every minute

A second works fine for me as a second.  A minute works as a minute.  After all, they’re so short, what should we expect.

And a day works as a day.  Long enough.  At the end of one, I’m ready for it to be winding down.

But an hour, that’s where it breaks down.  The hours never seem long enough.  I expect more from my hours.

Perhaps that’s the problem–expectation.  Or perhaps there are just not enough minutes in an hour.

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Dante the wolfhound from Pam Houston’s Sight Hound:

In any case, wolfhounds don’t measure life
in terms of days and years,
because for a wolfhound,
every minute is right now,
and every minute lasts forever.

Just imagine.

before and after

img_17252Before and After by Rosellen Brown was published in 1992.  I read it in August of 2006 and gave it to everyone I knew for Christmas.  It’s about a marriage and a family. It’s narrated in alternating chapters primarily by the husband and wife, Ben and Carolyn, and also by one of the children, Judith.

You won’t be able to put it down.  And be sure to notice how the narrative is strung along this thing that happens, but the story–what it’s about–is the relationship between the members of the family, in particular the husband and the wife.

At the beginning of the novel, the wife’s voice, although in the past tense, is more immediate to the action.  She’s at work and then washing her hands at the sink.  We live through the events with her.  The husband’s voice, on the other hand, is distant to what happened, more reflective, beginning in the present tense, speaking to us from some future time:  “I’m going to talk about that day…I’m coming toward it slowly. I can’t rush up on the seam between before and after. (Not seam, no way. Excuse me.  Chasm.)”

Just discovered it was made into a film in 1996, starring Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson.

the wash

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There’s something about the wash hanging outside a window that pulls me toward it–almost like the feeling I have for row houses.  “The task of finding your key images is lifework,” Georgia Heard wrote.

Oddly, though, with the wash, it’s the differences that attract me; whereas with the houses, it’s the similarities. img_1646

Still, I think the fascination comes from what I can see rubbing up against what I can’t.

“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.”John Berger from Ways of Seeing

img_16981 There’s a beauty in the colors and shapes blowing in the wind. an honesty in putting it out there.  This is who we are, it says.

“some dreams hang in the air”
lucille clifton from Good Woman

from rome

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“Travel brings out my need for order.”  Picturing the Wreck by Dani Shapiro

Boarding passes, passports, confirmations.  

Scarves, coats, coffees, carry-ons. 

Phones, laptops, ipods, kindles.

Chargers, adapters, converters.

And then there are the liquids separated from the case that usually holds them, that holds the rest of their little friends.  img_1610The brusqueness of the plastic ziplock bag. 

“Yesterday was a strange, hurried, uncentered day.”  Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton

The time to be at the airport, the time to board, the time the plane pulls back.

And finally, the time to go home.

 

from st. andrews

img_15262“Welcome to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, Daniel.”

“When a library disappears, or a bookshop closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure that it gets here.  In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader’s hands.  In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner.”

from The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I found one of those cemeteries today, at 31 Market Street in the county of Fife in St. Andrews, Scotlanimg_1523d.  From all the colorful and previously loved books in the Bouquiniste, I chose Stories from Shakespeare, told to the children by Jeanie Lang.

In the opening pages, Ms. Lang wrote:  “Some day, when you are older, you will read the real Shakespeare for yourselves.  You will know then why people call him the greatest writer that ever lived.  And then you will say: ‘The little book that I read long ago was only like a faint little pencil outline, and this is the greatest picture in all the world.'”

Stories from Shakespeareimg_1582 was published by Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, of London and Edinburgh, with pictures by N. M. Price and Others.  There’s no publication date, but it was given to Janis Murray for regular attendance at the Abbeyhill Methodist Sunday School for the 1947-48 Session.

Tonight, March 12, 2009, this little book reaches new hands.

that sinking feeling

img_1451In Georgia Heard’s book, The Revision Toolbox, she writes about “the sinking feeling that a writer gets after she reads her piece of writing and realizes that it’s not quite right.” 

But to me, the more important sinking feeling is the one I get as I’m reading a word, a phrase, a sentence, or a paragraph. 

It’s a voice that gives me the sinking feeling.  Something’s not right here, it says.  It is immediate.  And it is often very, very faint and very, very vague.  Sometimes it only comes as I turn the page.  No, no.  Go back, it says. 

Or as Marilynne Robinson writes in Gilead, “That old weight in the chest, telling me there is something I must dwell on, because I know more than I know and must learn it from myself–.”

It’s a voice that took me a long time to hear and an even longer time to grasp.  At first, it seemed to slip through my fingers.  Now I read slowly, listening for any sign of it.

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about a marriage

As I was reading Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, I felt as if I were looking through a peep-hole into another couple’s marriage.  An amazing feat since it’s written in the third person.  Listen to the inside of Frank’s head:img_1518

“Intelligent, thinking people could take things like this in their stride, just as they took the larger absurdities of deadly dull jobs in the city and deadly dull homes in the suburbs.  Economic circumstance might force you to live in this environment, but the important thing was to keep from being contaminated.  The important thing, always, was to remember who you were.”

The novel is divided into three parts.  Part One begins with the stage group the Laurel Players, one of whom we find out quickly is April Wheeler, Frank’s wife.  Part Two begins with Frank trying to pin down a certain joyous time period, how long it was “before his life began to come back into focus, with its customary concern for the passage of time and its anxious need to measure and apportion it…”

Part Three begins with an aphorism, at a far distance from Frank and April Wheeler.  “Our ability to measure and apportion time affords an almost endless source of comfort.”  Note the repetition.  It then moves from the infantry captain’s “oh six hundred” to the executive’s “day-sized pages” “booked solid” to the ancient man who, from the sun is able to bring “order out of chaos” and finally, with a space break, to April and Frank looking at A.J. Stolper and Sons’ Hardware and Home Furnishings’ wall calendar.

Two pages which make me think of Annie Dillard’s “A schedule defends from chaos and whim.  It is a net for catching days.”

For an interesting interview of Richard Yates by Geoffrey Clark and DeWitt Henry (the Founding Editor of Ploughshares, author of Safe Suicide, and a good friend of Yates), click hereRevolutionary Road was published in 1961.  I read it for the first time in 1999, ten years ago.  The movie came out in 2008, forty-seven years after the novel.

well…

snow on the daffodils!

snow on the daffodils

I had this lovely idea for a March first post, a sort of spring-is-on-the-way kind of thing, and this morning I stubbornly forged ahead with it.  I mean, I’d planned it, been thinking about it for days.  In fact, I posted it for a few minutes–complete with a picture of a yellow daffodil.  Then I just couldn’t stand it because every time I lifted my head from the computer I saw snow!  It’s true.  Columbus, Georgia.  March 1st.  Snow.

It’s wonderfully dark outside and cozy inside with snow falling like rain and the wind swirling it around–a perfect day for a fire and a good book. 

Catch the day; don’t fight it is what I should have been saying to myself all morning.  It doesn’t snow here very often.  Enjoy it–even if it is March 1st.

I’m off to finish Revolutionary Road… Time enough for spring later.