25 December 2008

If A Tree Falls

My friend stopped blogging because he got tired of no response. I feel him.

Hardly anyone comments these days at SITC. During my "heyday," every post generated an average of two responses but they came straight to my email address, rarely appearing in the Comments section of the blog. Sometimes I wished folks would post to the blog so other people might be inspired (and released) to comment. Like being the first to get up and dance at a party, freeing the seat-dancers and wall-clingers to venture forth.

Back when blogging first burst onto the scene, a good friend urged me to throw my hat in. I don't remember exactly why now: maybe she liked my writing or maybe she wanted to keep up with my life (I was still 'on the road' at that point). Or maybe, knowing how I've struggled with a largely unexpressed passion for writing, she was encouraging me to follow my bliss.

Whatever her reasoning, I resisted because I have a thing about clutter. Of all kinds. (When the book came out about HSP (Highly Sensitive People) I attributed this trait to being an HSP. Since then it's been suggested there's no such thing and HSP was just the next trend in navel-gazing.) Blogging seemed like clutter to me. Like the world needs the noise of one more person sounding off about her pet peeves and sharing the minutiae of her little life. Like cyberspace needs another URL.

It's a crowded, cluttered world already. Sometimes the most generous contribution one can make is to sit down and shut up.

(Photo used courtesy of PhotoA.nl @ flickr. Used under the Creative Commons license.)

But I've been documenting my life in one form or another--diary, letters, journals--for most of my life. And given the human need/desire for visibility and contact and the Blog's obvious potential for meeting both, it was inevitable that I would succumb.

But blogs--and cell phones and computers and the internet and blackberries and etc--have only incompletely realized their potentials to make the world a smaller, cozier, more nurturing place--so far. You show up and write...for who? Friends, family, acquaintances, strangers, former lovers and who knows who else. Like walking into a dark room and sensing someone is there. But maybe it's your overactive imagination; maybe there's nobody there. Or maybe there is someone there who doesn't respond when I call "Is somebody there?"

Recently the same friend who urged me to start blogging sent a link to "An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube" by Michael Wesch. (The whole clip is embedded below because I don't know how to create an excerpt. It's long but there's some worthwhile stuff in here if you have the time.) (One of my favorite pieces is the little guys at the 13:40 marker...)

"Collapse of context" is one of several provocative ideas offered in the clip. The context for human communication continues to change. Past generations spoke to each other face to face in real time, waited weeks to receive a letter from miles away or longer to read a published book by someone they'd never met. Fast forward to Now where we make videotapes for people we've never met who may or may not be watching.

"Collapse of context" is also "expansion of possibilities": online we can pretend to be anyone--any gender, age, nationality, class. We can be voyeurs without seeming rude or deviant.

We can also ignore each other or disappear more easily.Thinking about the new etiquette required in virtual social networks like FaceBook, I asked "How do you respond when someone you don't remember from high school requests admission to your network?" Several people I know pretty well say "Just ignore them" and I flinch.

When I googled "disappear" to find an image to insert here, I found this one in the context of a piece entitled "If Your Blog Disappeared, Who Would Miss It."
It's like I was saying the other day, about coincidences and mistakes.

Maybe no one would miss Sojourner in the 21st Century if it disappeared....when it disappears -- as, of course, it will some day. It wasn't so much my friend's blog that I missed when it disappeared; I missed him. A voice in The Village was gone and I wondered where he was.

I have the idea that at some point I'll dump the entirety of SITC onto a CD -- or whatever storage technology is current at that point in time -- to stick in the box with my journals and song sheets and other life litter that will perhaps never be accessed by another living soul. Or maybe.... Somewhere down the line, a descendant will wonder.

In the 21st century, trees can fall and be heard generations later.

24 December 2008

Another Flaw

When a friend's world is rocked after hearing or reading something that
Alice Walker or
Gandhi or
Deepak Chopra or
the featured guest on Oprah today
or Robert Bly
or whoever
said or wrote

after having no reaction when I said it

I want to be very happy for their epiphany.
And I usually am.
But I don't think much of them as a friend any more.

21 December 2008

Look Everywhere, At Everything

It's difficult if not impossible to "know"

the truth
another person
the right direction to take
what I want
what I've learned

A few weeks ago I was in the cast of a staged reading of Langston Hughes' "The Black Nativity." I was one among a cast of professional and semi-professional "theater people." I'm not an "actor" in the strict sense of the word; my untrained performance style is more understated or intuitive than formally trained players and I felt decidedly out of place. There were moments when my decision to participate in the production seemed a huge mistake.

But it wasn't. It put me in the Lower Ninth Ward singing gospel holiday music under a full moon--"soul food" doesn't get much bolder than this.

I was introduced to Miss Sarah's House Amphitheater (the enchanting venue where we performed) and Keith Calhoun's work (an extraordinary photographer whose work I am apparently the last to discover). And it placed me at an after-party in the future home of the Tekrema Arts Center--an inspiring site.

(photo by Keith Calhoun)

Some say there are no coincidences and no mistakes. I prefer to think in terms of there being no throw-away events in a life; everything matters, everything teaches. Even the mistakes.

