Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Rocks and Stones: One Deep Breath

Softly curved limestone
Carved by ancient waters

Green, blue, rust, grey, tan
A colorful palette
On the cliffside

Soft mountains,
Lush forest over old stone,
Almost Heaven...

Tiny limestone cave
with a crystal waterfall
Childhood's secret place.

Under the earth
hidden in velvet darkness,
Gypsum roses bloom.

Beautiful cubes
Sparkle in coal samples.
Bother! Pyrite.

Green cave bubbles
shine softly on my wrist,
malachite bracelet.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

In the ongoing musical adventure...

Swinging back to my banjo progress, it's going very well. My current song to learn is "Red River Valley" and it's going very well. The one difficulty with it is that I love it so much that I don't find myself thinking of it as "notes" the way I do with, say, "Polly Wolly Doodle" where I found myself briefly unable to recall the lyrics because I'd been singing to myself "GABBG GABBG GA1234..."

So, at least initially, I'm making a few more errors, but those errors seem to be resolving pretty quickly, and last night, I was able to do a fairly recognizable run at it. Woot! Oh, happy dance! There is a real joy in learning to play a song that I've loved for a long time, and that has so many happy memories associated with it.

Plus, there's a lot of musical theory associated with this one. Arpeggios, mistake note, a minor key... nifty stuff. And I'm finding I've got the timing at the back of my head, so once I'm more confident of the actual notes, they're actually fitting in better with the timing than previous songs.

I'm looking forward to playing this one for my folks in about a month. Woot!


Monday, November 19, 2007

One Deep Breath: Adventure

Christine, over at Quiet Paths proposed this week's One Deep Breath theme. Thanks, Christine!

My vagabond feet
grow restless in the house,
long for muddy paths.

Adventure? You grin.
Holding hands, we set forth
who knows where?

Climbing old paths,
Imagining ox carts,
going the same way,
out the Old National Pike
Westward bound.

Warm springs bathe my feet,
soothe the aches of travel:
Adventure's reward.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

More autumn thoughts

Geese flying strong
Sailing over changing trees
Escaping winter,
Singing a song of farewell
to summer fields of plenty

Steaming mugs of soup
warming cold hands, we laugh.
Outside, rain has stopped.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Autumn rain thoughts

Cold winds blow through me.
Rain and bright red-gold leaves whirl
Drought dry land needs more.

Streets wind, silver grey,
Through orange, gold, scarlet banners
On brown-black branches

Wind, rain, leaves, shushing,
whisper softly in my ear,
"winter is coming"


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The grinch-ly fool

*sigh* As the Holiday Season gears up to run over December, I've had to think about something I hate thinking about: gift wrapping. This is not to say I don't like dressing up gifts I give. I do - but I hate gift wrap. Gifts from me often come in bags of pretty fabric, baskets, or other useful sorts of containers. I once gave a wedding gift in a cooler (a neat collapsing cooler, which I packed with picnic plates that looked like fancy china, silverware, resin champagne glasses, and a really nice meal for when they got to their honeymoon. I think I did tie silver ribbon on the handle.) I love pretty little reusable boxes - gift and package all at once.

And most of my friends do something similar, so stuff gets circulated and recycled. We do mathom exchanges (nifty stuff that is suitable for regifting gets regifted). This year, a few of us are even considering the radical notion of saying enough. Enough stuff. Instead of a gift exchange, how about a potluck meal together and a charitable donation?

And for the exchange that I can't do that for, well, a few gift bags are easy to whip up, and edible gifts are at least less likely to end up in the trash.

But what has been getting me is that I've already heard Christmas songs on the radio - and two of them I heard before Halloween. No, no, no. Can we give Thanksgiving its chance in the sun, please? And Halloween? I mean, so far from Halloween taking over Christmas, we have the reverse. Jack Skellington, look out.

If it keeps up like this, I am hereby threatening to distribute my simple gifts in skeleton fabric, and lest you think this is an empty threat, I have the fabric.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Belonging: One Deep Breath

I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine
We fit together, two and one


Does the falling leaf
nestle among its fellows
sighing in relief?

