberries you can eat." What? Unfortunately, that would be none! Here's my tip: a lot of white sugar to stew the fruit; then a lot of brown sugar to make the crumble. Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lucky Talismans

My Bike & My House

When someone asked me a couple of years ago if I had any lucky talismans, the first thing that came to mind was my big red Pee Wee Herman Bicycle. It's true: I still ride a vintage Leave it to Beaver style of red boys' bicycle that I bought at a yard sale in 1978 (don't know how old it was at that time, maybe 15 years). When I was at Notre Dame (1984), I encountered one of my wackiest professors as I was riding across campus. He hailed me to a stop so that he could admire my bike and said, "This bike must be your talisman." I've never been sure exactly what he meant by that (for one thing, I always thought that a talisman was something small) but the idea has stuck with me -- and so has the bike!

A few years later, also at Notre Dame, I was riding my bike, through the neighborhood near campus, and I encountered another wacky biking professor, who would designate one of his bicycle handles “Life” and the other “Art." This was in the early years of the Walkman, and he was wearing earphones, which he promptly took off and handed to me and said, "Listen." I put the earphones on and, I swear, I could hear nothing. However, as one does in both life and art, I handed them back and said, "Wow, that sounds great!" Knowing full well, I heard nothing . . .

So, for good luck, there's my bike, "an object marked by magic and believed to confer supernatural powers or protection upon its owner" (American Heritage Dictionary). Also my special turquoise earrings and a little pewter Gemini necklace -- both gifts from my older sister on my 19th birthday. The endearing necklace charm resembles not twins so much as it does two parents holding up a baby, an image which continues to hold my attention. As for the earrings, when I was wearing them on a visit to my sister, her granddaughter (8 years old at the time) was drawn to them and kept pushing my hair back to get a closer look. I told her why she was feeling the magic-- because her very own grandmother had picked them out for me twenty - some years before -- very talismanic!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Family Reunion - The Day After

"Family is just accident. . . .
They don't mean to get on your nerves.
They don't even mean to be your family, they just are."
Marsha Norman

Thank goodness as siblings we all seem to grow closer with every passing year -- it gives us an adult reward for all those crazy growing up together years (plus e-mail helps a lot). I wish I could have given my kids five brothers & sisters to lean on in later life; but I just wasn't that resourceful. They'll have to make do with each other!

Brian Andreas (www.storypeople.com) has some funny advice for making it through the long weekend:

Pretend Visitor
"We stood out on the porch before we went inside
& she told me her secret.
Pretend you're just visiting, she said.
That way you'll forget that they're family."

And Hugh Prather has an even funnier idea: If the family gathering starts getting too stressful just pretend that you are a volunteer for the outpatient program of a nearby mental institution, and your job is to be nice to all these people who believe they are related to you and treat them kindly whenever they start giving advice or criticizing (The Little Book of Letting Go, 154).

Now you're smiling!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Quotidian: Think Small

1. daily: a quotidian report.
2. usual or customary; everyday: quotidian needs.
3. ordinary; commonplace
4. paintings of no more than quotidian artistry.
5. something recurring daily.
6. everyday, mundane, routine, unremarkable, workaday

My goal here, similar to my other blogs (www.kitticarriker.blogspot.com & www.kittislist.blogspot.com), will be to draw connections between daily life and literature of all genres (my favorite novels, haiku, sonnets, song lyrics, contemporary poetry, self - help, and so forth), always looking for the intersection of the quotidian and the artistic, complete with visuals, intertwining the two threads until a pattern emerges from the chaos. As Virginia Woolf said, "Let us not take it for granted that life exists more fully in what is commonly thought big than in what is commonly thought small."