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Prompt: There is a new kind of night.
Time: 10 minutes.

There is a new kind of night. It is not completely dark. There are no empty spaces, in your neighborhood, in your apartment, in your heart. There is a softness, a rounded-edges-ness to the night. There is certainty and calm where once there was otherwise. There is no scary in this new kind of night, just comfort, just warmth. There is enough sleep and enough dreaming and enough quiet reflecting. There is no yearning, no fear. There is no need to line all of your stuffed animals—armed guards, sentinels—along the outline of your body under the covers. There is no clutter, no piles of books, no electronic devices to tether you to the outside world. There is always fresh air. There are moonlit walks, no matter the season. And the day dawning from this new kind of night is similarly transformed.

Girafa and Boots

Caption anyone?

UPDATE:

“‘The brave little giraffe made it to the top of mount sneakers, cocking his head slightly so he could catch the lovely mountain breeze blow in between his ears and horns. ‘oh, my,’ he thought, gazing from the peak into the great unknown. ‘how beautiful.'” —Caption from the Letter K

Prompt: The house we live in…
Time: 10 minutes

There is a light in the kitchen by the back door that I look for at night as I pull into the parking lot. It signals warmth, coziness, presence. There is a large, brown couch in the living room, in the shape of an “L,” only each side is equally long. It’s the kind of couch you plop down on at the end of a long day. Or burrow in on days when you feel as rainy as it is outside. The one corner, by the lamp, has a permanent dip where I sit all the time. It’s pronounced, so I make sure that when our guests spend the night that they sleep at the other end. My purple blanket—I like to call it mine—often sits in the corner, folded up. In the kitchen, there is soup on the stove. The hole in the window lets in a small, welcome breeze—we stuff a dish towel in it usually—and the cookbook lays open on the long, but not wide, breakfast-bar-type counter. On it also sits a pin that reads “la cocina que canta”—the kitchen that sings. My apron hangs on a hook by the door; you are using yours. I’ve already made up the table—placemats, spoons for the soup and the yogurt, napkins that usually live in the basket in the corner. I sit, curled up on the couch, reading, breathing in the smells—onions, chicken, carrots, and yes, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. And that song plays in my head for a few minutes until I come up against the part where I lose the melody and am thrust back into the aromas.

International Day of Climate Action, October 24

International Day of Climate Action, October 24

Climate change, climate chaos, climate crisis. Whatever you call it, there’s something up with the world’s climate, it’s not good, and it sure seems like our fault—despite what conservative global-warming deniers (and the oil companies, coal companies, and lobbyists that create and support them) would have people believe.

But what exactly is going on? 350.org, which I’ve mentioned is organizing the International Day of Climate Action (October 24), has released a great educational slideshow presentation (along with accompanying script and resources) that you can use to educate yourself, your friends, your family, your book group, your classes, your neighbors, or complete strangers (if you can sit ’em down together for 20 minutes) about the science of climate change, the current and predicted effects of climate change, and what we can all do about it. Check out the slideshow presentation! And also check out the rest of 350.org’s action resources.

Massachusetts Poetry Festival!

Yay poetry!

“I have been inside of Poetry’s house and this is what I know:

of all the things I’ve done and been and thought I found

Language is what I’m here for,

the word, the sound.”

Those are a few lines from “Poetry’s House,” a poem by my friend Laura Didyk. In them lies the magic of poetry. Words. Sound. But so much more than that—life. Good poetry offers a distillation, a concentration, a crystallization of our lives. When you read good poetry, it leaves a mark somewhere inside you. From Marie Howe to Walt Whitman to Alix Olson to Billy Collins, the poets and poems I read (and re-read and re-read) offer sustenance to something deep inside me.

The second annual Massachusetts Poetry Festival is taking place this week, October 15–18. Organized by the Massachusetts Poetry Outreach Project, it aims to connect poets and poetry with larger audiences, bringing poetry back to the people. With events throughout the state, there will be 178 opportunities to listen, read, and celebrate the art of poetry. If you’re in Berkshire County, check out the kick-off panel discussion and reading at the Mount on Thursday.

Not in Massachusetts? Celebrate poetry this week anyway! Let me know who your favorite poets and poems are.

Celebrate National Coming Out Day!

Celebrate National Coming Out Day!

In honor of National Coming Out Day, a few words from Harvey Milk:

Well, I’m tired of the lies of the Anita Bryants and the John Briggs. I’m tired of their myths. I’m tired of their distortions. I’m speaking out about it.

Gay brothers and sisters, what are you going to do about it? You must come out. Come out . . . to your parents . . . I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out . . . to your relatives. I know that is hard and will upset them but think of how they will upset you in the voting booth. Come out to your friends . . . if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors . . . to your fellow workers . . . to the people who work where you eat and shop . . . come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions.

For your sake.

For their sake.

For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene.

If Briggs wins he will not stop. They never do. Like all mad people, they are forced to go on, to prove they were right!

There will be no safe “closet” for any gay person. So break out of yours today—tear the damn thing down once and for all!

Capitalism: A Love Story

Capitalism: A Love Story

Last weekend I went to see Michael Moore’s new movie, Capitalism: A Love Story, one of his best (that I’ve seen). Detailing the troubling effects of the “system of giving and taking—mostly taking” in the United States, Michael Moore delivers a must-see documentary that lays bare the major problems with U.S. capitalism for everyone to see.

