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Showing posts from 2005

Nuts to the Nutcracker?

In one of life's deepest ironies, a performance of The Nutcracker that I was scheduled to attend on Saturday with my mother and sisters was canceled due to--get this--a dancers' strike.

I'm not hyperlinking to any articles out of the fear that they will quickly be out of date, but if you want more details, search Washington Ballet strike.

Although I will receive a refund for my tickets, I'm still trying to get my mind around the idea of dancers on strike. I didn't know artists needed to strike about things. I thought they were in a different category of workers, the "doing it for the love of it" category, not the "breathing in coal dust while trying to support my family" category.

The Ice Storm

I awoke this morning to a world of intense beauty, the cars and handrails glazed with ice and the trees clicking and sparkling in the sunlight. Wish every morning was like this: sliding carefully to my car while my housemate heroically breaks the ice before me with a shovel; ten minutes or so of vigorous exercise whacking at my car windows, with big pieces of ice sliding off like the top layer of crystallized sugar when you make rock candy. (Opening the frozen door was interesting: my housemates and I took turns grabbing the handle and flinging ourselves backward before it finally broke loose.) Life starts turning into tiny streams . . . dropping off the icicles hanging from my sideview mirror, faintly tapping onto the snow. I hear my neighbor's windchimes. I hear ice somewhere, everywhere, slowly beginning to crack and craze and peel off and melt away. There are infinitesimal rainbows glimmering on tree branches, like many rings on the hands of one of those rich ladies who is ver…

Quote Door

Every year my office door accumulates quotes written in colored ink on post-it notes. Then the quotes must be taken down in deference to my department's Christmas door-decorating contest.

I hate to lose these quotes, though. So here they are.

Dove chocolate wrappers
"Chocolate . . . who needs a reason?"

"Decorate your life."

"Make 'someday' today."

"Sometimes one smile means more than a dozen roses."


People I know
"You're the type that will write great novels and influence the rest of history." KT to me

"I feel like the toilet paper fairy." Donna

"We are two Americans in search of Masterpiece Theater." My aunts while visiting England

"It's not so much the size of your mouth or the volume of the communication that proceeds therefrom, it's more the content that makes you so fascinating." John Caleb to me

"Whenever I think of you, I always think of the scene in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy …

Washington Square

No, not the place; the book. I finished Henry James' masterpiece at midnight last night, and as proof of its beauty, have found myself mulling over it at sudden times throughout the day.

There is a severely unemotional quality to James' writing that is striking. James neither restrains nor ignores emotion; he simply does not discuss it. In some ways, he writes around it. He describes personality and location and mood in his distinct, precise manner, and after he has built up a scene of words, the emotion is suddenly there--an inevitable result of the specific situation he is describing. To my mind, he is the perfect--the only perfect? though not my favorite--writer.

The book posed two questions as I read it. Why is it called Washington Square? It is less about place than Rebecca or Brideshead Revisited or Wuthering Heights, yet it is named after a specific location in New York City. And what is the broader significance of a narrowly focused character study of a woman who discove…

Road Trip Impressions

If you ever visit Columbia, South Carolina, go to a coffee shop called Cool Beans. It's full of cigarette smoke, but they give you your drink in a real mug. My mug was a solid, squarish shape and it was mustard yellow. The best thing to do while you're there is sit around a table with four old friends and talk about what you've all done since you last saw each other. At least, that's what I did.

It rained almost the whole way back. Visibility was fine until the sun set, when all the truck drivers on Interstate 81 turned into demons straight out of hell. It's like they get on their CB radios and yell, "C'mon guys! There's heavy traffic, a downpour, slick roads, and patches of fog! Let's all drive twenty miles over the speed limit . . . and ain't nobody gonna slow us down!" Every time a truck passed me, it would kick sheets of raindrops onto my windshield, temporarily blinding me. I started playing a grim game called "Race the Trucks&quo…

Election Day 2005

Vote YES for . . .

1) My sister, who turns 21 today. I love you, K.!

2) Irish breakfast tea

3) Country music

4) Funny people

5) 6) 7) My housemates (all three of them)

8) The Village soundtrack

9) Waking up to Michael W. Smith's Freedom CD this morning

10) Not waking up to jackhammers outside my window. This is not something you want to know more about.

The Twilight Zone

My department, as the "creative" wing of our organization, hosts a yearly Reformation Day celebration. We turn off the lights, plug in electric candles, and post "Theses" on the door. We set up a table with a Diet of Worms (a pail full of gummy worms), a basket of indulgences (candy with mottoes attached--"Good for 5 years off purgatory," etc.), and fruit for the more spiritual. Under this table is a boom box playing Grunt. We send out an email to the entire organization, which then spends the day tramping in and out of the department while we try to work.

