Saturday, October 28, 2006

not really hungry

And what I'd really like, though I'll probably eat food, is to read Brothers Karamazov.

Is food is a substitute for books?

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I have heard that "interesting" is one of those non-words; the non-descriptive descript0r. But it is a place holder of sorts for thought to come after if we don't use it as a terminal judgment.

My interesting this week is the set of large, ink-penned quotation marks my first-grade daughter wrote on the back of one of our mini-van seats. There is nothing inside this pair of quotation marks.

What does it mean?

To state a meaning, donee or brooded over, is a good thing, but is it a required thing? Should we remain silent until the gift or travail brings forth a possibility?

Those quotation marks, she said, are something she learned about at school. One meaning, she explained, is that the voice changes (there is a new speaker).

The quotation on the back of the seat is very quiet.

Is her pair of empty quotation marks an appeal to vacant authority (the emporer has no words)?

Is it an invitation to speak for one's self, a reminder that authority is also an issue of authenticity?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Blessed Syntax

This morning my 4-year-old woke up wet, shirt and pants needing a clammy peeling off. He was pretty calm and I was too. After some silence and help in the bathtub, he said "But good morning, Mom."

I love this contradiction followed by a greeting; my son isn't one to purposely give words of encouragement and re-vision, and this was a blessing.

Read Camus

Should The Plague be required reading for all Pandemic Flu planners?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Hefting with Hopkins

Yesterday I was drawing my daughter from her crib, waking her from a nap. She still had her eyes closed and I was holding her as one would a newborn, crossways like a dozen wrapped roses.

Hopkins' words came to my mind; I didn't at all will them: everything wears the dearest freshness deep down things.

Later I wondered what those words had to do with the act of holding my daughter and looking at her still asleep. The words became a camera to take a picture of the event, but they also became interpreters of the event.

I think it has to do with my daughter's person. She is 18 months old and compact. Her body is like the bicep of a football player, like good cabinetry, oak solid. It is the entire human body in a very small space. But it's more than person, it is personhood. My daughter's purity is palpable, and it seems as if all that compact body is fully integrated with its spirit, hence the physical solidity of the body?

The dearest freshness, the spirit worn entirely with the body.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Once again, about reading The Brothers Karamazov.

After reading an episode with Alyosha in it, I wondered: What is Dmitri up to? What is Ivan doing?

My questions struck me as curious, because this was fiction.

The idea that a character has a life going on at all in front of me is curious enough; but the thought that even while I am not reading about him or her, he or she is "doing something" is, well, magical? Strange? I am looking for a pat adjective to make a point rather than exploring adequately.

And so what?

Perhaps I am awed by the power of fiction to create characters I can care about and learn from, as I would an historical figure, and that these characters are somewhere alive and doing things.

Borges should have insight on this. Who else can help?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

As You Would Children--More on The Brothers Karamazov

Reading, blessedly, Brothers Karamazov a few Sundays ago--and, as one “can live for two months on a good compliment” (Mark Twain), one can live on a good prose fragment at least that long--I was struck with Zossima's wisdom, as related by Alyosha: “care for most people exactly as one would for children, and for some of them as one would for the sick in hospitals.” That was not an indication of a level of paternalism, but a level of care and tenderness, wisdom and understanding. (Appreciation and excitement could be included, too.)

Example: Last night my four-year-old son found me after finding himself in a compounded mess. I cleaned him up, then cleaned the mess up (no, it wouldn't have been better for him to do it--trust me). I was in a high level of displeasure last night, but this morning it comes, as it always does, clearer: He was trying to do the right thing--he was trying to avoid a problem, but didn't make it in time. Then he was trying to fix a problem, but really couldn't on his own. And finally, he was seeking help from someone who had an interest in his wellbeing--me. What had he done worthy of reprimand?

Maybe that's what's indicated in treating people like children: not the rude and selfish ways children are sometimes treated (and as I acted last night, propelled appropriately by duty to help the boy, all the while thinking how inconvenienced I was), but the way I knew I could have treated him: with perspective, appreciation for what he tried to do, appreciation for what he is, and a large measure of compassion because I make bigger messes, figuratively speaking, that are not at all as innocent, and certainly more consequential.