Thursday, December 1, 2011

December greetings

I'm going to try again to do some daily "small stones" - or some days, at least - here:

I snapped this picture of a stone near my workplace. It's some kind of iron ore-laden rock, and has a polished surface that is almost mirror-like. The river is behind me.

I cross that river, back and forth, sometimes several times a day.

Funny thing - just imagining NOT having that strip of wildness, that gap in the concrete city, makes me feel like I wouldn't be able to breathe.

Here's another one of the decorative iron-rich rocks:

May your December be full of unexpected gifts of beauty.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Is this the last day?

Every day for the past several, the weather prediction has been for unseasonable warmth, sunshine - and an immediate end to same, with cold and snow coming shortly. But again today it's in the 50's, feeling much more early to mid-October than mid-November. Some remnants of brilliant color - even some hardy flowers. (But tomorrow is REALLY going to be much colder, they say.)

But - the sun is arcing through the southern sky, never getting much higher than what would be evening in the summer. Here we are - evening at 3:40:

May your November continue mild and steady. Soak up what little light you can.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Gently comes November

Today is mild. There are still trees fully leaved, orange and brown. I'm in a coffee shop doing (somewhat delayed) grading, while an early song from Bob Marley plays in the background. I am thankful for all the pieces of my life. The challenge is -- to bring them into better balance.

May your November be mild and balanced - not too bleak, not too cold.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Apologies to Alice Munro

I mentioned in my last post that I didn't appreciate fiction that describes the pain of human lives but doesn't offer redemption. That was in response to a couple of the early stories in Alice Munro's 2009 collection, Too Much Happiness, where some pretty dreadful things happened, and people mostly endure. But in other stories, people respond courageously, or quixotically, or stoically, or intelligently to events, which can be horrific or mundane - or really surprising. The stories deftly sketch whole lives, where a childhood mishap can be revealed in much later life to have been the pivot around which the life turned. The title story is a fictional treatment of a Russian woman in the late 1800s who was both a mathematician and novelist, Sophia Kovalevsky, which I enjoyed very much.

A rich collection, and worth reading. So, apologies to Alice Munro for my first impressions.

Friday, October 28, 2011

How about NaBloWriMo?

Over the last few days, I've been sorely tempted to launch into the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge of writing a (50,000 word) novel in the month of November. This is true despite my lack of almost any fiction writing experience - (um, except for a few chapters of a Young Adult fantasy started probably 15 years ago and then abandoned).

The NaNoWriMo challenge began in 1999, with a group of 21 people in the San Francisco Bay area. The history of the movement is quite interesting - with the rising popularity of blogs, the information about the challenge spread rapidly in the first few years, as people flocked to join the challenge, and schools and universities joined in too.

For me, imagining doing the challenge is revisiting the old daydream of being a writer full-time. The closest I ever got was when I was doing the serious churning-out-chapters phase of my dissertation, now more than ten years ago. The rhythm of research and writing was exciting - ideas churning in my sleep, as I drove my car, everywhere where I went. I felt that something was moving through me, not that I was willfully making something happen. The ideas opened up to me - I didn't fabricate them.

But fiction? I don't know about writing fiction. I read fiction all the time - I have dreams that could be short stories, of a sort - and fiction feels like a necessary nutrient for me, somehow. Not every kind of fiction though. I'm not very refreshed by writing that reveals the pain of human lives but doesn't offer some kind of redemption.

But - isn't reading a pastime, and not a calling? Or - what is a calling anyway? What is the purpose of the calling of writing? Oh, I guess that's as silly as asking what is the purpose of breathing.

So - perhaps what I can do during the grim, gray, dark month of November is commit to writing every day in some form or other. For me, it can be the National Blog Writing Month (NaBloWriMo). Why not? Just - put my hands on the keyboard and see what wants to pop out of my brain today.

Happy continued writing, everyone!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Autumnal Musings - and Marriage Equality

What a sleepy weekend.  Long, somewhat incapacitating naps each afternoon.  Chilly, windy, true fall weather, but with lots of sun.  Life Partner and I actually tackled the kitchen cupboards and refrigerator instead of going yard-saling.  Laying large amounts of food from Costco - it must be the impulse to have a full larder once the cooler weather sets in. 

Friends ask me how I'm doing - meaning with the gender transition experience of youngest offspring.  Truthfully, I don't know how "I" am doing - it doesn't feel entirely real, I guess, since the person is still here, even though the boy clothes aren't. 

