Saturday, November 29, 2008

Passing through Fitchville

This small town, it's so little,
There's not even anything worth hating--
If you were so inclined--or loving, either.
You can't miss it, though;
Pay attention where the highway splits,
Go west to New London,
Or south to Mansfield,
Or straight, into the Vermilion River.
You won't be in Fitchville long,
Regardless; you would have passed
The American Legion, that big old barn
Just north of town.
You'll not have stopped in the cemetary,
Not your turn to take a place beneath
The big pine trees on the hill.
Don't take the right that leads past
The elementary school, no longer used,
Where once children shouted at play.
The white Methodist Church waits for
Sunday, austere and empty.
Only across the street, in the point made
By SR250 and Fitchville River Road
Is there life--gas station and mini-mart,
A modern marvel of convenience. Need anything?
No need to stop at the smallest rest stop
In Ohio, a wide spot to park and picnic.
Whoever stops there, anyway, ever?
Just pass on by, over the bridge
And past the turnoff to Ashland,
Fly right through your past.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What I found on West County Line Road

So I hustled down Covington Road, 
Right brain still sleepy,
Left brain full of to-do and on-the-agenda,
NPR turned up too loud,
Neal Adams too eager to tell me the new bad news,
Me too weak to say no.

Take a left on County Line and
Not much traffic this morning.
Some mornings this too-skinny, too-rolling, 
Country road is a drag race, quick
And dangerous. I've fantasized
My death here. Probably a head-on.

Whitley to the west and
Allen to the east, when
It's summer and sunny the
Light streams in and out of my car, as I pass 
Additions, the little woods past Aboite Center,
Then a white fence casting long, uneven shadows
I chase before me.

November days, through, start
Late and end early; twilight visits
Morning and night. The stratus clouds
Hang so low, they simply
Morph into the mist that
Ghosts over the fields on the Whitley side,

Fields spare and yellow-brown, newly shorn, 
Somehow almost alive under the slightly shifting,
Strangely clear, silver light that this morning brings;
How far away the sun seems, far as forever--
Still, even as these few miles of County Line Road
Pass by, both counties lighten, west and east.

My little car slows and somehow the radio's off.
No one's around. The light gathers and grows,
And I roll my window down. It's cold.
I watch the field for a moment, breathing slowly,
And with the mist, a small quiet slinks inside,
Here on a hill just past Liberty Mills.

Inexplicable, still -- 
Light and quiet --
That's what I found 
On West County Line Road
One Monday morning
In November.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

About the rhythm of a Monday

You wake up and for a moment
You don't remember just who you are,
Or maybe where you're at,
Or maybe just something you don't want to.
And then -- oh. yea.
A great gathering happens,
--It might take a minute--
And you roll
Out of bed and into your life.
Before you know you're cleansed,
Baptized for the day,
And in the car, and here's a half hour
Free for contemplation and horror
Eyes wide open to what lies ahead.
Just Monday, sure, sure, just
One more Monday in a life's calendar
Of Mondays and all they can bring, or not.
So you take those thirty minutes and
And sink into some Monday place
Where you mix one part anticipation
With three parts regret and
One part ennui. Shake and share.
But your cubicle neighbors have
Stirred their own cocktails and
Want you just to keep to yourself.
Which you do.

But we're a strong, resiliant, stubborn,
Foolishly optimism, terribly forgetful people, and
There's much to be said for
A cup of coffee and a smile.
If we're self-absorbed and
Uncommunicative at 8, by
Nine some of us are rediscovering
Civilization -- such as it is --
And by 10, we've managed to dress
Ourselves in more than clothes.
Here's who we need to be,
Here's the face we couldn't quite manage
Back there at 7. It takes longer, doesn't it,
For us to pull it together.

On Monday.

Friday, November 21, 2008

About this afternoon

A week's long days slide into
One last afternoon.
Staring out the small window.
A low bank of gray clouds,
A thin slice of blue sky,
A chill, autumn aspect.
Tall, tired oaks,
Their brown leaves puddled round.
Wind gusts, we're all startled by
A sudden burst of snow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

