Saturday, December 31, 2005

the year grows old

When the Year Grows Old
Edna St. Vincent Millay

I CANNOT but remember

When the year grows old—


How she disliked the cold!

She used to watch the swallows

Go down across the sky,

And turn from the window

With a little sharp sigh.

And often when the brown leaves

Were brittle on the ground,

And the wind in the chimney

Made a melancholy sound.

She had a look about her

That I wish I could forget—

The look of a scared thing

Sitting in a net!

Oh, beautiful at nightfall

The soft spitting snow!

And beautiful the bare boughs

Rubbing to and fro!

But the roaring of the fire,

And the warmth of fur,

And the boiling of the kettle

Were beautiful to her!

I cannot but remember

When the year grows old—


How she disliked the cold!

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

I do not dislike the cold. It teaches me to appreciate the hearth. The day is gray and the rain has been steady. I welcome the rain and the cold. It doesn't sadden, but brings renewal. My spirit. My hope. My pleasure in the comforts of home.

We have spent the holidays in a cheerful whirl of friends and dinners, wine and laughter, and I am reminded once again of all that I am grateful for. Tonight we will ring in the New Year alone, the affable Turk and I, in front of a cozy fire and a tiny tree, and toast to years gone by and those to come; old friends lost and new ones made; roads already traveled and paths yet to be chosen. We will be melancholy, yet peaceful. Grateful for our good fortune. The year grows old, and so do we. But I do not dislike the cold. It reminds me that I am warm.

Peace, love and prosperity to you all.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

gone shopping...

No time to visit
no time to blog
there's hardly time for this eggnog

It's last year's card
this happy tree, rushed as always
but then that's me

I wish you love
and joy and mirth
I wish us all some
Peace on Earth

Goodwill to all
to all sweet dharma
But if ye be Grinchey
I wish thee ~ Instant Karma.

Happy Holidays!
(and of course, to Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson, who apparently require more specific forms of greeting)

A wondrous midwinter agricultural and solar observance to you, boys!

peace, babies

xxx ooo Gigi

Saturday, December 17, 2005

blissin' in the wind

I like my gym. I really do. It’s clean, well-appointed, relatively free of meat market muscle heads and hardly ever out of toilet paper in the ladies’ room. Most importantly, it’s right around the corner from my house, which means I have to pass it as I travel to and fro from whatever self-indulgence I am to-ing and fro-ing from, and I am easily guilted into dropping in for an hour or so. Eventually. It keeps me honest and helps me maintain the illusion of moderate good health even as I maintain a steady diet of egg nog and fruit cake; at least until I look too closely in a mirror. I tend to favor equipment located far from the reflecting walls.

Not that I love all forms of exercise. I hate lifting weights, which is tedious and painful. No pain, no pain, is my motto. If the weight is too light, I lose count as my mind wanders off in search of weightier subjects (What ever happened to that trial of Kenny Boy Lay?...Does that woman think anyone believes those things are real?…) If the weights are too heavy, I find I can only count to 3.

But I love yoga and I love to run. I love the way my body feels as I push it to bend deeper, reach further and move faster. It’s probably just a chemical thing; a combination of increasing adrenaline, endorphins and serotonin levels that makes it feel so good ~ which just goes to prove that there’s nothing I won’t do to achieve an unnatural high.

Still, I had an odd free hour yesterday after a busy day of doing whatever it is that I do but didn’t feel like hitting the gym. So I did something I haven’t done in ages. I took a walk.

The air was clear and a brisk 50 degrees. The low autumn sun gleamed hard and diamond-bright, and the sky was soon ablaze in spectacular shades of red, pinks, orange and fuscia. My Mp3 Player was tuned to 93.1 Jack FM (motto: “we don’t take requests ~ we don’t encourage bad behavior”) and the ‘Boys of Summer’ was pulsing through my head. I tried to run, but could feel the cellulite jiggling and stopped at once; it was spoiling the mood. Overhead the maple leaves, ignited by the sun, flamed red, pink and saffron. Striding swiftly uphill, I paused at the top to take in the last splash of magenta as the sun exploded over the reservoir.

I tried to stop mentally describing the scene in glaringly awful purple prose and realized, not for the first time, that I am a very bad writer, even when only talking to myself. I decided I didn’t really care and, grooving to Steely Dan’s “Do it Again,” fully understood that I was just one happy little idiot. Let finer minds struggle to be good ~ I would be content to be colorful.