I have, however, been quietly steaming about the local archbishop's move to train and exhort the area priests to become  political action leaders.  He is expecting them to mobilize the faithful in support of an amendment to the state constitution to restrict marriage to one man and one woman.  This just feels so wrong on so many levels.  My own Quaker community is - and has been - working for marriage equality.  Nearly 25 years ago, the Meeting approved performing weddings for same-sex couples, after some difficult months of discussion.  More recently, in solidarity with same-sex couples who can't get legally married, our Meeting chooses not to sign the wedding certificate to legally marry anyone - for those with access to legal marriage, they need to do this as a second step.

There was a strong and well-reasoned opinion piece in today's paper written by an elderly Republican (85-year-old Wheelock Whitney) against the marriage amendment.  It gave me hope - hope that even those with differing political perspectives can see the obvious issues of human rights, and not be swayed by fear or misplaced religious zeal.

Here's the photographic fruit of our late afternoon walk in the Wildflower Garden.  Next week may be the last for this year.

(Thank you, Google folks, for making Picasa uploads so much easier!)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My goodness, halfway through October!

Somehow - completely undeserved - we've just had something like three more weeks of summer in late September / early October.  I've been taking photographs along the way that document the season's change, but I haven't really believed time was passing, not really.  The last couple of days have been true autumn again, still lovely, but properly cool.

Here are some digests of blogs thought of, even photographed for, but not written:

(Early September) - my wonderful new computer - the redoubtable MacBook Air.  I spent all summer dithering between getting the Air or getting the faculty/staff personal laptop sponsored by the U, which is a perfectly dandy little Dell Latitude (business class).  Lots of power - lots of features - all that.  But I got seduced by the light weight and ease of use of my Mac.  Actually, it was the iPad that set me up for the Air - and now I don't carry around the iPad anymore.  But you'd think I would get more writing done with this sleek item.

(Early September) - the (young adult) Kid moved home - the transition from male to female is taking all of /her/ time and energy.

Cleaning and purging the boy clothes - purchased by me over the past few years - now off to Salvation Army.
(Mid September) - fall begins in earnest - full color starting up on the trees.

An early leaf - striking in its utter perfection.
(Late September) - two evening parties, both with wonderful views of downtown Minneapolis lights.  One a gathering of fellow adjunct faculty; one a celebration of Peter's church friend's 50th.  (Oh, honey - you're just a kid.)

Condo near Loring Park - Metro department party

A law firm overlooking the Art Institute for the 50 birthday bash
(Early October) - days in the 70s and 80s - warm nights - we have been transported to California.  We celebrate by going to a neighborhood-wide yard sale in this lovely neighborhood . . .

Summit Hill area house - not an option in this lifetime for me!
. . .  and several trips to our favorite tame bit of the wild, the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden.

May your autumn be lovely and serene.  I'll try to do some actual posts as I go along from here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

When they were all brave and good

I'm watching a live streaming inauguration ceremony for the incoming president of my University, Eric Kaler.  The faculty in all their robes and silly hats have just processed in to the stirring notes of a student orchestra.  Faces are appropriately solemn as the colorfully-robed assembly of dignified academics stand wait for the national anthem.  Three uniformed ROTC students carried in the flags - the nation, state, and University. 

It just occurs to me, seeing these academic faces, both of people I know and many I don't, that there's a point to this pomp and formality.  It can be a catalyst for endeavors beyond the call of duty - to service to what these individuals find to be their personal lodestone, conecting them back to the core of why they have entered into these careers, what they deeply care about.  And channeling that sort of engagement and commitment is like creating a laser beam.

We do so much need something to believe in and care about, something to bring us together for the common good, something to help ease us past our petty daily preoccupations.

May this day, and all of our institutional ceremonies (in this, our national civil religion), help bring out what is brave and good in us.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Changing season - changing household

My youngest progeny, age 23, is back home, having graduated from college (in the spring) and then filled out the year-long lease without finding a job and new place to live.  It's OK, though challenging for all of us.  We're trying to make the upstairs into actual living space after having it turn into a large and jam-packed storage area (like the basement is . . . and much of the rest of the house too, unfortunately).

I'm thinking - if not working for someone else, the kid can work for us to earn spending money - and has been doing so, yard work for the last couple of days.  After that - some household dreck purging?  Helping us part with some of the thousands of books / videotapes / magazines?