About if I ruled the livingroom

If I ruled the livingroom, there would be no white cat hair on the brown microfiber sofa.
There would be no unknown food smears there, either.
If I ruled the livingroom, my favorite blanket would never move from my favorite place to sit. Oh, and no one would ever sit in my favorite place except me, either.
If I ruled the livingroom, I would have either 1) total control of the remotes we have or 2) exact duplicates of every one.
Come to think of it, if I ruled the living room, I would have a remote that controls everything.
One. Remote. Just. One.
If I ruled the livingroom, that remote(s) would NEVER get lost. Ever. Get. Lost.
If I ruled the livingroom, we would be watching something that doesn't involve a ball. Anything. Without. A. Ball.
Because I was in a meeting last week, and people were talking about the shows they watch, and they were like, do you watch The Office? Or CSI: Wherever? Or Boston Legal? Or "Fill in this blank with your favorite show I've never seen."
And the answer would be, mostly: "No. Because that show 1) has no ball, and 2) no ESPN logo in the lower right."
But do you want to know the Notre Dame score? I know it. How about Ohio State? Ditto. How about that Ball State game? Call me. Colts? All over it. Browns too.
If I ruled the livingroom, I'd be all about Brothers and Sisters and maybe even 30 Rock and ... hmmmm ... some other show I can't remember right now.
And I'd be about ruling the DVD player and watching all those movies I've missed, including most of last years' Oscar winners and I'd watch Sex and the City again.
If I ruled the livingroom, I might sometimes even turn the TV OFF, as in NOT ON, and turn on some Boney James or maybe John Mayer or even, in a more lively vein, Coldplay, oh and the Twilight soundtrack, and then I'd be able to concentrate even more on what I usually do in the livingroom when I'm not ruling it, such as:
If I ruled the livingroom, everyone else would be bored to tears, and move to another TV in the house, none of which is HD, which they would complain about, so I would be lonely in the livingroom, but entertained.
So, I continue to abdicate the control of the livingroom, and the remotes, and the sound level of the TV (usually too loud for me), and queue up the above-mentioned music on Napster, with headphones, and do the other stuff.
Cause I don't rule the livingroom.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

About Sunday night

We're at the mall
And it's families and teenagers
And the little girls, cooped up all day,
Run through the crowds.

They want to ride the carousel
Which they do, but for some reason
The music is silent; they glide around the food court
On zebra and stallion, in strange silence.

We wander into Penneys,
Joining the mothers and daughters
Looking at drapes and linens
And the husbands, staring at where they'd rather be.

So then we're hungry and hike the long way
Down the main hall, through thinning crowds
For it's almost six; Fort Wayne closing up early
On the day of rest, at the church of mall.

To Red Robin, where it's warm and busy,
More families skipping right through meal prep
At home to full service at the restaurant;
It sounds good to us too.

We pile into a booth and assure the hungry girls
That we'll eat soon; it's menus and drinks
And want-do-you-want-from-the-kids-menu;
Cheeseburgers and corndogs and chocolate milk.

While we sip our drinks and wait we
Plan for the future: Christmas and Thanksgiving,
Ballgames and school programs; practices and
Shopping and visitors from out of town.

Like magic a meal appears, one we didn't shop for,
Cook, worry over, nor will we clean up--
Indeed, that seems like a perfect recipe for
A day of rest to us.

Soon we're done, and we tumble out of the booth,
Coats rescued, bags claimed, bills paid,
Girls bundled up, tired now, wanting carried,
We're all ready to head home.

Out into the night, a cold parking lot,
Wind whipping the big flag across Coliseum;
The little girls lift their faces to the sky:
Look, it's snowing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

About change

Absence of change may bore us, or comfort us; slight change may amuse us, or annoy us; great change, of any kind -- it frightens us, even if we have longed for the change.

In the United States, when leadership changes hands, there's change. Nearly always, the change that's coming has been talked about, anticipated, stump speeched, beaten with a stick, villified and/or demanded.

But because we hand over power so peaceably here, sometimes the change seems a long time comin'. We are a democratic, bicameral, bipartisian nation, after all--we change by consensus.

Although "consensus" can mean, "by an electoral landslide but just 6.5% of the popular vote."

Which leaves a lot of people feeling, well, to use a politcally correct phrase, disenfranchised.

I don't think that change will be so slow, this time, and if that makes some people almost wildly optimistic, it makes some disenfranchised others so upset they fly their American flags upsidedown and half-staff in the breeze.

Now: If I asked you to name a time in our history that seems to stand for change, you might say the '60s. Rock and roll, Vietnam, woman's liberation, the civil rights movement, the Cold War--all signs of change, right? We've never been the same.

