Friday, October 29, 2010

Rainy Weather Predicted Didn't Arrive: Here's the Bluest Bright Day We've Had!

All these photographs were taken on Thursday, October 28th.  It was just one of those days.  I'm feeling somewhat better, but still not suppose to be bending I took my camera with me to walk the garden so I wouldn't be tempted to start plucking up weeds.

The Pacific Ocean is peeking through the cypress trees and the air  was fine.

 Click on the pictures if you want to see a larger version.

Today is cloudy...and the water appears less blue than yesterday.   It was fun to download yesterday's pictures and realize I wasn't making up the sensation of color I remembered of yesterday.

I wonder how many rocks there are in the world named
Bird Rock?   Well there's one of them...

I know, I know, this is my essay and  writing blog...but I just had to share the green grass, the waters  so blue, the rocks, the clouds,  the sky...  Thanks for visiting and come back soon...I'm working on a few things.

Here's a little story written by shell fossiled in stone...
maybe it will prompt more writing from someone, perhaps from you?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

You've Got Rocks in Your Head - Dizziness and Vertigo -What Gives?

Putting it down as it falls... I'm only talking about typing right into this post box without quite knowing what it is I am going to share, but it is an apt image for what walking around feels like for me right now.

It's Sunday morning, almost noon now.  I am moving slowly. I've had to learn a little lately about vestibular disorders.  If you ever need proof that we are, as Psalm 139 proclaims, fearfully and wonderfully made,  make a cursory study of the inner ear and the astounding mechanisms of balance.  To have a disruption of one's orientation on this spinning planet is demanding.

As with many troubles,  the cause is often hard to pin down with any certainty.  One of the disturbing things I have learned this week, when I mentioned in as unwhiny a manner as possible to several folks that I was  experiencing and being treated for Benign Positional Vertigo, is that many people experience BPV and are not offered the brief and  non- intrusive treatment that is available for this merry-go-round.  

So, in case you ever are in is a website that has tremendous information:  Vestibular Disorders Association and in addition to learning about the trouble and the treatment, there are links, pick your country, pick your state, to trained practitioners in a variety of medical services.  There is also information for  practitioners of healing who want to become competent in more modalities as well as some self- help guidance for patients. The other helpful site I found is Dizziness and Balance written by Timothy C. Hain, M.D. of Chicago, Illinois. He is the author of many of the circulars used by the VDA and is clearly a leader in this field.

In my geographical area both the local hospital and a physical  therapy office have people trained in the various movement vertigo treatments such as the Epley and Semont that have roughly an 80% cure rate. Both maneuvers are named after their inventors and are intended to move "ear rocks" out of the sensitive part of the ear to a less sensitive location. Both maneuvers take about 15 minutes to accomplish.

Yesterday I was talking to one of my  relatives who is in her eighties who says she has suffered light headedness and vertigo  for years and while her doctors have ruled out serious causes she has never heard of or been offered the simple maneuver treatments.  I jumped onto  the Vestibular Disorders website in her behalf and  found out that in her California town there is a practitioner who is associated with a geriatric health service that does home visits to help people with vertigo and dizziness.  If you need and do not find  someone near you through this  network, you could still learn enough of the terms to better quiz your local health services about possibly unadvertised treatment options in your area.

I feel as if I have turned my blog for today into a public service announcement, but that is sometimes the purpose of  writing; nothing fancy, just a sharing of information that might be the word in need  for another person. I hope my readers never need any of these specifics... but if any of you do, now you've got them.
And about being fearfully and wonderfully made, it's one of the reasons that I am trusting I will get better, healing is one of the wonders of inherent possibilities.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Tincture of the Truth: A book review of OLD SCHOOL by Tobias Wollf

Old School, a 2004 novel by Tobias Wolff is an American tale, set in the 1960’s in a boy’s college prep school that has a tradition and the ability to host distinguished authors such as Robert Frost, Ayn Rand, and Ernest Hemingway. The students who are aspiring writers get caught up in competitions to win a private audience with the renowned visitors. Or as the unnamed student who is the narrative voice says, “We contended for this honor…”

Tobias, who teaches English and creative writing at Stanford University has written well about writing, self-consciousness, identity, social distinctions, making mistakes and outliving them and accepting fault and flaw in life; it’s a story that believes one can learn about self, others and life from story.