The hardest part of the transition is working to adjust pronouns, as the former young man moves through the steps to become a young woman.  Can't say "he" anymore, but "she" doesn't come trippingly to the tongue either.

I don't know how to talk about it, really.  Gender transition hasn't become as common as same-sex preference.  My mom lamented, when told about the situation, that it would have been so much easier to handle the kid's coming out as gay - we've got cousins, friends, etc., who have done that, and it's a known quantity.

Will love and trust and a good sense of humor pull us all through this?

In a fairly small house with only one bathroom?

Monday, August 1, 2011

July 30

In the afternoon, going home,

Text from my son:

My old friend's death - too late now

For that talk over old times

My dear, sweet troubadour of the city

Sunday, July 31, 2011

July 29

Yes, the river view is lovely

Evening light glows blue

Above river's edge, city profile --

But what am I doing here

In the office?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Another Fantasy/SF Con

I went to the library on Thursday to pick up a collection of short stories by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, having gotten reintroduced to their work at the 4th Street Convention last month, and picked up a flier for yet another small local Sf/Fantasy con, also held in a small local hotel (Diversicon). The draw for me was two-fold: the presence of an acquaintance from years past, a local poet who has apparently been writing (in part) for SF publications, and the presence of Joan Slonczewski, a long-time favorite SF writer, who has at long last a new book coming out.

Joan is a feminist, Quaker biology professor at, I believe, Kenyon College, who has published several SF books involving ethical dilemmas humanity will face with scientific advances in genetics, among other things.

The new novel is being marketed for the Young Adult market, which is fine with me, posits an orbiting college. Packed with ideas.

More later.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Back in Lovely Idaho

We're just about at the end of a visit to my family in southern Idaho.  As always, the time has flashed by.  My sense of myself - the young person who left the state in 1969, the person now bewilderingly graying with young adult children - keeps fluctuating back and forth.  While I'm here, too, time seems to operate in different ways, speeding and slowing elastically.

The weather has been hot and clear.  The mountains assert themselves as fixtures in my psyche, revealed again as bedrock.  Leaving again (early tomorrow morning) seems unbelievable - how can it be that I've lived for decades and aged somewhere else, somewhere rather flat and moist?

The street where I spent my first six years.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Layout tweaks - need more gladness, here. . .

I've tweaked my font sizes - it occurred to me I was having trouble reading my own blog without coming up a bit close to the screen.  It took a while, though.  Hope it's helpful.

Dinking around on the set-up - I never noticed the "stats" tab before.  Just as soon I didn't know about it - too tempting to see if anyone's reading.  Which is NOT the point of writing.

The weather was a touch crisp today - the hot, muggy, deep-in-the-heart-of-summer feeling of last week vanished with the flow of Canadian air. 

I continue to post on my daily "small stones" blog (  That's been a fun challenge - I have to ask myself, did I notice anything in particular during the day?  Or - what was there that was worth noticing, that perhaps I missed?  Because otherwise it's easy to slide through a day so busy or distracted or generally low-spirited that nothing has much sparkle.  And that's not really being alive, is it?

Being alive is all these youngsters are about (from this morning - and also on my "small stones" blog):

How to recapture that openness, that gladness? 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

More library book reading

I finished Jo Walton's Farthing and immediately located the next in the series (Ha'Penny) across town in a St. Paul library and read it in one day.  It's difficult to explain how haunting these books are - these days when politicians use hatred as a tool to gain power.  It's been done before, by experts.

Now - to find the third book.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I'm doing my daily small stones thing

You're welcome to take a peek at my daily "small stones" (and photos) of July days.

Meanwhile, it is sure hard to keep up the energy at work.  The long weekend (even longer, as I had Tuesday off) was delicious - I read numbers of library books. 

Discovery: Jo Walton - impossible to describe how smart and imaginative this woman's writing is.  I've just started Farthing - a typical murder mystery in a gracious English manor in the 1950s, but . . . over in Europe, Hitler won.  So everything is different, but subtly so.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

4th Street Fantasy Conversation

I spent the day at the 4th Street Fantasy Conversation. I've never attended a fantasy or sci fi conference, and this one is pretty unique - very small, largely attended by writers, a mix of well-known, beginning, and unknown writers. The panels are made up of some very well-known folks, some I am extremely fond of. But it's conducted as a conversation, and for many of them, it seems, an almost unbroken conversation that has been going on for years.

