Monday, April 30, 2007

Why Do Birds and People Sing?

I was sitting on the porch a few minutes ago writing my morning pages in my journal and thinking about what to write here this morning. I heard a robin singing its intricate song and thought of the blue jays and cardinals I had heard earlier this morning. I got to wondering why birds sing. There are a variety of practical purposes. They greet each other, define territory, attract mates and warn of danger. But do birds also sing for the fun of it? Do otters slide and dolphins lead ships for fun also? I don't think anyone has discovered a way to ask them yet. But I think they might just like to play sometimes. I also thought of the Metropolitan Opera which I attended last week. There are much simpler ways to communicate information than song. Arias often do not contain very many if any words. My favorite is the one sung by the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute and also hummed by my friend Joe as he walked down the street last week. Song seems a good way to communicate feelings and sometimes is just for fun.
(Metropolitan Opera House, Curtain-Adventure of the Seas)

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring- Tra La

I was feeling in the full bloom of spring when I visited New York last week. It was warm to the point that I did not need a jacket the whole time I was there, even at night. The trees went from beginning buds to almost full leaves in the few days I was visiting. Daffodils were in bud one day and had broken into bloom the next. I had visions of getting out my lawn chair and relaxing in the back yard as soon as I got back home. Unfortunately, it was in the forties here and not yet fit for back yard lounging. I went back into winter mode and rode out the rest of the week in my winter coat. It was great to have a promise of spring and a taste of what is to come.

(City Island- New York)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Abatement of Surliness

I just returned from several days in New York City. I expected to find people helpful when asked but not always happy about having their lives interrupted by my needs. I envision surliness as part of the New York psyche. Surprisingly, it was completely absent on this trip. Maybe it had to do with the wonderful warm summer-like weather. One friend told me that New Yorkers were at their wit's ends and holding on to what little patience they had during the recent spate of bad weather. The sunshine and warmth seemed to help them unclench their teeth and smile at each other. I am happy I was able to be a part of it.
(Feet in Central Park- New York)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Spanking and War

It seems a difficult lesson for parents as well as nations to learn that violence leads to further aggression on the part of those whose aggression we are trying to quell. Psychologists have learned that punishment makes children work hard to avoid it but not necessarily change their behavior which caused the punishment in the first place. Could the same not be true of factions we wish to quell with our own violence. It might make us feel better but is it effective. Maybe we need to look at the bigger picture rather than just satisfying our aggressive urges when we are riled.
(Photo- cannon in Siege Tunnel- Gibralter)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bartleby the Scrivener

I was looking through a discussion of various authors and their writings yesterday when I came across a reference to Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville. I remembered sitting in Mr. Melville's pew in the seaman's bethel in New Bedford and feeling some of his spirit. I was also intrigued with a story about a scrivener, which literally means a copier or writer. He spent his days copying financial records when he "preferred" to do so. Apparently a very mysterious life lay behind his public persona. I sometimes wonder what lies within the lives of people we deal with as we need to and then tend to dismiss and take for granted.
(Photo- Window in the Tower of London)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Staying in the Middle of the Road

I remember a quote I learned in high school which I think was by Alexander Pope, "Be not the first by which the new is tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside." I saw it as an admonition to play it safe and not stick your neck out. I think I remember it because it was never my way. I was more "Ready, fire, aim." I have sometimes wondered what the would would have been like if no one had ever taken any chances. I thought of the wisdom in the fifteenth century about the world being flat, with concern about falling off the edge if one sailed too far. It seems dumb now, but only from the perspective of what we have learned in the mean time. I think life and personal growth are a matter of what risks we are willing to take. How many famous inventors went ahead with experiments which everyone else was convinced would not work?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Why Children Don't Gossip

Teens gossip. Adults gossip. Children don't. Why? To me, gossip is spreading salacious tidbits about other people in order to make ourselves feel better. This trivializes what we say. To children, almost anything they encounter is new, bigger than life and a source of amazement. Children tend to shout about what they see rather than whisper about it behind a hand. Maybe we all need to rediscover the amazement of our universe.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Registering a Compliment

Several years ago I searched for a comfortable pair of sandals and was consistently disappointed until I found a pair at a big box department store. I was very happy with them and stopped by the customer service desk one day to tell the clerk I would like to register a compliment. She had no ideal how to react to such a thing. She stammered and seemed quite flustered. I decided my attempt was more trouble than it was worth. This week I had a problem with my car insurance and called the company which happened to be based in Hartford. I had some reservations about getting the problem solved easily long distance. I was pleasantly surprised to find an agent who pleasantly, efficiently, quickly and professionally resolved the issue in a matter of minutes. Since I could not easily visit the office, I sent an e-mail to the customer service counter complimenting the agent and received a grateful reply within a brief time. Maybe times have changed. I hope so.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Out of Sorts