It was a mistake in 1976 to give that homeless guy the key to my room at the Halifax. He emptied both my refrigerator and penny jar which was a significant inconvenience (though I had to admit it was nice of him to leave the key at the front desk). But who's to say a greater misfortune might have befallen him or me or someone else if I hadn't given him the key?

It was a coincidence that a dorm-mate from my first year of college in Greencastle, IN wandered into the public library in Bloomington IN 21 years later on the afternoon I was filling in at the circulation desk for an absent coworker. Our conversation as I processed her book selections made a profound impression on me. My sense of myself as a freshman was as an inadequate, unattractive misfit. I dropped out after one miserable year.

"We all wondered what happened to you," she revealed almost a generation later. They had all seen me as "most likely to succeed" and anticipated being able to say "we knew her when" at some bright future celebration.

The vast contrast between what They thought and what I thought stunned me. I learned something that day that I have never forgotten: my perspective is not the only way of looking at things and in fact may be very different.

Coffee Barges

It's almost too much: the sight and scent and taste of a perfectly brewed cup of coffee, Joni Mitchell's Misses CD on the turntable, a gray-sky Sunday.... How in the world to compose a coherent sentence with these historically potent influences and no cigarettes?

I'm grateful for the overcast skies today. To match my mood. Maybe not such a good idea to have started the day watching the second half of Recount.

I'm grateful for coffee. And inflatable mattresses. Although there are days when it seems like a measure of my immaturity, many days the whole process of re-inflating is one of the purest pleasures of the day: the little battery-powered Coleman air pump which cost so little and still works like a charm every time all these years later...the "problem" of sag that is so easily solved by the flip of a switch...and the serene Infinity I enter while waiting for the mattress to refill--there's nowhere to go, nothing to do but hold that pump and wait.

On my birthday, the thought occurred to take the day off. The day was also my 4 weeks smoke-free anniversary but in the end I settled for just allowing myself the luxury of taking the Louisiana bus from Tchoupitoulas to the St. Charles streetcar instead of walking as I usually do. There's a Rite-Aid at the corner and I dashed in and bought a bag of strawberry Twizzlers before the streetcar arrived. Twizzlers have been my cigarette substitute for a few weeks....I think that's ending today.

It was a pretty easy day at school; the piano girls joined the full band in preparation for the upcoming winter concert on Thursday so I had no full teaching duties and provided mostly a chaperoning presence for the hour.

After class, instead of waiting for the streetcar I chose to walk along the track and try to think of a way to celebrate and reward myself. Something I could purchase or maybe somewhere to go for dinner or some live entertainment... I couldn't think of a thing and wondered, as I often do when I can't figure out how to be good to myself, Oh lord, have I slipped into depression again?

The streetcar was a long time coming which allowed me a good long walk in the balmy New Orleans dusk. By the time it caught up to me I was several blocks down St. Charles and full to tearfulness with gratitude for the flounce of my skirt against my knees and my good strong legs, and the magnanimous elegance of sundown in New Orleans, and the breathtaking paradox of the beautiful faces and relentless mischief of the kids I'd just left, and the crazy incongruity of landing in the best days of my life with a full-scale recession underway globally.

When I stand in the World, it seems an enormous, wonderful surprise that Obama is president of the U.S.

When I breathe from my soul and stand in the deep waters of Time, the synchronicity and harmony of his election--not to mention me finding my way to New Orleans and countless other specific aspects of Now--are apparent and awesome.

There's something maybe clever or informative or amusing yet to be revealed to me about Obama's high profile smoking cessation attempt at the same time as my low profile attempt. Meanwhile, the specters of my two big heroines--Joni and Sojourner--hover nearby, with smoking inextricably woven into their life stories.

If I take a long stroll down some train or streetcar track, will the imminent insight come forth? Will I have a eureka moment and either resume smoking or never smoke again--but either way, reach an understanding that will settle the matter once and for all?

11 December 2008

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like....Indiana

For those of you not living in the area, this is not a picture of me but this is how the world looked when I walked outside my house this morning and I responded as the child in the photo is responding.

What a wonderful, wacky start for my fourth week off cigarettes.

09 December 2008

Overheard in my emailbox...

Me: Did/do you like Lucky Charms cereal?

My Friend: i did, and i would still, although there was always a feeling of discontent with it because i knew i was in it for the colored sugary charms, but if it was all charms, it would be pointless nutritionally, but yummy. i have the same thing with a salad and blue cheese dressing.

Me: It was a weird cereal. Like you, I was in it for the charms but

did the non-charms have to be sooooooooo unappetizing? I mean, they weren't even as good as Cheerios.


the charms, while tasty, had a somewhat unnatural texture: not really marshmallow though they were advertised as such


the leprechaun or elf or whatever that creature was.....just a little bit creepy to me as a kid, like the feeling I had around my uncles when they got drunk at family picnics...

My Friend: you are right. the "noncharms" were sub-cheerio...and cheerios aren't even that good.

08 December 2008

In Memoriam

I changed my Gmail profile pic to the John-curled-naked-around-Yoko shot earlier today. Tonight I remembered what today is...

9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980