Saturday, January 23, 2010

Some people I love have just lost someone they love. They are, of course, in my thoughts. But there's really not much one can do except remind people that you love them and do whatever small tokens you can.

It got me thinking. however, about mourning. And how it has changed over the years.

In her fascinating book This Republic of Suffering author Drew Gilpin Faust write how the massive loss of life during the Civil War colored our view of funerals and loss. She writes eloquently about elaborate rites and humble services, and how the nation dealt with losing so many of its sons and brothers.

Throughout history, humankind has handled the dead with everything from great monuments to mass graves. But the feelings of those left behind are universal. As we watch poor, tragic Haiti deal with its devastation and as I contemplate one loss to one family I love, it occurs to me how unfair death is now. Not because we handle funerals any differently, but because we handle mourning so callously.

Gone are the days when a black armband signified bereavement, signaling to the world (without words) to treat the wearer with kindness. Black curtains used to mark a house in mourning. Servants would place hay on the street so the sound of carriages and horses would be muffled, thereby lessening the distractions of an uncaring world. Women, as evidenced by Queen Victoria, would dress in black so the whole would would know that a loss had happened. And all this would make the world go gently on the survivors.

But none of that exists today. The world goes on, loud and unknowning. When you lose someone you love you find it hard to believe that the rest of the world hasn't stopped. That people in the grocery store are just as rude. That other drivers may honk at you because you're distracted at a red light. You lose someone dear to you and, because life must go on, you find yourself at the drug store for more tissues or aspirin and you don't understand why strangers aren't nicer to you. Don't they know you've got a broken heart?

No, they don't. Because outward signs of loss are no longer part of our world. The only obvious signs you see anymore are women wailing on CNN or an incomprehensible loss of life due to a natural disaster. But the simple, personal, everyday losses are ignored in the wake of the modern world.

I wish black armbands were still in fashion. I wish there was some way of knowing that the sad-looking woman at the gas station is staring unseeingly at the pump because she's just about to drive to her brother's funeral. I want to be kind to those of have lost someone they love. But I cannot recognize them.

Which seems strange. Because I know what it is to lose a loved one. And you'd think there would be some sort of unspoken kinship. A sort of I remember that look -- I saw it on my own face when I looked in the mirror when my best friend died.

I send my love to my friends. And to Haiti. And to all those who are wearing invisible black armbands. Because we should all tread gently around them.
Photo of the day: Angel

The saddest angel ever.
Rain, Rain Go Away
We've had a solid week of rain, hail, and thunderstorms. Today I spotted some blue sky and actually squealed in joy. My friends didn't believe me, so here's the proof. Taken at about 4:14 pm from my front porch.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Thunder and Cats
I did extra cat duty today, because we haven't had a lot of visits this week. During my shift there was a thunderstorm which completely freaked out the cats. When it started I was working with a shy kitten who I had finally coaxed into my lap. He was purring and happy and then this ominous roll and you could actually see the fur on his back raise up. Then he high-tailed it (literally) back into his cage and the safety of his box.

Many of the other cats started pacing and looking uneasy, casting odd glances at the ceiling. Even the ones that are usually calm and relaxed got tense and uncertain. After shy kitten I went to one of our bigger cats (she easily weighs over 25 pounds) and, unlike the kitten, decided my lap was safety and leapt into it with an ease that belied her heft. She huddled into my lap, spilling out of both sides, and leaned into me like I was the second coming and she was born again. I talked to her and petted her and the thunder moved on. So I returned her to her cage. A few minutes later another boom and she pressed against the cage wall doing everything but rattling her tin cup against the bars and yelling "Attica!"

After one particularly loud crash all the dogs in the kennel area started barking like the end of days, which only made the cats more uneasy. I swear I was just this side of singing "My Favorite Things" to get them to calm down.


In other news, my insomnia has given rise to an unexpected problem. When I go too long without sleep I take an Ambien to give myself a respite. It works like the proverbial dream and I love knowing I can count on a good night's sleep every now and then. The problem is that I have one of the side effects of Ambien - sleepwalking. With my luck this also includes sleep snacking. I'll wake up in the morning to discover I've eaten the last of the cookies I made for book group or fixed myself some toast and left the jam out. I have also, to my extreme embarrassment, posted in my sleep to Facebook (full of nonsense and spelling errors). Now I've screwed myself big time. Apparently I've changed one of my passwords in my sleep and have no fucking clue what it is. I even gave myself a password hint, which means absolutely nothing to me.

Suddenly not sleeping doesn't seem too bad.
Photo of the day: The Moss Remembers

The name that went on this urn has long been lost to weather and time. I doubt anyone even drops by with flower for it anymore. But whoever is buried here is marked with a broken urn covered with golden lichen.