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Thoughts on inequities of wealth

It was the $26,000 purse that caught my attention. I'd been listening to the radio and the announcer was talking about the recent trouble that the D.C. tax office has been caught in - millions stolen by means of fake refund checks that some employees apparantly wrote to shell businesses that they owned. One detail that she mentioned was that one of the accused had allegedly bought a $26,000 handbag.

And an odd thought came into my head: that's the cost of the two most expensive sundaes in New York put together. You see, the restaurant that came up with the $1,000 sundae a few years ago apparantly decided that that had been far too modest and so trumped themselves with a $25,000 sundae this year. (Apparantly, restaurants in New York have been competing with each other to come up with such publicity stunts, each more absurd than the other, with outrageously priced bagels, pizza, etc.)

The whole thing makes me think about how wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few - so much so that apparantly the $1,000 sundae can be described as "popular" with rockstars and socialites. And we've come to see wealth as an acceptable ambition in and of itself, without regard to *how* you get there. Lotto? Great! Sharp dealing? Clever! This attitude is reflected in the "horse-race" coverage of next year's elections. What's important is which candidate is raising the most money quickly, not their values, their platform, or even who they're raising that money from.

Our tax structure is imbalanced and has only become more so in recent years. We can find money for warfare but none for the physical infrastructure of this country? None to look at encouraging small enterprise? Just where are our priorities, anyway?

(Just for the record, my purse is home-sewn from fabric I picked up from the remainders table at the fabric store, and the fanciest sundae I can recall ever having was less than $10, and a special treat to celebrate my dad's and my birthday.)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hot peach cider
For an autumn cough
curled up on the couch

outside, the trees blaze
showing off their autumn shawls
I watch through windows



Just for the record, I hate colds, I really do. I'm on the second day of coughing, sneezing, sore throat misery. Cold meds and really hot showers are taking the edge off, but I'm still sick. Meh.

On the upside, I've gotten in a lot of banjo practice since I'm not going out.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Banjo progress

This week, my banjo instructor had me doing a new drill: take the right hand, move to the left shoulder, and pat. I not only have the melody going strong on all three of my songs, but I'm even beginning to get somewhere with strumming. Hooray!

Next week, an new song. Don't know yet what it will be: either Red River Valley (oh, I hope so) or Kumbayah (all the better for campfire sing-alongs). I was surprised, actually, at how quickly I seemed to get "Oh, Susannah" even with the interruption of the car accident. Woot!

Maple trees dancing
Through rainy autumn winds
In scarlet shawls.

Golden trees shiver,
brown branches peeping out.
Cold water falls down.

Overhead, crows whirl,
A magical ballet
against grey clouds.

Squirrels digging down
chatter angrily, go away!
These acorns are mine!

The pleiades rise
over dark soft trees
Our breath glows white.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007


An addictive word game. I got it from a friend who got it from her coworker. Lots of fun.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Loneliness: One Deep Breath

Darling, you don't want to be old,
She confides, sadly.
Old friends die
Bones ache,

Memories skitter
past fading eyes,
wind blown leaves.

Ninety-five years old
Grand and great-grandchildren
A son and daughter,
Winter winds call her name
In a long-gone husband's voice.

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Call me a dreamer...

Hey, call me naive, but wasn't this country supposed to have been founded on the idea of the rule of Law? It's bad enough when I take the Metro trains down to the Archives stop in order to go to the Smithsonian - I pass the Justice building - the one blockaded like a fortress, where I'm just waiting for them to decide that the mottoes on the building are "encouraging to terrorists" or something. Already, the big doors are closed and boarded over, and the areas around those old entries are surrounded by huge bollards with a few flowers planted on top, as though people will suddenly see these huge concrete lumps as simply outsize planters. Please.

