Wednesday, March 25, 2009

WAG # 5: The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

"WAG #5: Life In Motion” Sometimes it’s good to approach writing like taking a photograph with words. On the other hand, it’s important to remember that a scene is always in transition. For this week’s adventure, sit in a good observation spot and notice how the scene in front of you changes from one minute to the next. Has the light changed? The sounds? The people? What’s different now compared to when you first arrived? Is there anything you can see (or hear, smell, etc) that is changing right in front of you? Be creative and break the rules! This week is all about change!

Ever the daring explorer, I ventured forth in search of an observation post and ended up at Barnes & Noble, as is my wont. I use a digital recorder to document my observations then write my assignment from them. Today's exercise was such that it brought into relief, not change, but the changeless. For some reason, and a number of patrons commented on it, not much was going on at B & N today. Consequently, my observations consisted of a few customers all doing pretty much the same thing; however, my penchant for philosophical reflection did produce the following, which, I think, is most profitably read by keeping the theme song for The Beverly Hillbillies firmly in mind. If change is the order of the day, then this certainly qualifies.

Let me tell you of a story 'bout a thing called change.
A nifty little concept with a quite expansive range.
You can't tell if it's happening without a starting place,
So you note the difference from the now exposed in time and space.

If you start up with the outer world, the first thing that you see
Is that it's vast and infinite but centered here in me.
This means that every little change that I can see without
Is distinguished by the fact that I can call it into doubt.

Unlike the changing world I see around me every day
"I doubt my own existence" isn't true for me to say.
The minute that I say "I AM" my being is exposed,
The Mighty Presence that I AM is that in me which knows.

And so, my friend, as you can see it's true as true can be;
Change changes but the Changeless still is at the Heart of me.
What's real abides, whate'er betide, but change falls by the way;
I AM, I AM, I know I AM is always true to say.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

WAG #4: Do You See What I'm Hearing?

“WAG #4: Do You Hear What I Hear?” So often, our brain filters out the sounds we hear every day, but sounds can make a story so much more concrete and help your readers feel like they’re really there in a story. This week, go out, sit and listen. (Close your eyes if that helps!) Let your attention move from the obvious sounds to the subtle ones. Try to take in the sounds you usually filter out, whether it’s voices, traffic, children, the hum of overhead lights, or whatever. Write a short description of the sounds and your experience, especially anything unexpected.

The irony of the situation wasn't lost on me; I was sitting out on our back patio today on a very nice Florida morning and I had to wear a sweatshirt because of the slight chill in the air. The irony was that it was a sweatshirt that had Florida on it; I was thinking to myself "that's like having a thong emblazoned with 'Aleutian Isles.'"

At any rate, on with the assignment; there was the usual chirping and the occasional whine from a car passing. Our upstairs neighbors, the ones directly above us, often throw bread off their balcony to the many species of birds that flock for such a meal--and this is contrary to the explicit prohibition to do so. It is, therefore, not uncommon to see a flock of birds waiting for these doles; however, today there was only one grayish and quite large bird about 10 feet away from where I was sitting on the patio. His (because he struck me as more of a man than a woman for reasons immediately to follow) gestalt put me instantly in mind of men who, having some few strands of hair on an otherwise bald head, allow them to grow to disproportionate lengths so that they may be combed over the full complement of head. The sleek top of this bird's head presented itself as a smooth, even somewhat shiny, ornithological surface, suggesting a balding head; it's elongated neck, similarly grayish, had tufts of what seemed like strands of hair blown out and away from their proper place, leaving the distinct impression of one of these men I just now described.

The bird held its place, sentinel-like, with a kind of avian dignity; obviously reluctant to move at the sound of the nearby rustling in the lake. As I watched his stoic stance, I heard a very loud and big ratcheting sound coming from what seemed to be beyond our subject and in the thick undergrowth at the edge of the lake. C-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-eh; c-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-eh. I studied the area upon the many repetitions of this washer board sound, thinking how improbable it would be that someone would be in the bushes running thimble-clad fingers across an old timey scrubbing board. C-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-eh again came the sound. Our balding fellow moved; and his movement caught my eye; then c-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-eh the sound seemed to move with him. "No! He didn't make that sound, did he? He's too small for such a big sound." C-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-eh; well, let's see. I focus in on his long and very narrow beak, it doesn't move. "Is he a ventriloquist?," I ponder, as I hear c-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-eh again while I am looking at him. Ok, maybe he can make the sound without moving his "lips" but he can't make it without moving his throat. Cr-r-r-r-r-r-r-eh did he move it? I couldn't tell. C-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-eh, wait, there is some movement there. "Can he really make that big sound?"

At that point, my assignment came to an unexpectedly abrupt end; I'll never know for sure whether he made that sound or not; the unusual noise brought Annabelle, my Jack Russell Terrier, to the back door with her curiosity in tow and taking umbrage that there was a trespasser in her domain. The piercing r-r-a-w r-r-a-w r-r-a-w woke me from my focused zoological reverie, and drove my subject to flight, balding head and all; including the combed back strands flowing in the gusts from taking off.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Friend as Stranger

WAG #3 Prompt: A New Friend:
Sit somewhere that you can watch strangers passing by.  Choose someone that you
don't know, but you can imagine being friends with.  Describe them in concrete terms,
particularly whatever it is about them you find appealing (or unappealing!)  Feel
free to also write what you imagine that makes you warm to them, but don't forget
to describe reality as well!