Highlights (spoiler alert! I highly recommend just going to see it yourself):

  • Unbelievable corporate “dead peasant” insurance policies. Basically, these huge national companies take out huge life insurance policies on their employees, often without their knowledge, so then they make money when that employee dies. (And do they use it to help the family with funeral and living costs after the death of their family member? I’ll let you guess the answer.)
  • Scary Citibank plutonomy memos.
  • Christian religious leaders explaining why capitalism isn’t what Jesus would do.
  • Examples of workplaces that function as democracies, like Isthmus Engineering & Manufacturing, a worker-owned cooperative in Michigan.
  • The awesome workers at Republic Windows and Doors.
  • Moore trying to figure out what derivatives are, and where has all that bailout money gone. PS. Elizabeth Warren rocks! and so does Ohio representative Marcy Kaptur.
  • FDR’s Second Bill of Rights.
  • Footage of President Jimmy Carter warning the country: “Too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.”

Moore says, “I refuse to live in a country like this. And I’m not leaving.” And I totally agree. He says we need to replace it with a system that is good for all people, with true democracy, not capitalism-driven democracy. Which I think is a pretty great idea, too. But I’m not totally sure what that completely means or what it needs to look like or how we go about doing that. Thoughts?

For more, check out:

Prompt: You stand there…
Time: 10 minutes

You stand there. You stand there. At the edge. The edge of a doorway, of a decision, of a new life. Pulled back, propelled forward. It’s like how you felt on that ridge. Wind, clouds, rime ice all around you, you stepped to the edge of the trail. All of the people, and there were a lot of people on the trail that day—the Canadians that weren’t nearly as annoying as your friends thought they were, the college kids in jeans and sweatshirts that had partied the whole last night through, the friendly guy who fired guns for a living (a consultant, he said)—they all fell away, disappeared. And it was just you and the edge. It was exhilarating, and you wanted to see it all from a step closer. But the wave of not exactly panic but some distant cousin rose from your toes up through your core into your stomach and heart and throat and ears. And it makes you think about that cheesy quote—the kind of cheesy that you can’t help but love—about stepping to the edge and one of two things will happen and there’s wings involved or maybe it’s like Indiana Jones or was it Harry Potter where the ground doesn’t appear until you take the step?

Girlyman (one of my favorite, favorite bands) is on tour again, celebrating their new CD, Everything’s Easy (which I have been enjoying since its release)!

I had the distinct pleasure, honor, and delight of attending their show at the first stop on the tour.

But first, check out their countdown to the new tour:

There were many highlights to the wonderful evening at Infinity Hall in Norfolk, Connecticut (only 25 minutes from Great Barrington—who knew?). Here are a few choice slices of the experience:

  • Ty singing “Hudson” solo, just her, her pink tie, white sneakers, and guitar on stage (“I’m gonna go get a snack,” Nate announced before leaving the stage). Loved it. Plain and simple.
  • The opening band, Po’ Girl, was great (loved the accordion, the banjo, the xylophone), lots of fun. But most notably, their drummer, JJ Jones, (who accompanied Girlyman for a big chunk of their set) is a phenomenon in the best kind of way. She plays the drums with her whole body, with a truly unique and rocking style, and it makes me smile and want to be her friend.
  • Girlyman banter, always a delight. Included impressions of Beaker from the Muppets, a musical therapy session, and a tuning song about Nate’s mind being in the gutter.
  • Po’ Girlyman Son of a Preacher Man finale.
  • The sweet couple—a woman and man in their 50s, both school teachers, who had driven two hours on a school night for the show—who sat next to me and chatted about how much they love Girlyman and Dar Williams.
  • Talked briefly to Ty, Doris, and Nate afterward, admitted that it was my eighth show. They’re all adorable and sweet.
  • Beautiful, beautiful venue. I really enjoyed being led to my seat in the sixth row even though I chose the cheapest ticket price (definitely sat there for a few minutes thinking I would get kicked out once a mistake was discovered). Apparently, as the guy sitting next to me was telling me, it used to be an old town hall meeting house, and last year it was restored and renovated into this beautiful high-ceilinged, polished-wood, acoustically awesome, warm, welcoming space. And there’s a great restaurant there, too, I’m told. Can’t wait to check it out again soon.

It was a fantastic night. Never fail, Girlyman—their music, their shows, their presence, their certain ineffable girlyman-ness—just makes me really happy. So, a most genuine of thank yous to them.

Their (not in order, as best as I can remember) set list from the night:

  • Easy Bake Ovens
  • Joyful Sign
  • Viola
  • Could Have Guessed
  • Moose in the Road
  • Amaze Me
  • Reva Thereafter
  • Everything’s Easy
  • Hudson
  • Trees Still Bend
  • Through to Sunrise
  • Say Goodbye
  • Young James Dean
  • Tell Me There’s a Reason
  • My Eyes Get Misty
  • Son of a Preacher Man

(As I typed up this list, I started putting an asterisk by my favorites from the evening, but then it was over half of them, and then I started double-asterisking the favorite favorites, and then it was just out of control, so I deleted them all.)

Be sure to check them out sometime during the rest of their tour!

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