It raises the question again for me about why I didn't go down that path - other than falling into a career and having bills to pay, of course. Starting at 60 seems unlikely. But there's nothing at all keeping me from becoming really informed about some of the best new emerging writing.

Some sad news I discovered was that one of my most favorite authors of fantasy and YA fantasy, Diana Wynn Jones, passed away recently. I was pleased to see how revered her work is by these writers I respect.

I spent some time during what were sometimes disorganized sessions doing some Web cruising to see if any of my other all-time favorite authors were publishing and was pleased to note that R. A. Macavoy, who hadn't published for years (except a little downloadable fragment from Amazon) has a new-ish novella out - it sounds like an expanded version of what I downloaded some years back.

A couple of other writers who were important for me weren't mentioned at the 4th Street Conversation: Pat Cadigan and Joan Slonjewski. I'll need to follow up with folks in the group later on about them - if there is some follow-up conversation.

All in all - I had something approaching a mini-vacation!  Now it's back to work.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Solstice greetings

Imagine an
image related to
the summer solstice here.

I chickened out on downloading an image from the internet to celebrate Summer Solstice with because I got a virus-warning scam from looking at one of them (at least I hope it wasn't a real virus warning).

How can it be that the summer is hitting its peak - and I haven't finished my spring projects yet?

Life is good - perhaps too abundant.  The neighborhood is largely recovered from the tornado of a few weeks ago, though crazily-tilted tree stumps still remain, with the sidewalk pavement humped and dislodged.  Much more sky, and less canopy.  Many, many houses still sport the stylish blue plastic coverings, waiting for a new roof.  And we are getting a new roof too - probably from hail damage that happened prior to the tornado.

Progeny #2 has graduated with an early childhood education major - and no job in sight.  Distracted by going through a major personal shift, which you will know all about if you are friends on Facebook.

May your summer have lazy, useless, delicious days in it.  May your state government not implode the way ours is doing.  May you enjoy these sweet, long evenings. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A week after the destruction

Just a week ago, I was sitting and doing emails and projects when I heard an odd sound like a freight train approaching the house. I looked up to see wildly thrashing trees, doing bends that trees aren't designed for. I grabbed Charlie, the dog, and went to sit in the hallway, out of direct view of the windows.

My ears popped. The electricity went off. It was over in a minute or two, and I looked out the door and called Peter to describe what I was seeing. The tornado warning sounded just as the wind moved on, and shortly afterward, sirens near and far. We had just experienced a tornado, a half-mile wide, which touched down twice, going through the heart of the Minneapolis north side.

Our own losses were not large, though sad: We lost two and a half trees, which all fell into the street and were cleared out by the city the next day. Two days without electricity were novel experiences, teaching me how much I rely on the Internet.

The main impact on me personally was the emotional exhaustion from rambling around the neighborhood and seeing
so much damage, especially to the trees, but buildings as well. A positive experience was actually seeing so many of my neighbors out in the streets checking up on each other - many of whom I hadn't ever seen. What a rich diversity we represent - in age, race, and culture. I hope to find more opportunities to connect with neighbors in happier ways.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Happy (Chilly) May Day to All!

I wrote this earlier today while waiting for a ride home.

Last year, the May Day festival in my town was held in a summer-like glow of blooming lilacs and late tulips, the leaves fully emerged on most trees.  This year, the tulips are up, bravely, but the tree buds have been shy to come forth, leaves still mostly just peeking their noses out, but unwilling to spread out into the chilly air.  Around Powderhorn Lake, after the parade, the temperature seemed to drop even more, as a few flakes of snow skittered into my face.  I got too chilled to stay for the pageant, in spite of full winter garb (heavy fleece pants, long johns, heavy fleece shirt, winter coat, winter gloves).  Children's faces were a bit pinched from the cold, yet they called out, "Happy Mayday!" with gusto.

Now I am taking refuge in the May Day Cafe, a block or two from the park.  There were lines when I came in - for the hot drinks and bathroom - but most people have filtered out now, either back to the park or home for the day.

The walls here are decorated with photos from earlier May Day parades, the well-worn wooden tables littered with the program from this year.  The theme was "Caws to Unite!"

