Sunday, February 28, 2010


My friend Murali's Number Puzzle Site:

Number Puzzles and Mind Exercises for All Ages!

We worked together in the high and palmy days of Informix. He has an extraordinary gift for getting to the simple heart of apparently complex problems. Enjoy!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Quick, Slow

One of the things I like about bicycling is that you don't have to be a fast, rangy ectomorph to do it. I'm an endomorph – stocky, slow, heavily muscled. When we were running in Phys Ed, at school, I always straggled in with the last few guys, half a lap behind. I was hopeless as a baseball and basketball player: but I surprised people by being able to swarm up ropes or pegboards with ease. I had plenty of slow-twitch muscle, even if I couldn't run or hit a ball to save my soul.

When riding a bicycle, I can use all that muscle. I have a twenty-one gear bike, 3 by 7, and I just never use the bottom 14 gears. Other people will be pumping rapidly away, while I grind slowly along in the highest gears, keeping pace even though my legs are moving much more slowly. I will never be fast at anything, but I can make a bike go fast.

Part of what has made this phase of my life so rewarding is that I am no longer trying to be things I'm not, physically, as well as mentally. I will never be rangy and quick. Stocky and slow is what I am, for better or worse. I have never thought well on my feet. I'm easily flustered by dealing with more than one thing: no one will ever call me a good multitasker. I am cautious, slow, and meticulous. I hate hurrying, and for good reason: when I hurry I make mistakes, ludicrous mistakes, mistakes that quicker-witted people would never make no matter what the rush.

The only thing I've ever been quick at is written tests and pattern-matching games. I've always been the sort of person who aces tests; I'm usually done before anyone else, and can't imagine what they're lingering over. This is immensely useful in the modern world, which depends so heavily on testing and certification, but I've always been a little embarrassed by it. People who are far more capable than I, and who study much harder than I do, come out worse on tests. I'm unhappily aware of the unfairness of that.

I've been thinking about quickness and slowness because I secretly lost my temper last night. I was riding home from work, and came to a four way stop. A car came to the intersection from the left, and arrived a little before me. I came to a full stop, and waited for it, but the driver waved for me to go on through, so I did.

This infuriated me. I arrived home in a bad temper, and it took me half an hour to recover my equanimity.

I know: I can see the blank look on your faces. What's there to be angry about? She was just being nice, right?

Yes, I know that. But you're thinking like a quick person, not a slow person. Imagine what this is like for me. I'm operating at the far end of my comfort zone already, dealing with more than one moving object. I have a set of rules for evaluating whether things are safe, and for what I do next. This is not easy for me. I have to do a lot of my processing ahead of time. And suddenly, for no reason, somebody plunges me into a hasty re-evaluation of the whole situation, and demands a quick decision of me. This is what I am worst at. This is the sort of situation in which I make disastrous mistakes. I rushed into the intersection, my feet slipping on the pedals, just hoping that her evaluation was correct, and that it was actually safe for me to go. I didn't know whether it was or not. It would have taken me twenty seconds to figure that out and verify it. I don't think fast on my feet. I mean that. I'm not making it up or exaggerating it.

There were a couple subsidiary responses. I felt infantilized by her waving me through. Just because I'm on a bicycle, that doesn't make me a six year old. I don't need any favors: I just need people to follow the rules of the road. And since I knew I'd travel through the intersection more slowly than she would, it was simply stupid, objectively, to send us through in that order: the total time expended by us both would end up being greater. But of course that's just the kind of ideation that being angry sparks: I could have come up twenty other justifications for being angry. What really made me angry was being made to hurry, being made aware of my incompetence, being forced to do something I was bad at, and at her bland assumption that I ought to be happy to use her judgment rather than my own. I know, my judgment is slow and ponderous; but I prefer to use it anyway. What do I know about a stranger's judgment? For all I knew, she could be waving me into the path of of a truck.

I don't think she was wrong to wave me through. I don't think she should have done otherwise. I just want all of you quick people out there to understand that we slow people may not respond the way you expect us to. In another mood, I might have stubbornly stayed put, and motioned you to go first. Not because you're wrong, but just because my capacities are different from yours: and I need to use mine, not yours.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Faces Hanging in the Air

Morning light coming almost horizontal through the windows: the sort of light favored by trackers, because it outlines little shifts in elevation with shadows. If I turn my fingers right I can see, quite clearly, the involuted ridges and valleys that make fingerprinting possible.

