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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Thoughts on Things: Change/Don't Change, Change/Don't Change, etc.

Change/Don't change/Change/Don't change. Etc.


Two steps forward, one step back—

or is it the other way around?

Steps forward are hard to sustain;

after a few you stop to get your breath.

And sometimes while you're stopped,

you forget how to make that forward motion,

so that when you start again to move,

it's backward that you go.



Is this what we mean by changing? Surely not. If you practice the above long enough, you'll find yourself staying in exactly the same place.


"Push, pull or get out of the way" was the motto of my father's Bringhurst High School graduating class. No backward steps for that group of energetic rural Hoosiers!


The external versus the internal. The wide world exists, with its geopolitical messes, its unabashed and unrepentant and unbridled capitalism. But do we have to live in it every moment? Can it not be reconciled with (or replaced by) the world of internal vibrations, healing prayer, conscious growth? Peace?


Recently I had a dream of a manuscript that was the wrong one. This led to two camps: those who liked it as it was and those (including me) who knew it had to be changed. Our group had a copy of it and was prepared to change it. The typewriter we needed to use was in the large house, the old doctor's house, on the corner of my street. My group went to the house in the middle of the night.


We had a key. We entered and started up the steps. The last person in line had forgotten to close and lock the outer door. I turned, from half-way up the steps, and reminded her that the other group would be following us, stalking us, trying to stop us. She was young and inexperienced and hadn't realized. So she closed the door and we all continued up the steps. We went to the third floor, where there were two rooms and a hallway. The typewriter was in the room on the right, but that room also had a sleeping two-year-old child in it. I knew I couldn't type there, for fear of waking the baby, so I hefted the typewriter and moved it, surrounded by my supporters, to the room on the left.


The typewriter had an electrical cord, but actually it was an old standard, about ten inches tall, and made of shiny black metal. Definitely a pre-Selectric typewriter, this one had letters fastened at the end of long extensions that arced up when the appropriate keys were struck. In all, a heavy, cumbersome apparatus that very much inhibited the speed of the typist: if you typed too fast, the extensions would jam in the air before they reached the paper.


Nonetheless, this was the only instrument available for the rewriting of the manuscript, so we set it up in that second room, plugging the (unneeded) cord into the wall outlet.


Before I was able to begin typing, however, another door in the room opened. I realized that we hadn't thought to lock or bar it. Standing there were a member of the "other" group and a security man.


I hadn't expected the building to have security. This man wore a brown uniform. He was not tall but was as broad as a linebacker, with a squashed square face and a stylized moustache consisting of a thin black line that ran just under his nose and beyond the corners of his mouth. His piggy little eyes took in the scene and he asked what we were doing.


I said boldly, reaching into my pocket, that I had a key, hoping the key would prove that we belonged there. But to him, that was simply another sign that we were trespassing. Not only were we in the house illegally, but we had an illegal key that had allowed us to get in.


And then I woke up. No resolution. No way to complete that essential reworking of the manuscript. And this reworking—you have to understand this—was important. It was not frivolous. It had wider implications.


Does this dream hold an answer to the question? If it does, I can't see it (but then, I'm notoriously bad at interpreting my dreams). I thought the question was: "what will become of me if I don't continue to change?" But perhaps the question is really: "what will become of me if I do continue to change?" In either case, the only course to follow is Rilke's advice to a young poet: don't worry about the answers. Just live the questions.


Just live the questions.


Copyright 2008 Ann Tudor   

Saturday, January 19, 2008

"Something will turn up" --B. Disraeli

This is the second time in a week that this sentence has entered my awareness. So the something that turned up is this same phrase. If these were Tarot cards and I kept picking the same one, I'd know the Universe was telling me something important. I assume the same principle applies here.


What's it telling me? Keep going. Don't get stuck in the mire, the Slough of Despond. Keep going, for something will turn up. No cause is ever lost completely, for something will turn up.


What may turn up is the soil itself, but, except for the heaving of the ground caused by deep frost, there'll be no real turning of the soil until spring. Everything is set and frozen now. Too late to plant bulbs. Too late to do last-minute gardening of any kind. Too late.


But just wait a mere seven or eight months, and surely something will turn up. What will have happened by then? The world could have tilted on its axis by then. The Southern Hemisphere might have become the Northern. Would we notice that? Would I notice that? Would water drain from the sink in the opposite direction?