I wish I could explain the effect of pidgin Latin droning in a lowlight environment for eight hours straight, as the sugar from the chocolates, gummi worms, and caramel apple dip courses slowly through my veins. The lyrics are funny, but the music soothes. The repeating CD begins to wear grooves into my brain. I begin to believe that there is no other music in the world, no other sound even, and then, al…

A Day in the Life

Yesterday morning, running late for work, I dashed out the front door and into my car. There I opened my purse and discovered that all my keys were missing (or, did not discover my keys). I did not even attempt to test the front door; I had purposely made sure it was locked on my way out. And both my roommates had already left for work.

After considering various solutions in a slow and leisurely fashion (you know the old ad, "This is your brain on drugs"? Try tweaking it to "This is your brain in the morning"), I decided to call a friend who drives past my neighborhood on her way to our mutual place of employment. "Have you left for work yet?" I asked when she answered her cell.

"No," came the reply, with something peculiar lurking in its tone.

"I locked my keys in the house, and I was wondering if you could give me a ride to work!" I said with relief.

" . . . I did the same thing," said my friend, again sounding like she was spe…

Thoughts on a Postscript

I finally finished reading Our Mutual Friend. It was on my summer reading list, and it's October now, so that tells you something about the book's length and flow. But I stuck it out all the way to the postscript, which Charles Dickens wrote "In lieu of a Preface." The postscript is a jewel. Dickens writes,

[I thought] it worthwhile, in the interests of art, to hint to an audience that an artist . . . may perhaps be trusted to know what he is about in his vocation, if they will concede him a little patience . . . .What a revolutionary thought, in this destructive Age of Literary Criticism. Dickens also comments on the difficulties of the serial novel:

[I]t would be very unreasonable to expect that many readers, pursuing a story in portions from month to month through nineteen months, will, until they have it before them complete, perceive the relations of its finer threads to the whole pattern which is always before the eyes of the story-weaver at his loom. Yet, that I…

Bliss

One lunch break, done properly, can loop you into eternity and back--and today is the last day I would have expected such a thing. The sky is a metallic grey and everything is damp from the rain that they keep telling us to expect but which I'm not actually seeing. A sort of Holy Spirit rain (if you're Baptist).

This is a drab fall. Again, the rain is at fault: apparently we got too much of it in the spring and nowhere near enough in the summer. Silly us, we forget how lovely a shy, subtle fall can be. This is pointillism at its best: each tree's leaves alternating between faded green, dry brown, and soft yellow or red. Once my eye is caught by such tiny details, I begin to see that the overall effect is like a giant bolt of tweed being unrolled beside the road. The landscape is shot through with subtle gradations of color. Occasionally I drive through a sudden patch of fallen leaves.

I roll down the windows and turn up the country music . . . "Living on Love" is p…

An Ideal Husband

The other night as I descended to my basement bedroom, I noticed a gangly splotch on the bathroom floor. Revealed in the half-light being shed from the stairwell, it proved to be a massive grey spider, so large it was literally floppy. I cannot remember if it was hairy, but my memory endows it with a striped appearance. I would say it was about the circumference of a soda can. The body itself was an oversized mass of random body parts, too big, I really believe, for the legs to properly convey it anywhere. So it was just resting there on the cool tiles, its legs splayed out around this otherworldly body, fatigued from its laborious journey across the floor.

My first attempt to squash it failed, for it darted behind the bathroom door. My next weapon was a can of hairspray, which only drove it out onto the carpet, stumbling triple-jointedly toward the back of the basement. I followed, spraying an aerosol trail straight across the carpet. There, the spider's legs finally gave out, and…

We Are Now Going Public

Whenever I doubt God's love or existence (the former happens much more frequently than the latter), I don't think about the crucifixion, as numerous sermons and books have advised me to do. I think about the stars.

For one thing, the stars are always less than twelve hours away and visible from any location. You just can't miss them, whereas I could have missed the crucifixion if I had been born in a time or place that didn't have the Gospel. For another thing, the stars are too tangible for their existence to be doubted, whereas I can doubt the crucifixion when I'm feeling particularly intractable.

The stars tell me a lot about how God does things. He likes beauty, because the stars are dazzlingly lovely. And He's extravagantly good. I just can't imagine how much time and thought it took to make trillions of stars, all over the universe, with different gravitational fields and sizes and ages, so that there could be this one little planet on which He would pu…