“How did they command such deference, English teachers? Compared to the men who taught physics or biology, what did they really know of the world? It seemed to me, and not only to me, that they knew exactly what was most worth knowing. Unlike our math and science teachers, who modestly stuck to their subjects, they tended to be polymaths. Adept as they were at dissection, they would never leave a poem or novel strewn around in pieces like some butchered frog reeking of formaldehyde. They’d stitch it back together with history and psychology, philosophy, religion, and even on occasion, science. Without pandering to your presumed desire to identitfy with the hero of the story, they made you feel that what mattered to the writer had consequence for you too.”(Page 5)
After reading the novel I read a number of on-line reviews of Old School and was surprised it was not more universally well received. I noticed a bit of a pattern; people who said they didn’t like the book were hankering after more action and plot complexities. It’s a fast paced world for the young, and if there isn’t a kinky plot on one campus, there is some serpentine cruel and tragic tale brewing in some other university.

Large plot lines can show all manner of actions and consequences, but it’s important not to underestimate the loss we risk when we give what’s going on around us too much power, and when we long for social status and measure ourselves in external realms. I liked the interior quality of Tobias Wolff’s novel.

“Say you’ve just read Faulkner’s “Barn Burning.” Like the son in the story, you’ve sensed the faults in your father’s character. Thinking about them makes you uncomfortable; left alone, you’d probably close the book and move on to other thoughts. But instead you are taken in hand by a tall, brooding man with a distinguished limp who involves you and a roomful of other boys in the consideration of what it means to be a son. The loyalty that is your duty and your worth and your problem. The goodness of loyalty and its difficulties and snares, how loyalty might also become betrayal-of the self and the world outside the circle of blood.

You’ve never had this conversation before, not with anyone…” (Page 5)
Page 5 and the narrator is already confessing to us, already owning up to his own self doubt, emotional frailty and incomplete honesty. The character knows he is deficient and he tells his misdeeds in a matter of fact tone.

While the book is about a young man who becomes a writer, later, much later, the narrator tells us that the story he has told isn’t really about how he became a writer because:

“The life that produces writing can’t be written about. It is a life carried on without the knowledge even of the writer, below the mind’s business and noise, in deep unlit shafts where phantom messengers struggle toward us, killing one another along the way; and when a few survivors break through to our attention there are received as blandly as waiters bringing more coffee.
No true account can be given of how or why you became a writer, nor is there any moment of which you can say: this is when I became a writer. It all gets cobbled together later, more or less sincerely, and after the stories have been repeated they put on the badge of memory and block all other routes of exploration. There’s something to be said for this. It’s efficient, and may even provide a homeopathic tincture of the truth.” (Pages 156-157)

 The headmaster’s struggle is also a significant element in the story and it will help you to read Wolff if you know to pay attention to the character and his details early on.
“…had he learned nothing from all those years of teaching Hawthorne? Through story after story he’d led his boys to consider the folly of obsession with purity- it’s roots sunk deep in pride, flowering in condemnation and violence against others and oneself. For years Arch had traced this vision of the evil done through intolerance of the flawed and ambiguous, but he had not taken the lesson to heart. He had given up the good in his life because a fault ran through it.” (Page 193)
Well, I don’t want to spoil the book for you. If you come across Old School it is a good read and in some ways it's a bit of an antidote to the brass and bully news stories, such as the one I wrote about in a recent post, coming out of schools across the country of late.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Waiting for the cat to come on home.

It's night. She likes to prowl around. Or perhaps she just likes to curl under a bush and sleep.  Whatever the case, I am waiting for the cat to come home.  I'd be happy for her to be free to come and go, but she can't have her own door or other creatures would wander in and it can be dangerous at night, other animals, wild cats, roam the cliffs.

Sometimes, after staying out all night, she wants to sleep all day, on my bed.  Seeds tangled in her fur, she curls up and wraps a paw over her eyes.  Don't bother me, I'll groom later.