And now... now we have a nominee for Attorney General who refuses to say whether or not causing someone to think they're being drowned is torture. What next, pressing? Saying that he would resign if the president were violating the law is meaningless when he refuses to say that a violation is a violation.

Other writers have suggested subjecting *him* to waterboarding, and then asking if he thinks it constitutes torture, but I don't agree with that, either. I wish I could (oh, boy, do I wish I could sometimes.) but I really don't believe that violence gets us anywhere constructive. It only builds hate. In both the torturer (how else can you torture? If you see the person being tortured as a *person*, how could you go on?) and the tortured (any bets on how you'd feel toward someone who could do that to you?)

I find myself, instead, wanting to ask him why. Why doesn't he feel like he can call waterboarding torture? What would make the difference in the documents he can't get? Do any of them contain more information than the simulated waterboarding that took place outside the justice building? Just what is Mr. Mukasey afraid of, anyway?

What has happened to this country? What has happened to the rule of law? What has happened to us that we now justify torture, seek to imprison people without trial, or even the most basic of human rights? Who are we?

I will say this, as someone who was in Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001: I'm less afraid of losing my country to terrorists than I am of losing her to her "defenders".

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The scrap bag

Oh, the joys of the scrap bag - that will sound odd, I guess, to anyone who has never been the happy possessor of one. I confess - mine is not only where I keep my *own* bits of cloth that didn't fit into a project - the bits to even up a hem, the fabric from inside the neckhole, the bit at the end of a bolt where the pattern went wrong. I've even cheated and bought (at very reasonable prices) the bits of cloth the local cloth store trimmed when evening up ends of quilting fabrics.

It's colorful, and fanciful, practical and thrifty. It's recycling from the old days. A rag bag is the place where doll clothes come from - anything from peasant to Empress (after all, how much use is left in that bit of leftover cloth from the table runner that turned out to be too long? A perfect skirt to be matched to the bit of gold satin ribbon left from holiday decorations and the trim found at the thrift store...) It's an inspiration before Halloween - Do you think there's enough of this red to make a pirate's sash, or is it the headscarf? Or maybe this bit would be the wings of a fairy if we glued it to a bit of wire... It's where little decorative, reusable bags for giftgiving come from. The tiniest scraps even can go into a small bag, for use in making homemade paper projects.

It's the starting place of quilts - where the hem trimmings from a dress might sit beside the fancy cloth from the quilt store trimmings and so on. The bigger pieces might be cut into squares for elaborate piecing, or perhaps used as they are with feathered embroidery stitches for a crazy quilt. I have on my couch a much treasured pillow that came from my mother's scrapbag - the scraps and bits that were left over from my wedding - my dress, the bridesmaids' and flowergirls' dresses all pieced together. Also on my couch is the first quilt I made, from scraps and pieces left over from making my sister and myself dresses one spring, and also the leftover bits from making the gingham curtains from my first room that I didn't have to share.

And before even making anything, there's the simple fun of rummaging through the bits and pieces - look at this blue, doesn't it look like the ocean? What about this green with the stars? Wow, this red is bright! And then laying them out, choosing colors and shapes - no cutting yet, just lay them out together, folding and layering to get the basic ideas... Maybe setting aside a few colors and bits that seem to go together particularly well - these colors look like a sky, or those like a cliff-face.

I think the scrap bag, like the button collection (yes, I cut them off clothing that has completely worn out), and the bag of stuff to be mended or repurposed (like the jumper I found at a thrift store that made a lovely apron) needs to be brought back into the modern consciousness. Energy goes into the making of that cloth, those buttons. Rather than cheating ourselves by allowing so much to go to waste, shouldn't we think about reclaiming all the use we can out of those resources?


Friday, November 02, 2007

Yet another voice against torture

Ron Thomason of the Dry Branch Fire Squad (a really good bluegrass band) has just released a couple of "quarterly installments" (which he writes whenever he gets around to it) and the most recent two deal with the issue of torture. Scroll down to the bottom to read them. It's well worth it.