Across the street, pink blossoms on the trees in the Rite-Aid parking lot. There are also tall trees, of the aspen or poplar sort, standing leafless with their branches pointing straight up at the sky; the victims of an arboreal hold-up. They don't believe this Spring-in-February nonsense.

A TriMet bus rumbles to a stop, interrupting the sunlight. Briefly I see a blond high school student's face; I think of Ezra Pound's “petals on a wet, black bough.” Then it rumbles on again, the sun comes again, and I have to peer against the glare to type: my reflection on the netbook screen, my beard gleaming silver and gold, the rims of my reading glasses sparkling, the chiaroscuro transforming my features into a strange intricate shoreline. I try to see past all this to what I ought to be writing about, but the sun is too much for me. I shouldn't have taken this seat by the window.

But I always take window seats if I can get them. I love to be inside looking out. I like old-fashioned houses with little windows. Windows for looking out of, not for displaying yourself in. There's a deep misunderstanding behind all these huge modern windows, the same misunderstanding that played out in literature last century as Realism: the idea that if you only made the window big enough and transparent enough you could erase the difference between inside and outside -- the failure to recognize that it's precisely the frame, the narrowness of the aperture, that makes the glimpse of the other world so compelling. If we wanted to be outside we could simply throw on a coat and go outdoors. If we wanted real life we could slap shut the book and call a friend. It's something else that we want, more complicated than that. We want to be both here and there, both safe and exposed. Nothing irritates me more than windows without molding: there's a whole totalitarian ethos embodied in that style of window, in the refusal to accept the mediation between inside and outside, the refusal to accept that people must be able to hide in order to be fully human. You see it again in modern coin design, where the faces spill right off the coin. No borders, no boundaries. No inside and outside allowed. I don't need or want to know what Jefferson looked like. Jefferson is dead. I need to know how we are holding his memory, what locket we're placing him in. The frame is really far more important than the face, and when you refuse the frame you refuse to enter into the conversation that makes Jefferson meaningful to us now. Where do we gather to look at him? What do we look through to see him? That's the question. Refusing to ask it is itself an answer: it says, we don't gather. We each look and see our own personal Jefferson. There is no table to gather around: there are only glaring disembodied faces of dead men hanging in the air.

Monday, February 22, 2010


I got it out of your finger at last,
a long wicked stinger of wood.
The paper towels spotted with blood;
the sky outside spotted with stars.

This tremendous sprawling ruined body;
the spraddled limbs, like ships;
my lips gasping in winds to fill

some new Aeolus's bag;
each convulsive clutch of my heart
sending a surge of blood, a tidal bore,

up the rivers as far as little fishing towns
where the trout jump.
No one knows where they found me,

no one knows what to do with me:
a behemoth, an engine of appetites,
with ears spiraling up to heaven, and heels

punching muddy holes for cattle
to drown unwary in the Spring;
my belly swags and whales roll

end over end in its wake;
As I step seismographs
flinch, all over the globe.

We will go to New Zealand to see the Cross;
we will go to Alaska to see the Lights;
we will go to Montana, where the stars are closest;
we will take a tour of the sky, you said.

And all that while
The sliver lay dimly under the skin
like a twig dreaming under the ice.

First the needle, tracing the entry,
widening the wound. You gasp with pain. Smile unevenly.
Then the tweezers, nosing the wood, breaking a bit.
Again, and several tries, till finally
“is it out?” I ask, unbelieving.
“It's out!” you say.
And there it is, a little bloody barb
on the spotted paper towel, a tiny thing.
Great flowering mammals like us,
brought to cringing by a filament of wood
no bigger than a beetle's leg.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Not Napkin Art

The days of napkin art, alas, are over: Tosi has starting buying soft, patterned napkins that ballpoint simply shreds. But here's a bit of spiral notebook art.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Beautiful House

William Morris, who was a master of many trades, from poetry to wallpaper design, was once asked what the highest product of artistic endeavor would be: he said, without a moment of hesitation, “a beautiful house.”

He did not mean a comfortable house. When someone complained that the furniture he designed was not comfortable, he said shortly, “if you want to be comfortable, go to bed.”