In a visit to Genesee Country Museum, I stopped at an old time printer's shop. I learned the derivation of the term "out of sorts." Sorts were small spacers placed between letters and other characters in manual type to prevent everything from running together and helping make sense of what people read sothateverythingdidnotgetallbunchedtogetherandbecomehardtoread. Yesterday I found myself out of sorts with a stomach bug. It was as if there were parts of my mind missing and I could not bring myself to create anything even though I was in the middle of working on my novel. Maybe experiences such as this are designed to help me appreciate the times when I am able to use my mind and body without difficulty. I think I sometimes tend to take them both for granted.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sunrise, Sunset

I have been thinking and to some extent writing lately about the proliferation of bad news in our newspapers and TV news programs. Bad news does seem to sell well and also confirms our pessimism as well as making us feel better about our own personal fortunes. As I looked at the sunrise this morning, I realized that I have never seen a sunrise or sunset featured as an article of news. Yet they are probably the two most spectacular events we can find on earth. I guess it is up to each of us as individuals to thank God for this wonder freely offered for our appreciation and amazement. Thank you, God.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Mystery of Easter Eggs

Along with Easter and the Christian celebration of Christ's Resurrection, come other traditions.
I was thinking about Easter eggs this morning and realized I was not sure where this tradition originated. I might have known once but don't now. Since Easter is a time of Spring renewal, rebirth and new life. eggs seemed like an apt symbol but I still wasn't sure. So I looked it up. One account was that eggs were a symbol of life common in many cultures and their spring rituals. Another account indicated that rabbits are also seen as symbols of fertility in light of their common multiple births. It was said that children thought rabbits laid eggs in the grass, giving rise to the connection between the Easter bunny and Easter eggs. I wonder how many other traditions we take for granted and don't really understand.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Feast of the Circumcision

In the past few days there have been newspaper articles reporting circumcision as providing protection from HIV especially for higher risk men. When I was growing up, January 1 was the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus in the Catholic liturgical calendar. It has since disappeared. When I was born, my father was in Guam with the navy and my parents did not have a chance to discuss circumcision which had been in and out of favor somewhat like breastfeeding. When I was seven, my parents decided it would be a good idea even though I was not having any medical problems suggesting it would be a good idea. That was in the days when most surgery involved a hospital stay. The surgery itself was not as traumatic as everyone at the hospital knowing why I was there and having to explain at school why I was absent for a few days. I was always uncomfortable with the Feast of the Circumcision. That particular episode was always a source of shame for me. This is the first time I have written about it. It's good not to have this secret anymore.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


I usually write about ideas. This morning I awoke before five and read the newspaper. When I was done, I went back to bed and cuddled with my lover. No words were exchanged and nothing else happened except that the two of us lay there intertwined enjoying the closeness. I thought about the pleasure and comfort of physical touch and shared warmth. I think that sometimes I am so busy with my thoughts that I miss the little moments like this and fail to appreciate them. Fortunately I was in the moment this morning and was glad to be there.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Journal Travels

In my writers' group last night, we shared pages from our journals. I knew why I kept a journal but was amazed to see the variety of approaches other took. Some chronicled their sensory observations, some their adventures, memories, impressions, dreams, discoveries or concerns. It is enlightening to see the variety of approaches writers can take to a seemingly simple daily ritual. Some write only when they have something of significance to say and others write several times a day. Some write for the writing, some for themselves and some for posterity. I was glad to be there and share it and appreciate the broadening of my experience. If you are wondering, that's me sitting in Herman Melville's pew at the Seaman's Bethel in New Bedford.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Keeping My Life in Perspective

Sometimes it feels like I am at the center of the universe. Everything revolves around me and has meaning in the way it affects me. It is like I am all that is. At other times I realize my insignificance in the grand scope of things. I am only a tiny particle in the universe and in the procession of people who have lived before me and who are yet to come. I think my life is better when I keep my perspective and don't think I am too important. That way I can contribute what I have and not get too excited if people don't always take me seriously.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Priming the Pump

I have noticed lately that I can write for a while and then I run out of things to say, at least for the moment. After I read or talk with people I have more ideas. It seems like the stimulation of others' ideas starts my own creativity flowing again. I don't know if this has always been the case, but it certainly is for me right now. It is interesting what I can learn about my creative process when I pay attention.