After the season

They whisper and laugh among themselves: they’ve had a good season.

burning-bushThe ladies of the woods have dropped their green maple, ash, and elm gowns. They stand together in silence behind the pool fence, naked to the forest floor, arms limbed out as if still in their sassy scarves. Swaying like Mandarins, they recall summer’s social season when they ringed us on three sides and we stood in awe of their dancing.

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 …there is a silence, not filled too quickly, lest the response be shallow, ordinary, known. Go there with a new question … go there.

The spotlight’s on in the backyard; the light in the bedroom’s off.  I watch the wind, made visible by snowflakes. Expect 8 to 10 inches tonight, we’re told.

The word driven comes to mind–snowflakes driven down like rain, perpendicular.  Or pulled down like gravity on meteorites–white, dragging  their neon ribbons.  Then a change in the mind of the wind: snowflakes waft like May flies in a swarm, short-lived.  Then that testy wind laughs.  A cyclone in white explodes in silence.

I think of other silent spaces.

There’s the silence in some books.  In Marilynn Robinson–I’m thinking of Home or Giliad–and I imagine her writing new lines early in the morning, before she uses language for anything else. No talking, no listening to others talk, no listening to herself talk.  You know, that associative chatter in the head.  Just stillness.  Essential to craft. She places pockets of potential silence at the end of sentences, of paragraphs.  Can you see them?

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Goddesses of the Everyday Rant

Kali of the fierce nature

I’m not feeling lyric today. See my new category: Righteous Rants. Once in a while, I can be forgiven for having some fun with daily annoyances.

Once upon a time, I loved music around me. All kinds. Work with Verdi, create a new spreadsheet with the Stones, fold laundry with Rachmaninoff, plant a peony with Queen, prepare for a dinner party with Wagner, hang out with Whitney. That was then — Before the Assault of Piped-In Music. This is now.

I’m lying on the chiropractor’s couch, needles of energy pummel my lower back, ice packs hold me down, prone, and music blares from a speaker behind me. “I (something-something) sky / You (something-something) earth / Can’t get enough of your (something-something) … .” I picture the sound booth – girls screaming into a mic resembling a giant insect’s eye. I see the mixing room guys at the controls – “Hey, add some bells? and how ‘bout some Caribbean drums? and make that 2:4 time. More twang on the guitars. Fill the room, man.” I’m strapped down, imprisoned by somebody else’s assumption at 60+ db.

I’ve barely pushed my cart into the fresh produce section of Dave’s Marketplace when I notice that the music is louder than usual. Another screaming rocker. “Shake that thang / shake it for me, baby / come on and shake that thang / one more time / yeeaaahh.” Imprisoned again. I assume marketing studies show that we linger in grocery stores longer, buying more, if crooners and screamers accompany testing of cantaloupe, waiting at the deli for Boar’s Head. Do businesses actually buy this piped-in music rubbish?

I don’t know about you, but my appointments are as brief as I can manage. How many avocados can you squeeze? Do you really tarry at your ObGyn?

Go places with me. To that six-month checkup at the dentist. To that lunch at the new place on the East Side. To that annual trip to the mall for a new swimsuit. To that weekly visit to the bookstore, that daily workout at the gym. Anywhere.

Enough is enough.

What comes to mind in that fed-up moment is Sekhmet, the lion-headed Egyptian goddess with an attitude. And fierce Kali, the many-armed Hindu goddess with the scary face, the destroyer. Her tongue’s stuck out: patooie, she’s saying. Temper these outrageous ladies with a half-cup of good sense, timing, and compassion, and you’ve got yourself a good dose of right action.

Temper these outrageous ladies with a half-cup of good sense, timing, and compassion, and you’ve got yourself a good dose of right action.

I hear the door open. The chiropractor’s assistant enters the room to check on me, pinned down to the couch. “Could you turn the music off, please?” She laughs and complies. Somebody shuts up. Ah, silence …

I place a half pound of mesclun in the cart and walk over to Dave’s customer service desk – I know this woman; she’s a good sort – and ask if the music might be turned down. She cocks her head, listens, nods, smiles, and complies. The Mamas and the Papas take it down a notch. Ah, better…

“Excuse me,” I say to the dental assistant, “do you have a room with no music?” She smiles and turns a knob on the wall. Shania lowers to a reasonable nasal warble at nine in the morning.

“Excuse me,” I say to the waitress at the East Side bistro, “could you move us to a table that’s not right under the speaker?” She smiles and moves us, and five minutes later, I notice I can hear my thoughts and my friend’s story.

“Excuse me,” I say to the sales assistant who’s fetching yet another swimsuit.  “This process is painful enough without the hardbody lyrics.” She laughs in agreement. She can’t do anything about the volume — I assume it’s brought to us by satellite — but we share the opinion that, in the words of Maggie Smith’s delicious crone in Gosford Park, “It’s a little more than background music.”

The franchise bookstore? The gym? Well, words fail me here. Take earplugs to Barnes & Noble, and run your three miles a day on a quiet neighborhood street. Leave your harnessed Sekhmet and Kali at home where they can await the next justified outrage. (TVs in waiting rooms? “Do not touch these controls!” warns a hand-written sign in one local doctor’s office. Sekhmet and Kali are getting their backs up already. But, hey, that’s for another day.)

Then I think of those other women. “Excuse me,” I’ve said to them. They’ve smiled or laughed in agreement. Strapped down too, denied the privilege of filtering for themselves. Inured.

Two clocks tick – a small antique clock in the dining room, a big ole grandfather clock in the library. The chickadees peep-peep-peep on the feeder. The turkey clucks by the stonewall. A male cardinal lets out a chirp that amounts to shouting in the bird world. And what I just heard was an uppity breeze in the pine grove.

Silence is hard won.