Except I think those symptoms were of a change that had taken place almost two decades earlier, and were the last gasps of a society long gone. I think the '40s were the decade when the country changed--I think WWII forced us to change for good; if we went into denial a bit (quite a bit, actually) in the '50s, the '60s were the result of what happens when an entire society tries to pretend that women hadn't contributed as equal partners in the war effort, that black and white could stand as equals on the battlefield or elsewhere, that the U.S. was the leader of the free world, and that for God's sake, can't we find some way to solve the world's problems besides bombing and shooting the hell out of each other's best and brightest young people?

The change we're seeing now? Just a few HUNDRED years in the making. No wonder some of us are so upset.

My 53rd birthday was election day. Middle age has brought me two things, one I thought I'd never learn, and the other I tended to anyway: Patience, and pragmatism.

The patience I've learned will help me wait on this new administration; I don't expect these newbies to solve all our problems in the first year--maybe even the first term. There's a lot that needs changed, and I don't forget about that bicameral, bipartisian, flag-upside-down part of our government.

Pragmatism--common sense--tells me that not everything advertised can be delivered; that great promise can lead to great disappointment; that sometimes leaps of faith can trip us up.

But hope, my native optimism,  tells me that miracles can happen, change can work for the good, that those who have learned from the past are not doomed to repeat it.

Patience, pragmatism, hope, change--

Yes we can.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

About Veterans Day

We ask the brave to give, over and over.

Not to Keep

    They sent him back to her. The letter came
    Saying . . . and she could have him. And before
    She could be sure there was no hidden ill
    Under the formal writing, he was in her sight -
    Living. - They gave him back to her alive -
    How else? They are not known to send the dead -
    And not disfigured visibly. His face? -
    His hands? She had to look - to ask,
    "What was it, dear?" And she had given all
    And still she had all - they had - they the lucky!
    Wasn't she glad now? Everything seemed won,
    And all the rest for them permissable ease.
    She had to ask, "What was it, dear?"

    "Enough, Yet not enough. A bullet through and through,
    High in the breast. Nothing but what good care
    And medicine and rest - and you a week,
    Can cure me of to go again." The same
    Grim giving to do over for them both.
    She dared no more than ask him with her eyes
    How was it with him for a second trial.
    And with his eyes he asked her not to ask.
    They had given him back to her, but not to keep.

--Robert Frost

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

About when the world changes

Yesterday, election day, I turned 53 years old.

The entire world had been counting down to my birthday for over a year. Consequently, I embraced the day, rather than practice the denial I've practiced of late. Why fight it?

Because it became evident early this year that one way or another, history would be written this day. Somebody, by virture of their gender or the color of their skin, would make history on a day that is usually devoted to me, plain white female, getting older.

But who knew, who KNEW, just what kind of a day this ordinary birthday of mine would be?

In the 53 years I've now had, I can count three times when I was aware of the world changing around me. Days that maybe started just like always, but ended as touchstones for generations.

In 1963, when I had just turned 8, it was the assasination of President Kennedy. So much sadness for a second grader to understand. What a changed world that day left behind--something intangible lost that I think we still mourn for. And I'll never forget that second-grade classroom--we all remember "where we were" that day.

In 2001, a beautiful late summer day turned into the tragedy of 9/11--the world gasped, trembled, crumbled and is only just now being rebuilt. We Americans will never feel as untouchable as we did before that day.

Two horrible events when time stood still--surely enough for any lifetime.

But I woke up thinkin' that I now had to add to my list of world-changing, life-defining, time-stopping days.

My 53rd birthday, November 4, 2008. Just another birthday for me. But for our country, for the world, when Barack Obama walked out on the stage in Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, to the cheers of a million people around him, as the new president-elect of the United States of America, a black man with a strange name and a cool demeanor but a warm smile, who dared to tell a cynical nation, yes we can be something diferent --

Time stood still; the world shifted its course a little--for a second, I was a new 8-year-old who believed that anything could happen, something good.

Maybe we could change the world.

If I could reach the stars I'd pull one down for you
Shine it on my heart so you could see the truth
That this love I have inside is everything it seems
But for now I find it's only in my dreams

That I can change the world
I would be the sunlight in your universe
You will think my love was really something good
Baby if I could change the world

If I could be king even for a day
I'd take you as my queen I'd have it no other way
And our love will rule in this kingdom we have made
Till then I'd be a fool wishin' for the day

That I can change the world
I would be the sunlight in your universe
You will think my love was really something good
Baby if I could change the world
Baby if I could change the world

That I can change the world
I would be the sunlight in your universe
You will think my love was really something good
Baby if I could change the world

--Eric Clapton