Sometimes if I wait, she will come and whisk her face against the window, or press her outstretched front legs on the door latch while she stands two legs on the back of a stuffed chair at the entrance.   When I can wait up no longer, I get ready for bed, her whereabouts unknown.  After I've brushed my teeth and am ready to shut the lights, I check one more time at the front window.  I step out in the night and call her. I am grateful she has drug me into the night, whether the sky be cloaked in fog or full of stars, I feel the night, the balm of air.  I call to her again.  I hear the waves crashing on the rocks below. This is the night she stays out in.

It is fortunate that we have no neighbors to hear my plaintive meow.  Later, as I am falling asleep, I  may hear  meowing  and see her silhouette through the skylight.  That doesn't mean if I go out into the night that she will climb down off the Spanish tiles of the roof  or come inside.  But we play that game too, me  barefoot in my nightie, pleading to a cat on the roof. 

Like tonight, she  came to the door and  it was opened for her and she ran off into the forest.  What a tease.  I am waiting for the cat to come home, but I think I'll go brush my teeth and then check one more time...later.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Civility: treating others with dignity, compassion and respect can save lives

On September 22, 2010 at Rutgers University, a young man who had apparently been pitilessly spied upon, videotaped and broadcast on the World Wide Web ( later reporting did not confirm this) in private dorm room moments, left a one-sentence suicide intention note on his Facebook page and subsequently jumped to his death.

Whatever glorious potentials his life may have held for him are now ended and his parents and others near and dear must weather his loss the rest of their days.

Who are all the actors in this forlorn story? Transitions in general and developmental leaps in particular are times when many of us need help. Various aspects of coming of age, such as leaving home for the first time, living amongst strangers, intense exposure to new people with different backgrounds and values, becoming sexually aware or active, loss of a first love, school or other performance pressures, unwieldy group dynamics or being singled out for differences, can put a strain on the most well adjusted young person.

Who can calculate the added complexities or intensities of one's privacy being shared on social networks?

The danger that is created in such circumstances of vulnerability should never be underestimated. People sometimes enact in one moment of despair an irreversible end even if every other moment of their lives and the instincts of their being would stand against the threat they, in their pain, suddenly pose to themselves. For reasons perhaps forever beyond knowing, Tyler Clementi did jump from the George Washington Bridge to his death in the Hudson River. Tyler Clementi was eighteen years old.

The alleged tormentor, Dharun Ravi, is eighteen years old. As he faces his capacity for hard heartedness toward his roommate, what other depths of feeling will he reel through? He’s out of school now, but likely learning about how fast things can spin out of control and how unintended consequences can leap in a single bound from the shadows of our deeds.
Was Ravi’s alleged partner an active participant or did she just witness the travesty and do nothing? If she did just stand by, Molly Wei, may be realizing how dangerous it can be to be complacent about other’s bad ideas, and what it can cost to be passive or afraid to stand up for what is right.

And what of those individuals who tuned in and watched and wrote about the invasion of Tyler Clementi’s privacy without concern for him or the principles, ethic and laws violated? We err in commission, but there are also errors of omission.
Mr. Clementi’s family statement has been quoted in several news stories I have read:

"We understand that our family's personal tragedy presents important legal issues for the country as well as for us," said a statement from the family.

"Regardless of legal outcomes, our hope is that our family's personal tragedy will serve as a call for compassion, empathy and human dignity," the statement said.
We are already a land of many laws. Even if it weren’t illegal to invade another’s privacy, to do so is gross disrespect of others; and ultimately we cannot disrespect the lives of others without diminishing our own. What we need to enact is heart for others, not just for people like us, or for people we understand, but for everyone....for  we are the  people, that hold  such truths "to be self-evident, "  that is to say, to be part of natural law.  Person by person, will our social institutions affirm that development of character evidenced by respect for others is of primal importance and the foundation of any real education?   I hope so.

Life is fragile and civility, treating others with dignity, compassion and respect, can save lives.

I want to believe that the Clementi’s are not asking for the impossible.