There's a glare from the window at the other side of the square cafe section in
Barnes & Noble today.  It's a bright, warm day in Clearwater and I've ordered a
Cafe Mocha, which selection, as fate would have it, gives me a discount on a slice
of Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake, as if I needed any further motivation. The cafe
section is probably about 50 feet square with the windows making up most of the
east wall, thus accounting for the glare.  I'm sitting opposite that window and
near the railing which separates the cafe section from the store proper.  There are
probably about 20 people right now, segregated in groups so that they are equidistant
from one another; a phenomenon I see quite often in public places. I quickly survey
the assemblage to see what my "friend" options are and settle on two right away.

I say "two" because I notice that I already know one person who is sitting at the
table next to me; a table hosting about eight ladies interested in knitting and
I do not count her. One of my prospects is a youngish, maybe twenty-something,
boy sitting at a two-top next to the window. He seems to be studying but is also
listening to something like an ipod. His facial expressions betray the pendulum-like
swing of attention from his written material to his aural stimulus.  The other
option is half of a pair of women, also on the east wall, but in the north corner,
who, by the looks of the large red reference-type book on the table and the note
paper carpeting the study surface, are intent on their subject.

The twenty-something boy evinces an air of spontaneity and fun; imagined, perhaps,
because of his tousled hair and obvious interaction with whatever he's listening to.
The woman, probably also in her late twenties, has her hair pulled back in a ponytail
and is wearing a style of glasses recently made popular by a certain political
figure. She is wearing a patterned top in earth tones with a kind of a "v" neck and
blue jeans. She seems to smile often and interact easily with her companion as they
study their subject. This prospect has a slight overbite, which is evident as she
laughs but it's not too distracting. The shape of her face, the clean lines of her
hair pulled back, the offer implicit in her "v" neck top, and her glasses suggest
to me someone with whom I might be able to have an interesting conversation.

In both of these "prospects" there is also, un-articulated but conspicuously present,
the rule whereby I choose a "friend."  It is this that occupies most of my attention.
I discover that the young lady is presented to me as more than offering suckle,
indeed, she is promising it.  "How is she doing that?" I ask myself; and "what is
appresented in my perception of the young man?" I continue. In both cases, at least
for me here and now, I do not see the individuals before me; I see illustrated my
current vulnerability, needs, or relevances (remember last week's post?).  In the
one, I see longing for a self-affirming, intimately adoring embrace--a sort of
motherly "yes," while in the other there is the "running out to play" motivation.

In the end, I pick the woman, but not because of any promises, explicit or implicit.
I look up at her frequently and catch her now studying, now talking to her friend,
now laughing or smiling. It is not by virtue of any of these things, however, but
rather because of a "recognition response" in me.  There is some signal that "goes
off" when I see her; a signal that says, "yes, this would be a match" and I am left
alone to discern my own motives if I want to discover that to which she would be a
match.  Today, she is a match for conversation. I can imagine a conversation but,
introducing myself as a philosopher has been, historically, a real conversation

She leaves her table and takes the long way around the counter to leave the cafe;
she may be headed to look for a book, although it is more likely that it is the
restroom. Roy Orbison's song springs to mind on her trip back; you know, the one
where he says "but wait, what do I see? Is she coming back to me?"

"Hi, my name's Sara; is that Husserl you're reading?"

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hidden in Plain Sight

There is a clear sky as I look up from the patio, a somewhat discolored concrete slab stretching the length of our unit at the back of our condo. I notice first how the water level in the pond that is immediately out our back door has fallen dramatically. We are in drought conditions here in Florida right now and my eyes trace the contours of the sloping bank around the little body of water shaped like an inverted comment cloud. The green on the bank stops about 4 or 5 feet from the water's edge where there is a soot-black residue, lying between the water and the khaki dust on the slope, presenting a picture suggesting a partially burned edge. It's about half-past nine in the morning and the birds are chirping up their orders and going about their daily chores; for some reason I can still smell the mown grass and the surface of the pond betrays no wind. And then, suddenly, as though it lept into my vision....I spy a stationary morning dove standing by the edge of the pond in a haute cuture design matching the color of the taupe beach, now wrung dry of its moisture. I couldn't make out any sound but its body language admitted of being perplexed, tilting its tiny head now this way, now that. For no more bigger than it was, it made a disproportionate entrance into my field of vision. But, then, isn't that what noticing is all about; isn't that just how it happens. Noticing does not consist of merely checking off the items in view as we come to them; our vision is a field of vision with its own hermeneutic principles drawn from the very recesses of our own souls, the forgotten chambers of our minds, and the crevices that hide the pain in our bodies. We notice things according to our own system of relevances and what is important to us or has impressed upon us its meaning is relevant. So I see this tiny life and wonder: "who is that little boy looking so lonely on the beach?"

The Tale Wagging the Blog

Thus did I enter in the author's world of write and wrung
The truths from every syllable that man has ever sung
To paint the glossy picture of the world he often sees.
Descriptions am I bound to give, not metaphors to please.