There were few people more aware of the ubiquity of suffering than Morris. Beauty was, to him, what you raised up against suffering: not to alleviate it – not to become comfortable – but almost you might say to justify it. He hated modern civilization not because it made the poor so poor, but because it gave them no opportunity to create something beautiful in recompense. It was one thing peasants to toil in the shadow of a magnificent cathedral that they and their forebears had built and decorated with their own hands over centuries, and quite another for the poor to grind out their days in a factory producing shoe-black, having raised nothing by all their work but monuments to ugliness. Just as poor, and just as much in servitude: but Morris thought the one life was worth living, and the other not.

There's often a breathtaking effrontery in Victorian radicals – in all radicals, I suppose. How the hell does one man know what makes another man's life worth living? And yet we all make our judgements about that, whether we acknowledge them or not, and they inform our politics and our family lives, our pastimes and our art.

I've lost confidence in much of my radicalism over the years, but I believe more strongly than ever that modern economies inevitably – because of their structure and not because of the wickedness of the people locked inside them – ruin the natural world, ensure that the artificial world will be hideous, and corrode human love and loyalty. I don't know how to change them – their ruthless abstraction and dehumanization. I know I participate in it daily, further it. I know that the demands of an economy that genuinely respected the natural world, made beautiful towns possible, and nourished human love and loyalty, would overwhelm me. I'm not up to it. I'm a weak, slack addict of convenience: I use things and people once, and throw them away. I want to be comfortable. I am myself one of the things the modern world has ruined: how (I whine) can I be expected to put it right?

And yet – and yet – despite all my wriggling, despite all my concessions, despite having made comfort the ruling priority of my life – somehow, even so, I just can't get quite comfortable. Neither can you.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day

She has beautiful face, like that of a pre-Raphaelite's model, a long jawline and strong eyes: I fell in love with her at once, in the abstract way that an artist falls in love with the perfect model. Never has there been the slightest twinge of the erotic between us. But she's beautiful, beautiful in repose, beautiful in motion.

And sad, grief-stricken, yesterday. I hugged her three times, twice more than I ought to have, wanting so much to make it better. I made it worse, if anything, pulling her attention back to the hurt. It's hard, if you're constructed as I am, to leave grief alone. The streak of vanity in me is always roused by it. Surely you can't be sad in the full sunlight of my affection and admiration? Not my affection and admiration, oh no, surely not!

But she was as sad when I left as when I came, in that desolate February house. She's usually happy, quick to laugh, energetic. She stood back from the doorway, impatient for me to be gone and leave her alone with her grief, her hair rucked up, her shirt askew. I longed to comb and tuck and pat everything tidy.

Well. Nothing to be done. Load the table into the car, toss the bag and the portable heater onto the seat, drive away under the cold white sky.

I used to feel useless and de trop so often. Now it's an unfamiliar feeling, an unpleasant reminder of unhappier days. At home I put my hands together, murmur a few “om manis,” and watch raindrops descend the windshield in erratic swithbacks. May all beings be without suffering and the causes of suffering. Right.

Exasperated with the Buddha and all his kind, not because they're wrong but because they're right. The suffering runs even deeper than we think, much deeper than the unkindnesses, infidelities, and disappointments that ostensibly cause it. Those are only the thin places, where we suddenly fall through into that underground river of misery. The river's running all the time, eating everything away underneath us. In the same way that the joy is always there in the sky. None of it ever goes away. We're churned between the two of them like pebbles in an agate-polisher: we tumble endlessly against each other, chipping and scraping, rolled over and over by the push of the river and the shove of the sky.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


The daphne in our front yard is in full blossom, smelling sweet in the soft, cool, wet dawn. And the maple trees are littering sidewalk, street, and car hoods with, well, whatever it is that maples drop at this time of year. Millions of little wads of dark brown stuff. I suppose it's blossom – surely anything so copiously proposterous must have to do with reproduction – but it looks more like rabbit pellets than like flowers. “Maple turds” is not very genteel. Maybe I'll settle on “maple trash,” or “maple litter.”

It's as difficult to imagine people shoveling snow in Pennsylvania, right now, as it is to imagine the dog days in Australia. There's only so much reality you can wedge into your mind at any one time. It's early for Spring, here, but it sure feels like it. Frost is still possible, even snow, but the crocuses have already placed their bets and are blooming recklessly all across the city. I reckon they know as much about the weather as anyone. I think it's Spring.

I close my eyes and feel the soreness, feel my sinuses bulge like overpacked bags at the airport. I keep waking at three or four, and not being able to get back to sleep. This cold that I should have shaken off last week is keeping up with me, loping along patiently like a wolf marking a herd, waiting for stragglers. If I drank a beer right now, I'd be too sick for work tomorrow. But if I eat right and exercise just enough, but not too much, I might get a full night's sleep and get the better of it.

