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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Rolling Toward the Edge

Unlimited movement, uncontrolled going.

Is this what I want?


I pray for a curb--

a shrub, a copse, a hedge, a stone wall,

perhaps a rise of mountains

to brake my heedless roll

toward the edge of the earth.

There is nothing between me and the horizon,

and I roll, willy-nilly, 

toward my inevitable fate.


I am a mason.

With strong back and leather-gloved hands

I'll pile stone on stone,

building a wall

as wide as it needs to be.


The horizon lies ahead.

My wall will stand between

me and its implacable beckoning.


Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor

Monday, September 24, 2012

Slowing Down

Like Rumpelstiltskin, I spin

gold out of straw.


The rate at which I move has slowed.

An inner demon compelled the old me—

harried, hurried, impatient—

to work so fast my motions were blurred,

made fuzzy and indeterminate

by my race to finished a task,

to be done with it and on to the next.


The New Me (oh, how I treasure her,

if I may be permitted such a thing)

the New Me is slow as molasses in January,

and a lot more mindful

(though who knows the mysteries of molasses-mind?)


Suffice it to say

that the New Me accomplishes less—

and spends more time doing it.

What a blessing.



Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Fuller Brush Man

When I was young, traveling salesmen crisscrossed the country, just as they do in the opening scene of The Music Man. The most memorable of these was the Fuller Brush man, who traveled from town to town selling brushes. My mother always invited him in, and I find it hard to believe that anyone ever sent him away. He would lug his heavy salesman's suitcase into the middle of the living room and open it to display his treasures. In that era, the Fuller Brush man was seen as performing a welcome service. Not only did he sell scores of purpose-built brushes, but he also provided the housewife with a distraction from her daily duties.


His specialized brushes were irresistible. Yes, he offered hairbrushes of all kinds (boar's bristles, artificial bristles, round, flat-backed, tortoise shell, new-fangled plastic). But beyond the hair brushes were vegetable brushes, fingernail brushes, bathtub brushes, clothes brushes, floor-scrubbing brushes, and skinny bottle brushes.


What I remember, however, are not the brushes but my excitement (and my mother's as well) at the variety of his cornucopia of goods, all of them displayed right there in our living room. Each brush nestled in a special compartment of his cunningly designed suitcase. The order and symmetry of the layout were irresistible--to my mother as well as to me, apparently, for she inevitably ordered many more brushes than we needed.


You didn't buy directly from the Fuller Brush man. You placed an order. So you had two occasions of joy: the first was when you saw the treasures of the suitcase and you made your choices. After you placed your order and paid the man, you might experience buyer's remorse. But regrets were forgotten when the mailman delivered your package and you were able to re-live your initial excitement as you opened the package and took possession of all those new brushes.


During my one semester of night-school Russian years ago, I learned this apt proverb: "novaya skatyert; radost zhenye." New tablecloth; happiness to the wife. The same is true of brushes.


Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Surly Face of Time

Well, talk about surly faces! When you get to my age, time's face (not to mention your own) is not just surly but terrifying. Fierce and unfriendly and threatening. Not a face to take to your bosom or cuddle with a big hug. Be wary indeed of Time's surly face.


But wait. How true is this? Perhaps Time's surly face is but a mask that can be whipped off, if you're brave enough, to reveal Time itself. So what is the REAL face of Time? Time's real face is not forbidding but welcoming, like the soft-eyed face of your favourite grandmother. Come with me, it seems to say, and I'll take good care of you. Don't be put off by the mask (and by the way, congratulations on having been brave enough to rip it off; not everyone is). I'm actually just as curious about my progress as you are. I have no idea where we're headed—but we are headed there together.


Hold my hand and let's explore. I'll be your Virgil through these circles of what has been, is, will be. It's much greater, you know, than simply the effect it has on you. I, as Time, affect everything.


Some, of course, argue that I don't exist, that I am simply a construct of man. Bosh. Man may have come up with ways of measuring me with clocks and calendars, but every creature knows the difference between night and day, that there is a time to sleep and a time to hunt for prey and a time to play.


This is how he spoke to me, the unmasked Time, and I almost believed him. He's quite compelling in his arguments. But then I remembered other theories—relativity, for example—that refute the separate existence of time. So I am denying Time's claims. I find him an unreliable narrator. Presenting himself as benign is a good ploy, and he almost sucked me in, almost had me ready to follow him through both history and the present/future.


But I want other ways of exploring. Time-less ways. I want free movement between all realms, and the only way to get that is to be free of Time. I'll think about this.


In the meantime, even if you do believe in Time, at least have the wit and presence to remove his surly mask. Don't let him threaten you, scare you with his consequences, rule your daily existence, regulate your hours (so many for work, so many for sleep, etc.). It's all false. It's all a construct that you can escape by denying the tyranny of Time.


But where, you ask, are my practical examples? What are my concrete suggestions for escaping Time? How is the young working couple with two children to break out of Time's constraints? I could be cavalier about it and say, "First, deny Time, the rest will come to you." Actually, that's what I WILL say.


SLOW DOWN. When I was younger, the phrase that someone was "slowing down" was like a death knell. ("Oh, my dear, she's slowing down!") It meant that that person was no longer herself. Her faculties were diminishing, from mobility to eyesight and hearing. But now I find that slowing down is a choice, and a positive one at that. The world spins faster and faster every year, and the only way to deal with that is to consciously slow down. Don't go along with it. Stop striding as if the fate of the world depended on your arriving someplace. Don't rush through every task risking life and limb as you gallop up and down steps, chop onions faster than the eye can see, do all your correspondence by email and wait impatiently for replies. Slow down. You will find yourself happier once you have made this choice.


SIT after you get dressed in the morning and contemplate your breathing in the weight of your body. Move slowly to the phone when it rings; it's probably only a telemarketer (I had what must have been a wrong number recently when a political canvasser asked me to consider coming on-side with a local Conservative candidate).


Slow down and the surly face of Time will become only a dim memory.


Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Memo to a Little Icebreaker in the Antarctic

Did you know what this would look like, this expanse of Antarctica? They told you it was big. They told you it was cold. They told you, over and over, that there is nothing there! Were you expecting neighbors? Someone from the next section over to welcome you with an apple pie?


There's no here here, as Gertrude Stein said of, I think, Portland, Oregon. Or was it Seattle? There's nothing here but ice and wind, and wind doesn't count because it's a force and not a thing. So there's nothing here but ice.


And more ice.


And you, a minuscule ice-breaker carving your way through the "water" part of the ice—though how you distinguish it from the "land" part of the ice is hard to fathom.


Dwarfed by your environment, you are creating a block of man-defined territory, carving out straight lines that are the proof of human interference. Those straight lines are vividly human against the rhythmic, wind-blown, natural surface. Nature's creations flow and spiral; man's creations follow straight lines.


The rigid rectangle that you are creating won't stand long against the constant assaults of the wind and snow. Before too long the rectangle will revert to what nature wants it to be: immense, huge, white, and stretching farther than the eye can even imagine.


Do you think you can win? Why did you ever agree to battle against Nature in this immense white wilderness? Take my advice, little ice breaker, and run along home.


Copyright 2012 Ann Tudor