Trotting downhill to the strains of “Stray Cat Strut,” I tried not to grin too broadly as motorists sped past, lest they recognize me as simple. By the time Queen hit their stride with “Somebody to Love”, Christmas lights were twinkling on against the now dusky mauve sky and I didn’t bother trying not to smile, or even let slip a skip and a stray strut or two. I grinned and nodded at neighbors staring back at me from garages and behind the leashes of dogs. When I finally hit my own front porch, John Fogerty was wailin’ “Born on the Bayou,” and I was blissin’ ~ winded, happy and at one with the universe.

You know, I hardly ever get that from the treadmill. I really need to get out more.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

christmas noir

‘Tis the holiday season so, having just skimmed John Gibson’s thriller,” The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought” we were naturally in the mood for a story of greed, power and corruption in the hallowed halls of government and other such worlds of unimaginable privilege and excess.

Unfortunately, “Syriana” didn’t open until today, and since it was yesterday, we went to see “The Ice Harvest” instead, which proved to be a story of greed, power and corruption in the seedy suburb of ‘Wichita Falls, Kansas’; a world of unimaginable tawdriness and excess.

In “Ice Harvest” John Cusack plays Charlie Arglist, a mob lawyer who’s been sleepwalking his way through life, pausing only to drink and hang out in strip bars until he attempts to pull a Christmas Eve getaway after having stolen millions from his bosses. Billy Bob Thornton plays the amoral pornographer accomplice, who may or may not fade away into the night with the loot. Oliver Platt is the drunken buddy and fellow nihilist Pete Van Heuten, a man ravaged by the misery of having gotten what he wished for, and now longing only for a brand new start.

I absolutely enjoyed this movie. Recalling the best of 1940’s film noir this comedy/thriller is bleak, violent and consistently funny. In Connie Nielsen, who plays the femme fatale Renata whom Charlie is pining for, we have a Lauren Bacall for the 21st century; from her long, side-swept locks to her ruby red lips; down to the gams that seem go on forever, as Sam Spade might have said. Even bound to a chair and threatened with a pistol, she speaks in a low, husky Bacall-like whisper, when a lesser dame would have screeched and howled like a banshee. That’s style. Noir style.

This movie isn’t for everyone. My viewing partner, the unflappable Turk, did not care for it and did not at all appreciate my dragging him along.

“That’s not my idea of a Christmas movie,” he said later, glowering at me over margaritas. “Too depressing. I’ve had too many Christmases like that.”

I must have looked a little alarmed.

“Well, without all the violence and the…you know…blood and all.”

I continued to stare.

“Oh! The strippers. There were never strippers.”

Good to know.

“Christmas should be happy,” he continued. “And if it can’t be happy, it should at the very least not be that dark.”

“Oh, I don’t know. It's pretty dismal for a lot more people than anyone cares to admit. Besides, did you see the footage of the 6 AM tramplings in front of the Wal Mart and Best Buys? They were stepping on old people! Rioting for X Boxes. I think that’s pretty dark.”

“Shameful. But you don’t see them making a movie out of it.” He paused. “Yet.”

Alright. He has a point.

Still ~ if you, like me, are beginning to feel just a wee bit of an overload from all the gingerbread, tinsel and enforced merriment of the yule; if you too are, shall we say dispirited by the cloud of raging consumerism that permeates the air while the Gibsons and O’Reillys of the world attempt to make political hay of the spiritual ho-ho-ho…

Well, then just think of “The Ice Harvest” as a quickie antidote; a nice dry martini in a season of sweet, and sometimes sour rum punch.

Ho ho ho!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

it's all about the housekeeping

Okay ~ this page went a little wonky for a bit there but it seems to be better now. I am on a very steep learning curve here.

I've been trying to save the AOL Journal to my hard drive (thanks Trish)as well as print it out (yes, I know, I'm getting obsessive about the whole thing, and wish I'd never started.) But I have, and now I'm stuck with the neurotic behavior I've so foolishly triggered. I no longer trust AOL to host my graphics with any reliability, and have been trying in my spare moments to shift everything over here. And there. Pretty much everywhere. Suddenly I'm a compulsive saver. It's becoming a problem.

I've found that if you do try to print out old entries you must, in fact, print out all those terrific AOL ads we've all come to know and love. Andi, over at Unhinged, suggested I copy everything into Word and print from there, which turned out to be a great idea. The only exception is that some photos won't copy and paste (those hosted by an AOL UK site) and if said photos are no longer on your hard drive or saved to CD, then you're out of luck. Most likely, you're not as nuts as I am and won't care. Congratulations on your excellent mental health!

It's at times like that I miss my handy little spiral bound journal. No one had to host it, no one wanted to delete it, censor it, advertise in it or even, for that matter, read it. At least, not to my knowledge. Although my cousin did give me some funny looks that time I left it on the dresser when I was staying at her house... But I digress.