There are far worse ways to end up.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mark Twain is My Hero
Of all God's creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the lash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat.
- Notebook, 1894

When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.
- An Incident

A home without a cat -- and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat -- may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?
- Pudd'nhead Wilson
Photo of the day: Champagne Shadows

Because even the happiest of occasions leaves a shadow.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What did we do?
What did we do before the internet? How did we satisfy our need for instant gratification? Most specifically in my case, what did I do before instant information?

I am a total information junkie. I'm the kind of person who loves learning new things. My favorite TV channels are the Discovery Channel and the History Channel. Teach me something I didn't know and I'm happy. I'm especially fascinated by reading history and biographies. But before the wonders of the internet (thank you Google and Wikipedia) I'd have to get out an encyclopedia or dictionary. The only problem is I didn't own an encyclopedia. I used to have a little notebook in which I'd write down things I needed to learn. I'd read a book and come across a reference that I didn't know, and I'd make a note. Every so often I'd go to the library and look up everything in my notebook. (I am making myself sound like the dullest person on the planet.)

But now I can just look things up with Google and get instantly informed. No longer do I have to wait for a few weeks to find out who Rebecca Nurse was or what was involved in the Royal Baccarat Scandal. Any obscure fact, any weird item in a moment of history can now be mine just by typing in the War of Jenkin's Ear. It's a great world.
Photo of the day: Blue Hawaii

A respite from the Hawaiian heat. A small shop playing Led Kaapana on the stereo and a old native Hawaiian woman who called me "darling" and then rhapsodized about San Francisco when asked where I was from. Blue and white cloth in a traditional pattern. The scent of star jasmine. I remember that day, that shop, that woman perfectly. And I will always have this cloth to remind me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

CD Pick of the week: Rumel Fuents

As the world music director for KZSU, it's my job to listen to all the new world music CDs we get at the station. And because I listen to so much music, it's easy to get blase about it as an art form. It's not until something bops you over the head that you remember how much power music can have.

Rumel Fuentes Corridos of the Chicano Movement is a perfect example of how music can help change the world. Recorded during the late 1960s and early '70s, the 13 tracks on this release are all wonderful examples of the Tex-Mex style, featuring rancheras and waltzes backed by guitar. Fuentes has a warm, though obviously untrained voice, but it's full of passion and persuasion. The songs range from odes to heroes of the revolution (such as "Corrido de Cesar Chavez") to stories about people taking action ("Walk-Out En Crystal City") and songs that relate the history of Anglo domination (El Corrido de Reies Lopez Tierina). It's a powerful release that captures the anger and the determination of a race fighting for equality. Wonderful music.
Photo of the day: Locked Out

I have a twisted fascination with old hardware. Crystal doorknobs. Ancient locks. This particular lock isn't ancient, but it is (at least in my opinion) photogenic.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Stormy Monday
The SF bay area is bracing for a series of storms expected to dump up to 8 inches of rain in the next two weeks. All the local news agencies have been talking about where to get sandbags and listing emergency numbers in case of flooding.

The only problem is that the bay area has a history of storms not appearing. They tell you to prepare for Hurricane Sadie and you end up with a bit of a drizzle an maybe some wind. This "huge storm" was supposed to hit on Saturday. Then it was supposed to arrive Sunday afternoon. Then Sunday night. OK, last night there was wind and rain, but nothing like the Biblical deluge they were warning us about. It's rained off and on all day, but no wind and the rain hasn't ever been really hard.

Having been all doubting, though, I must confess that I hope we do get the big storm that is predicted. I love big storms. There is absolutely nothing cozier than being curled up in the world's comfiest bed with Husband lying warm next to me (He is always warm. I am always cold.) and a purring cat between us while a storm rages outside. Or sitting on the sofa under a blanket, with a fire in the fireplace and an old movie on TV. Plus, we need the rain.

We're technically in a drought, although there's been no official water rationing. But it's certain that our reservoirs could use a boost. So I'm hoping the promised 8 inches arrive. In spite of the fact that we still don't have a working garage door and I am now parking across the street -- perfect timing. The biggest storm in about 5 years is supposed to hit, and I don't have a warm, dry place to park. OK, neither does poor Husband, who always has to park on the street. But hey, I'm a delicate flower!
Photo of the day: Splash Landing

I love how birds always stick together. They fly in flocks. And when they land, they all want to land in or on the same place. There was lots of empty shoreline and rocks for this one bird to land on. But he just had to be in the middle of everyone else.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Check out Haiku Distance by Susan August. It's a beautiful, gentle gift. Her haiku offer lyrical glimpses into the world around us. She takes the commonplace, and makes it magical. You'll find yourself looking at your own world differently, trying to find the poetry of your life. Everything from the neighbor's cat to watching the sun set with a loved one becomes a small, joyful event. At times funny, at other times moving, it's all wonderful and surprising. I've been enjoying picking a page at random and reading whatever poem I come to and it never fails to make me smile. Great stuff.
Photo of the day: Mystery in Purple

No clue. But I love the purple ball thing-y with frosted tips.