What other changes will we see? What am I expecting/hoping/fearing in the way of things that might turn up. After all, the phrase is not "something GOOD will turn up." It's just saying don't get used to what you have now, because it is bound to change. It will inexorably change. And there's no "better" or "worse" in this change. What IS will become something else. I guess "what is" will become "what was" and we'll be adjusting to the new, whatever that "is" is.


Now I'm sounding like Bill Clinton: depends on your definition of "is", doesn't it?


So don't get attached to what IS in the world, in your life. Change she is a-comin', round the bend, over the mountain, in fact, right on track, right in your face, in your way, in your space! Enjoy it.


Copyright 2008 Ann Tudor   

Friday, January 11, 2008

Thoughts on Things: Peace/Piece of Mind

Are you sure you want to see a piece of my mind today?


True or false: Again is to against as among is to amongst. You're right. That's false.


Against all odds

Against the wind

Against reason


If I tell you you have a beautiful body will you hold it against me?


Against my skin?

Up against it.


What a strange word. They did it against and against. No, that couldn't be right. Did they do it again and again? Well, they did, and more power to them.


Against my better judgment

Seven against Thebes

Up against the wall

The agen-bite of inwit


Whan that Aprille with his shoures soute

The drought of march hath perced to the rote

(Is there any former English major who doesn't carry that piece around in her mind, perhaps with more accurate spelling?)

And bathed every veyne in swich liquor

Of which vertu engendred is the flour.


It's all I know, but it's there forever.


That's a piece of my mind for you.


Here's another piece: How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank. Here will we sit and let the sounds of music creep in our ears. Soft music and the night become the touches of sweet harmony. And so forth. I learned that speech 56 years ago.


Often I read of a prisoner in long-term solitary confinement who kept his sanity by reciting all the poetry he had learned throughout his life. Well, that would get me through the first hour or so of my term in solitary. The rest of the time would be repetition. Again and again and again.


Another piece of my mind: I recently read a little theory about drinking: the reason we all drink too much and get away with it is that our livers are hidden inside our bodies. If the liver were, say, attached to the top of our heads, like a silly hat and visible to all and sundry, then we would be really embarrassed for people to see how we have abused it. All the abuses we have inflicted on our poor livers would be right there for god and everyone to see. We'd be a lot more careful how we treated our livers if they made a visible and damning statement to the world about our lives.


Just a thought. Just a piece of my mind. I have to stay with a piece of my mind because there is no peace of mind at the moment.


Deep breath. In. Out. Slow. Deep. In. Out. Slow. Deep. Nope. Still no peace of mind. I gave it a shot, though.


Against, again: Kicking against the pricks.

Going against the grain.


Notice how against means two things: holding something against your heart means holding it close to you. Going against someone means opposing him. So against means bringing close and holding off. Explain that to your ESL class.


Against my better judgment I look at the paper every morning.


I hold against me the suffering and the pain I read about.


It is against my principles to do some things. Notice I'm not telling you what, because it is against my best interests to reveal myself any more fully.


I am writing against time here, saying and not saying until time is called and I can lay down my pen.


My pen is new. We recently went to a fancy awards dinner, a perk because my husband had been a judge for the awards. During the evening everyone put business cards into a large box, and after the dinner they drew a card for the door-prize: a Mont Blanc pen. I had every expectation of winning and was waiting for them to read out "Ann Tudor." Although I was dreading the embarrassing walk to the head table to receive my prize, I was thrilled to know that I would receive the pen. I saw it as a new pen for a new beginning in my writing.


Well, the name drawn was not mine. Instead, it was "Dean Tudor." It took me a moment to make the adjustment. He wasn't embarrassed as he walked to the podium, though I would have been.


He came back with a pen-sized box; the ribbon that tied it had the words "Mont Blanc" woven into it. And he gave it to me immediately, saying, "This is for you."


My new pen writes smoothly, quickly. I haven't noticed an improvement in WHAT it writes, but perhaps that will come in the future, with some other mood. But in the meantime I will accept this change in HOW it writes.


It glides against the paper.


Again, again, again, say the children. Again! Hannah at 18 months, skinny and slight but so alive, so full of sensation. Saying, after I had picked her up and dropped her flat onto the sofa about a dozen times, "A-dee-un! A-dee-un! A-dee-un!" She wanted no end to that feeling of being dropped through the air onto a soft landing.


And aren't we all hoping against hope for a soft landing?

Copyright 2008 Ann Tudor