Halloween Madness

Over at Quiet Paths, Christine has a post on the spending that has come to characterize all our holidays, including Halloween. Now, I personally *love* to celebrate Halloween - well, all of it but candy corn. I never did get why sweetened paraffin was supposed to be a good thing. I like telling spooky stories by the fire or while sitting under the bedsheets with my sister and a flashlight. I like listening to them, too. I like costumes - making them and wearing them. I like making people smile when they see me in costume.

And I really really don't like most of the costumes out there. I don't like that they are wasteful and cheaply made. I don't like that the costumes for women are frequently based on a highly stereotyped view of women. I don't like that many costumes limit the mobility of the wearers. I don't like that some of them are dangerous - even the costumes that are "fire retardant" will emit highly noxious chemicals when heated up, and they will melt if exposed to high temperatures.

My own costume this year consisted of a dress that is very comfortable and warm for the cooling autumn temperatures, worn with a $6 apron I made myself (I mistakenly wrote $12 in a comment over on Quiet Paths, thinking of the dress length I bought at the same time), my summer straw hat refurbished with some old artificial flowers (which I intend to keep there - they look nice and help hide the frightening length of my hatpin), and enough clown white and greasepaint to transform my face into a skull. Oh, and a bit of scrap fabric from the ragbag to make a headwrap to conceal my hair and help anchor the big straw hat. And thus... La Catrina.

And that apron? You better bet that I plan to keep wearing it, long after the holiday is over - they're such *happy* dancing skeletons, and since it's cotton, it's washable, reasonably burn resistant (cotton mostly self extinguishes except when there's other fuel - which is why candles and lamps can have cotton wicks, but I feel perfectly safe wearing a cotton apron while cooking.), and fairly sturdy.

Not bad. $6 and enough time to make an apron and put on makeup. And my costume was safe, simple, good (I took second place in my office's costume contest), and fun to do. Plus, my summer hat got refurbished into the bargain.

Edited to add: One of the things that occurs to me as I think about this is that I know commercial costumes were available when I was a child - there's even a picture of me in a commercial clown costume when I was 4 and my mom was busy with me and my baby brother, and finishing college and working retail.

But all of the costumes I really *remember* involved at least some home fixin's - the year I wore a homemade dress and cape, cut a nurse's cap out of posterboard, and carried around the barn lantern all night as Florence Nightengale (Note: barn lanterns are heavy. While I managed, anyone wanting to emulate this costume might want to think about the range of light pierced tin lanterns available or make one out of posterboard.) The next Christmas, the same dress was an angel's robe. In spring, it became part of a May Crowning outfit. Later in the summer, it provided the base for my early experiments in historical costuming. Then, I handed it on to my sister. Or the year I borrowed scrubs and a stethoscope from my dad, and made a cardboard head lamp...

And those were fun. I wonder how many children would actually *prefer* to do something homemade, but don't even know it's an option?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Moral priorities

We have lost our way. Relatives of soldiers are going broke caring for the wounded, while our government leaves supporting these families to private charity. And of course, those resources don't go nearly far enough. I have in my inbox a letter from a relative of a severely wounded serviceman who is currently on leave without pay to care for his brother. He's staying in a hotel and eating at the cafeteria while visiting his brother every day - and those costs are adding up quickly.

Our president has vetoed insurance aid for children of poor families, all the while demanding more and more funding for a war of aggression. Our pundits mock sick children and traumatized soldiers. Our government has voted for tax breaks for the wealthy and against help for the poor. And all of this in the disguise of public piety.

Enough. This is the complaint of Joel - how dare you call this righeousness? How dare you trample the working person, exault the mercenary who kills without repercussions, condemn children to illness, and call it the will of God? Enough and more than enough. It is past time for us to hold accountable the people who have made a mockery of our form of government.

Change: One Deep Breath

I'd been thinking about the changes of fall, about the changes that we all need to make, and this came out:

Change is here, right now!
A fire burning within
Embrace it and turn
to living gold, like fall poplars
dying to self, Renewing...

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