Soft, soft: this morning, this light. I got a lovely valentine from Sage, a wonderful poem printed deep into thick paper. As Leigh Hunt said,

Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss'd me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss'd me.

I walked around the house this morning muttering “it's all right, Dale. It's all right.” It's comforting to hear someone say that, even someone with no sense. It's what the crocuses are saying, too.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hurrying and Waiting

And if she's coming back this way
I'm not that hard to find;
Tell her she can look me up
If she's got the time.

The timing of departures is always wrong. We begin traveling by either rushing or waiting: no wonder we never really end up where we want to go.

We ought to ride formally to the crest of the hill with our household knights around us, the banners snapping in the wind, and begin with a surge like a long slow bright wave breaking on the North Shore. That would be traveling. We might get somewhere, if we began like that.

Or like the morning in Delphi, when I rose before the sun and, finding the gate inexplicably open, sat in the broken temple of Athena and watched the dawn. The goat bells clinked below, and the sun was very large and very red. That would be a beginning worth making, too: a different kind of journey, but also a journey to a new place.

I don't remember who the teacher was who said, never hurry and never wait. Or maybe it wasn't a teacher: maybe it was me, making a note to myself. Maybe it's just that it's like the advice of a teacher, in that a) it makes deep, viscerally-felt sense, and b) it is clearly impossible to follow. Not advice as we understand it -- "this is the correct thing to do! -- but a pointing-out: "if you were enlightened, this is one of the things that would flow from it." To wit, you would never hurry and you would never wait.

Which is not to say I would never move rapidly and never hold still. But hurrying is what I do when I don't have enough time, and waiting is what I do when I have too much, and it's obvious that I can't really have too little or too much time: I don't have time at all. It's a drastic confusion of categories to even begin to think that way. If there's any ownership involved, it's time that has me.

And what use is that? Well, not much, except that when I find myself hurrying or waiting, I can look for the self-deception behind it, the way in which I'm trying to bend reality to fit what I expected of it. If I track honestly, it's astonishing just how often, on some thread or other of my life, I'm hurrying or waiting. Almost always, really.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Short of Courage

The problem has always been that I'm just plain short of courage, the sort of courage that you need to pick up the phone and make a call, the kind of courage it takes to admit that you don't know enough even to know what question to ask, the kind of courage it takes to do something new instead of doing what you've always done.

I asked Neva how she'd learned so much about insurance billing, and she said, “trial and error,” without missing a beat. I tried to imagine having the courage to make all those mistakes, right where people could see you do it. I know that the people who have that kind of courage don't think of it as something particularly admirable or special. Well, it is. It is admirable and special.

Once, years ago, I showed an aquaintance a love poem I'd written her, making clear, I hope, that it was not any kind of request or invitation. She said, “you're really brave.” I laughed and said, “no, I just don't have any sense.” But it wasn't that. I just knew: who really minds having a love poem written to them, if it doesn't entail awkwardness or pressure? Pretty much everyone wants to be adored.

I do things from time to time that look brave from the outside. I've never minded looking funny, for one thing. Never in my life having been in the running for the Cool Stakes, I never acquired the habit of minding looking dorky and nerdish. I don't mind fishing out my reading glasses; I carry around a backpack full of books and happily spread my dictionaries and flash cards out on restaurant table. I know I look silly in all my bike gear. So what? You could piddle your whole life away trying not to look silly. It's not worth troubling about.

And I can speak forcefully and cogently in a few kinds of public situations. Classrooms, seminars, professional meetings. I speak my mind. I'm seldom – unfortunately – really in doubt as to the value of my own opinions.

This might lead you to expect that I could phone an insurance company and ask them a few questions about their billing process. Well, I can, sometimes: after counting my breath for a few moments to keep my heart from racing, I can dial really quickly, so that I'm in the conversation before I can back out, and it's less awkward to ask questions than not to. Modern phones are wonderful for me, because you can enter the numbers ahead of time. Then when you think you might be brave enough to make a call, you can quick quick quick don't think don't plan don't rehearse push the single button, push it now! And you're over the hurdle and in the conversation, and you've done it, you've really done it, you've made a phone call.

Though of course if they say something I don't understand, I can't just ask them to explain it. I have to end the conversation and go look it up on the web. Or ask Neva. Or try to deduce what the answer must be. (Call them back? You're kidding, right?)