Thinking of the images and of the parade itself makes me a bit teary - not in a sentimental way, but from a place of deep unease.  Our generally progressive state ended up with a Republican congress and a Democrat governor.  So to avoid having legislation vetoed, the Republicans are proposing two state constitutional amendments: one to (in perpetuity) define marriage as between one man and one woman, and the other to require a state-issued picture ID with current address for someone to be able to exercise their "privilege" (as one legislator put it) to vote.  The estimate I read this morning is that up to 440,000 people could be potentially disenfranchised in any given election .  This is being rammed quickly through despite no evidence of any measurable voter fraud.  I have seldom felt this sucker-punched.

Yet - these happy children today, dressed as crows of warning on their stilts, or carried in wagons as seedlings and hatchlings of the future, do provide hope.  Surely - if not in my lifetime - the powers of love and respect in this country will overcome the powers of fear and ignorance.
Click to see the sleeping fledglings
This gathering was more somber than some, in the black garb of the crows beginning and ending the parade, and in the wintery gray sky -- yet surprisingly, the crowd lining the streets was large and glad.  The goodness and power of the springtime is free for us all.  Laughter can't be taxed, or packaged for the market.  Our children to come won't hate us if we fail to hold strong against the political backlash of fear and ignorance, but they will pity us.

May we hold strong instead, and leave a legacy of celebration, inclusion, and wisdom.  From the street chants of my youth:  the people // united // will never be defeated.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A taste of summer - but just a taste for now

It's that rare kind of day, when the season seems to have sped up and stumbles nearly into the next one.  (But we'll have a relapse into chilly and even rain-mixed-with-snowy weather in a couple of days.)  I thought I'd celebrate by showing some "then and now" pictures.

Then - two weeks ago:

 And now - today:

Yes, folks, those are actually wild turkeys in my neighbor's yard. 

(And yes - there is a Twins game today.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Morning Bus-Riding Thoughts

Bus photo from

I think the stress is getting to me, or I'm choosing to be stressed.  Some of both, probably.  I'm too sponge-like for my own good.  I tend to absorb the political angst around me - Republican efforts to dismantle unions, most recently.  It's sad seeing the ranks whipped up to hate and fear their own neighbors, their own public servants.  Meanwhile, corporate leaders preach about how American labor is too expensive, so they'll just move to Ireland.

I'm reading Thich Nhat Hahn's new book, Peace is Every Breath. I so often get seduced into thinking that all my worry-energy is something real, that some real kind of work is going on in my whirring brain.  Meanwhile I don't connect with the people right in front of me (right now, also on the bus, a couple of neighbors, Michelle and Barb, talking abuut cooking some kind of potsticker, or how best to handle tofu).

The sun is veiled with a thin cover of cirrus clouds over the downtown buildings as we pause at Nicollet Mall to do the big bus-rider exchange, letting my neighbors go on to their connecting routes and bringing on new passengers for the University's West Bank or South Minneapolis.  It's unexpectedly cold this morning, an icy wind bringing down the temperature in spite of the sun's efforts to melt the skating rinks on the sidewalks.  I've started leaving my big clunky Sorel® boots at home (handed down from a growing son), as most sidewalks are clear by now.  I'll don them again tomorrow, with yet another snow fall predicted.

Let me pledge to return to awareness of my breath, of my body moving in space, surrounded by other breathing, parka-wrapped mammals.  Let me pause to savor moments of beauty.  Let me pause before speaking, with intention that my words reflect kindness and compassion, not an aim to defend myself.  Let me cultivate hope.  Let me know and express gratitude.  Let me dare to be alive, to try newness, to grow.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

It's Thawing a Bit

Now that I'm done with my January challenge of writing a "small stone" each day, I'm not sure what rhythm I'll find for blogging.  But I'm having fun with photos.  In the last few days, it's thawed a bit, which made going out for a friend's Ph.D. graduation party feel fun instead of daunting, and which has made the river flow more openly.  I even switched to a parka instead of my boot-length down coat!

 But the weekend itself has been pretty gray, a bit foggy at times.  Good napping weather.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Where have I been? Stacking up small stones.

My January challenge to do a "small stone" each day (moment captured in language) is coming along nicely- take a peek.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Having fun with small stones

 I accepted a challenge to write a "small stone" each day in January, and so far have done so.  For more info about this challenge, see the notice at the right.

It's unexpectedly - challenging!  (The point is to actually pay close attention, at least one moment during the day, and describe it in words.)

I happened upon this challenge at Mel's place - she's doing it too.