Right. So I've been working on that and I'm slow; in fact, until I organize myself and just quit copying things hither and yon like a rabid squirrel I can't seem to actually write anything. Or concentrate on anything else.

So if I haven't been around to read, write or answer mail, it's a time and mental health issue, not a lack of interest one, and I'm sorry about that. 'Tis the season fa-la, and although I'd rather blog than clean bathrooms, which are getting rather...hairy, I'd also rather doodle in Paint than copy blog files, which is what I feel I have to do whenever I'm online, at least until it's done.

And there are errands to run, shopping to do, lunches to be...lunched, and the gym to be gymed. Or avoided by going shopping, as the case may be. Speaking of which, I'm off to Sportsmart for running shoes (25% off today only!) as I'm pretty sure my old ones are conspiring to cripple me.

And I am so freaking late right now; I'll bet this doesn't even save by the time I

Oh, damn. Later!............

Friday, December 02, 2005

scenes from purgatory ~ part two

Outside in the hallway, Mom is instructed to propel herself as far as she can by rotating the wheels on her chair manually, as part of her upper body work.

Alongside her is a set of parallel bars where a tall, dignified woman is making her painful way down the length of the ramp. Mom turns to peer up at her before beginning her own course, and they both struggle along at a snail’s pace. Watching from behind, it is a slow motion marathon taking place between a heron and a gnome.

Suddenly, without raising her head from her progress, my mother announces to no one in particular, “She doesn’t know it, but we’re having a race, and I’m gonna WIN!” Everyone in the hallway breaks up, including her startled rival. Leaning against a wall, I’m laughing so hard it brings tears to my eyes.

Back in her room, after the nurse has put her in bed, each little shift of the sheets brings pain and moaning and she begs, again, for more medication. “You see, I do try, don’t I?” she says, peering up at me.

She tells me about how she hates to wake up in the morning; that when she opens her eyes she feels only wretched disappointment. “I pray to die,” she says. “Why am I still here?” I tell her that she’s here for me.

“Because it’s all about me, Mom. I’m not ready to let you go. None of us are.” I half believe this; that I am keeping her here against her will. That I somehow have this much power in the universe, and that I am using it unwisely. She gives me a ghost of a smile. “There is such a thing as living too long, you know.”

I stay with her until she becomes quiet, long after visiting hours are over. When I leave, I tell her I’ll see her in the morning. “Just call,” she says. “In the night, when I wake up, I feel like I don’t know who I am. Like I’m adrift. Alone….you know?”

I tell her I know. Alone in the dark, caught halfway between restless dreams and an unwelcome dawn, it’s easy to become untethered ~ adrift in the existential void. To forget who you are. I do know. But I don’t want to.

“I just feel lost” she says, “until someone calls.”

Thursday, December 01, 2005

scenes from purgatory ~ part one

Picture from HometownIt's Wednesday, about five days after my mother's fall. Mom's had bad days and worse, depending on the exact combination of pain and sleeping medications she's been given, and whether or not she's had a good night's sleep.

Anxiety is an issue, as is tedium and the dread of utter dependence. At times she seems to be giving up; there is an overwhelming sense of too much pain, too much fear, too much sadness ~ that there is simply not enough pleasure left in the world to make the agony of living worth bearing. It is the death of hope. I understand. But I don't want to.

And yet, she makes the effort. She is, as ever, cute and charming in social situations, commanding attention no less today than in the full radiance of her youth. Pushing her down the health centercorridor, she is dwarfed by her oversized wheelchair and resembles nothing more than a diminutive apple-faced doll, and hospital personnel and strangers alike will stop to smile and exclaim, "Oh my, you are so cute!"

Sometimes, she turns to me and says, "Everyone keeps telling me that! It must be true." So it is.

In a therapy session, she is instructed to raise her arms and wave. She raises her arms straight out by her sides and flutters her long, bony fingers delicately in the air, concentrating intently. "I'm making butterfly fingers" she says. Mr. Hainsley, with whom she shares her group therapy laughs. "I'll bet you were something else when you were young," he says. She widens her eyes. "Ooo...well, you don't know the half of it."

In the rehab room, where eight other physical therapists are working with their clients Maxine, her caseworker, asks her to point to a schematic face on a paper indicating her level of pain. The faces range from number 1, a beaming smiley face to number 9, which is scowling ferociously, eyebrows furrowed and teeth bared.

"Well," she says, after consideration, "this is me," indicating the sweet Happy Face. "And this is...YOU!" She points to the angry, frowny one. Her timing is impeccable. The room erupts in laughter.