I'm getting so much better at using the phone. There are even rare occasions now when I can make a phone call just like a normal person – think, “I'd like to know that, I'll call and ask” -- and just make the call, just like that. With practice, I get better. And I've learned not to rehearse; for me rehearsing makes it harder, not easier. I already have too many moving objects to track when I make a phone call, without adding a script into the mix.

But anyway, that's not what I really wanted to say, none of it. The failures of courage are far deeper than that. To eat as I think I ought to, to love as I think I ought to, to live as I think I ought to; or else -- even scarier! – to change my mind about how I ought to do those things: that's what I don't have the courage to do. The cowardice, the cowardice runs so deep. It's in the marrow bone, a deep reddish-brown stain all the way through me. I will never be free of it, never.

But turn again. Remember, Dale, you thought you would never be brave enough to work as you ought to. And you did it. You did it. And you did it young: you're only fifty-one. Precocious little bastard. Who knows what you might not pull off when you're all grown up?
It's Only a Bloody Song

one day... John was grumbling about the expense of his burgeoning empire to Neil Aspinall. "Imagine no possessions, John," Neil reminded him. "It's only a bloody song," he retorted.

-- John Lennon: The Life, Philip Norman

My eyes sore from lack of sleep, my stomach in consternation at the half pound of peanut M&Ms, my mouth raw from chips and salsa. Spent the afternoon yesterday in bed reading the 5th Harry Potter book, while a rare Spring day graced February, barely glimpsed through the skylight. Hard to believe in snowstorms in Virginia. Hard to believe in anything, for that matter. Last night stars blazed above the trees, and I didn't believe a word of them.

Never so lonesome, never so stranded-feeling. Thank God for JK Rowling and simple stories.

A lovely massage last night though. Today perhaps will be better. It can't easily be worse.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Technical Difficulties

Dawn again. Forgot my reading glasses when I rode down here to Tosi's, so I've cranked up the font to 18. I can kind of read what I'm typing, if I lean back. Good for my posture: keeps me from hunching forward.

Working on my little netbook, which means I have to pause whenever I come to an apostrophe, because it's down on the space key row, and I haven't been able to train my fingers to find it there: I have to stop and look and take my hand out of position to type it. I also haven't quite identified what I do that occasionally jumps the cursor way down or way up, Being used to the Thinkpad nubbin-mice, I find this touch pad stuff both unwieldy and skittish: I feel like a small child trying to control a crayon. Damn cursor wanders all over the place, as I try to get it back. In some Heinlein novel the protagonist protests that he can't draw, and his father says, “Nonsense. The pencil goes where you push it.” Both voices are in my head as I try to master writing on this little thing.

Because the advantages are enormous. It's dirt cheap ($225 total), about the size and weight of a hardback book, and its batteries last for hours. And it's Linux, which means I've escaped from the Dark Side and dwell now in the blessed realms of open source. You can hear Lennon crooning, “imagine no possessions...” as you type away on your freeware word processing and spreadsheet apps. (Actually, most of these apps have perfectly good Windows versions – I was partial to Abiword and Gnumeric, on Windows. Now I'm using Open Office, just because it came preloaded on this machine, and it works fine too. But so much open source code was developed on Linux and/or UNIX, and everything tends to run better on its native operating system.)

((Further parenthetical: I'll never forget my boss's look of horror when I proposed that we might save some money by abandoning MS Office and going to freeware. Microsoft has done an amazingly good job of convincing people that its behemoth apps are the only respectable tools for office work. They're fine tools, but they're enormous and expensive and the free ones work just as well, have generally better support, and can usually produce perfectly compatible .doc and .xls files, if you need them. But Microsoft software is what IBM hardware used to be: so dominant and standard that it's no-risk for a purchaser. No matter how badly it may work, no one ever gets fired for having purchased MS Office.))

Technical problems at home. Qwest upgraded our DSL for free – cool! -- except that now our elderly router is nonplussed, and drops connections periodically, which can mean rebooting it every couple minutes, especially if Alan and I are both online at the same time. Maddening. So I've been tending more and more to go to Tom's – Tom is Tosi's brother, & runs another cafe of roughly the same ilk – which has free wireless. Anyway, the upshot of all this is that none of my online interactions have the ease and readiness they did a couple months ago. I'm emailing, blogging, and blog-reading less. And I've been so busy with work that I haven't had time to address any of these things.

Soon, though, I'll be back to sauntering about the cyberhood, dawdling and chatting.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Odes to Tools

I received a chapbook in the mail yesterday: Dave Bonta's Odes to Tools. Beautifully done. I thought I'd glance through, find a couple of my favorites, quote a few good lines. What's easier than writing a review of a good little book? It practically writes itself.

Well, first I'd find my favorites. I remembered some of them, and went right to them. “Ode to a Compass”:

...what to do
about that pinhole
at the center of the paper?

* * *

The compass is a crutch.
Restore its missing leg
so it can return to
its first life as
a gnomon:
circled by the sun.

Yep. Still there. Better than I remembered: “a seed for a stone,” was that line in it when I read it on Via Negativa? So I'd just leaf through now to the “Ode to a Shovel,” quote a few more lines, and I'd be...

Wait a minute. “Ode to a Coping Saw”? I don't remember that. I laugh aloud at the end of it:

it copes.

And then, the “Ode to a Hive Tool”:

You need a key for entering where there is no door.
You are too much full of your mammal self
to fit through the always-open entryway
& in any case would have no idea
how to execute a waggle dance,
which looks like sun-drugged madness to you,
looming over the brood box with your angry halo

Another one I'd missed, somehow. Oh, but here's the Scissors! “We are rich. We have three pairs of scissors.”

I got lost, on my way to the Shovel, discovering, rediscovering. How can you get lost, in a thirty page book? But I did. All these poems have edges, teeth. It's a brilliant collection.

I realized along the way that there's nothing more difficult than writing a review of a good little book: a review that did it justice would be longer than the book, a patent absurdity.

We are rich. I'm so happy to have this little book. Why on earth would you read a review of it? Just get it.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Clear Water

Dreamed of clear water running over green grass again: a dream of the purity of cold streams, running impossibly on clifftops, soaking my shoes; the drowned grass glowing like fire in the pulse of the sunlight. I've been here before: this is Jenny's poem for the Spring, but can I write it?

Tosi's. Headlights on Sandy Boulevard and on 62nd Avenue. The amber lights of the bus flashing as people climb on board. The red and green of the traffic lights. Behind all that, the morning slowly gathering, a power of light to make all these laughable. But not yet. Ahriman still keeps his trembling grip, for a few more moments. He makes the lottery machines in the corner flash and buzz and yammer, hoping for another sacrifice or two before he drops, helpless and resentful, for another day of prowling in basement apartments, lurking in cheap computers and writhing in dvd players, spitting bits of green and red and amber from warning lights and control panels. The daytime is always hard for him: but the daytime conquests are the most complete, his proudest trophies. I used to walk by the taverns in Spokane, doing a brisk business at 7:00 a.m., their doors open to let some of the stale, stale air stumble out onto the sidewalk, and think: now there's victory. Who says the Devil has nothing to show for all his work?

Even as I write the light grows more and more, the blue-gray light of dawn rising from the wet streets, reflecting back and forth from the wet clouds above, gleaming blue even from the dark wood windowsills. Streetlights discretely vanish. Across the street the headlights of a pickup at Ken's automotive wink out. Ahriman glares, panics, and disappears. Daylight. The light has gone silver. Everything white glows: light is resonating everywhere, spilling from everything with a soft prodigality far beyond Ahriman's imagination. Bedridden people lift their hands to twitch aside the curtains and let the light fall on their faces. Children stir in their beds. Dogs wake suddenly. A single crow flies across the sky.

No nearer to a solution than ever. When you don't know what to do, stop doing. Watch and listen instead. Easier said than done, but I'll try.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

A Monthless Period

Cold this morning. I stepped out onto the porch to see if the paper's come yet. My bare feet ached. Nothing. Back again to the house. Feeling defeated, in a new way. Surely this is what I wanted? But life blocks the light, like a leaf against the sun, and shadows run every which way like minnows. I'm becoming stupider and less forceful with every year.

"Do you ever feel like your body isn't your own?" you asked, and seemed relieved when I said yes. My question was more urgent -- "do you ever feel like it is your own?" -- but I left it unasked.

Waiting for the sunwash, waiting for the summer and the slow pulse of warmth. I have become cold and frail and ghostlike. I long for an end to winter, but it's only the beginning of February.

January and February were the last two months to be added to the Roman calendar, since the Romans originally considered winter a monthless period, says Wikipedia. Not such fools as they looked, those Romans. Best not even to count.