Friday, August 31

Breaking News

This just in. Today is my last day "alone" here. On Tuesday I'll come in and train the new secretary. Or so I thought until 15 minutes ago, when the new secretary's old boss called Yusef to see if she could stay another week. Yusef left it up to me--did I want to come back next week?

I've been mentally saying goodbye all week, and am ready to launch. I like it here and it's really hard to say goodbye. I don't really want to prolong the goodbye any longer. Plus there's those few unpleasant tasks I was looking forward to handing off.

On the other hand, it's a dollar more per hour here than at Barry & Sewall.


I've got mental and emotional whiplash!

Most Fanciful Disappointment

I drove by a garage sale sign on the way to work this morning and for some reason was reminded of my most disappointing garage sale ever. The Minnesota Jungian Society advertised a garage sale, in Northeast!

Hoo boy, think of the opportunity to rummage around in the attics and basements of a crowd of Jungians! I imagined exotic musical instruments, incense burners, tattered old books on alchemy, astrology and dreams, ribbon-tied packets of letters, bottles from old patent medicine remedies-- a treasure trove of riches.

How disappointing it was to find only ugly children's clothes, old National Geographics, and dented ping-pong balls.

First predictive dream! Sort of

I have a great dream life but my dreams are not at all predictive. Mostly not sensible, either, but that's O.K., dreams are supposed to be mysterious.

This week I finally had a predictive dream: I dreamed I was in China shopping for cut price handbags. For those of you who don't keep up with fashion trends (and I do?), the handbag is a big status symbol now. I guess once you graduate from buying a "purse" at Target, it's a slippery slope to paying hundreds, even thousands of dollars for a "designer handbag." This is apparently for teens and the middle class, which blows my mind. It's a new fashion "must have."

The day after the dream, I heard a news story about all the luxury goods -- like designer clothes, handbags, sunglasses, etc., that are made in China. Yeah, O.K., so I didn't make it to China. And I didn't actually buy a handbag. But still!

Take that, psychics!

Tall Things Near Water -- a Pearson moment

This morning I was looking for the famous Guichard photo, "Phares Dans La Tempte--La Jumet," or, "that one where the big wave wraps around the lighthouse and the man standing there better get inside quick."

I had to search an image database, and I couldn't get the word "lighthouse" to stay in my head. Over and over, all I could think of was "water tower." Such a Pearson moment. "You know, one of those tall things . . . and water . . . "

P. S. Here's the story of the photo. Very dramatic. As you might guess.

Thursday, August 30

Less Joy in Mudville

Remember "Casey at the bat"? The final stanza:

" Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville -- mighty Casey has struck out."

Well, I didn't get the library job I interviewed for or the secretary job I was offered pending a five day posting for internal candidates. A good internal candidate turned up, bringing me another come-from-ahead loss.

And the library job? Well, I think I'm Too Introverted to be a Librarian. This may be a fatal flaw in these days of diminished government funding. For $17.00 an hour one is expected to be an expert in child literacy and a go-getter at building community alliances. Except for large libraries like Ridgedale, Brookdale, Southdale, and Minneapolis Central, I believe the days of the reference librarian are over.

As I used to joke with my friend Laura long ago, it's time for life plan Z'', or Z double prime -- there have been many " life plans" along the way.


I was devastated the day the secretarial job fell through. I got through the day by promising myself I could hide under the covers when I got home. Jarrett was home when I got home, and he gave me a hug and asked me if I wanted to talk. Yes, the Man of Few Grunts himself. What a peach. This is his way when I am sad. I feel very supported. He doesn't say much, but I can feel how tuned in to me he is. He gives me some extra hugs, volunteers more help around the house, fetches me something to drink, and listens when I want to talk.

When Evan came home I was hiding under the covers, but I'd promised Jarrett I'd take him to buy a new video game he had on reserve, so once again parenthood pulled me out of self-centered self-pity and into the mobile world. Obligations give life structure -- something absolutely critical for a person who battles depression. Thank god for kids, cats, and work.

Evan gave me a hug too, and asked if I wanted to talk. What fine sensitive guys. Once male pattern baldness sets in, they'll be perfect Sensitive New Age Males. Evan also did something he's very good at, although it's hard to explain. I guess you could say he took over the physical and emotional management of the evening, smoothing out any conflicts, making sure things went smoothly and we all stayed on an even keel, pitching in even more than usual with chores.

Furthermore, he does it so subtly. There's no heroics of "Look, now I'm doing dishes because you are incapacitated with sadness, ain't I great." He just quietly steps in and covers things, not in a perfectionist way. He does "just enough," and that's a compliment, not a put-down. He doesn't grandstand it, and neither does Jarrett. I guess you could say Evan takes on a wider and more subtle role, some elements of which you might not notice if you weren't paying attention. In particular, the way he takes on what I can only call the "emotional management" of the household that impresses me.

I've seen Mom do this many times, and most of the moms I know (or women in any relationship), but I think it's outstanding that teenage young men have chosen to learn how to do it, each in their own way and to their own ability, and know when it's needed. I don't like to lean on them, but we all have days when we need support, and boy, do I appreciate it.

P.S. The subsequent days have been much better and my mood is much improved.

Monday, August 27

Lazy Librarian

One of the standard library interview questions is about Reader's Advisory, or recommending books. My answer is that one starts by asking what the patron has read lately that she liked, and what it was about the book that she liked; and then recommend other books along that line. (Standard protocol.)

The interviewers agree but still want a recommendation, and in part because it is my second favorite book in the world (Zorba the Greek is my #1 favorite), and in part because I become forgetful in job interviews, I always end up recommending To Kill A Mockingbird.

I had a job interview recently and made mental notes about several books to recommend, and then forgot them during the interview. Fell back on To Kill A Mockingbird.

Imagine how hard I laughed when I saw this headline in the August 18 issue of the satirical newspaper The Onion: "Lazy Barnes & Noble Employee Recommends To Kill a Mockingbird."


Wednesday, August 22

The Geographer's Library

"Item 9b: The Peacock's Tail, a brooch . . . Ten pieces of Baltic amber. . . each a different color (blood, cooling lava, late-August afternoon, Karelia, dead man's lips, January noon, wine, everything, nothing, God) . . ."

This is from Jon Fasman's novel "The Geographer's Library." It's a search novel along the lines of --yes--the "DaVinci Code" or "The Historian," except when we arrive on the scene, the mysterious local professor who has done most of the searching is found dead in his apartment, and Paul Tomm, a cub reporter on the small-town Lincoln, Massachusetts paper, has been given the task of writing his obituary.

The assembled items are part of an alchemists' formula for long life. Possessing even part of the whole extends life -- what would happen to the one who assembled them all? The delightful thing about this book is that the author manages to write all this convincingly, going back and forth between the creepy and unbelievable to the Tomm's very ordinary life (although his new girlfriend, the professor's neighbor, is pretty spooky.)

I want to know how the puzzle ends, and I definitely want to know Paul Tomm's fate. The real treat is Fasman's writing. He writes of mysterious things in matter of fact ways, and handles the quotidian equally well. His wit is dry, light, and laugh-out-loud funny, and at the same time, he maintains a suitable air of creepy mystery that convinces but doesn't go over the top. In looking for some short quotations to show off his style, I found whole pages I want to quote.

I will add some later, but for now, gotta go.

Read this book. Plot: four stars. Characters: four stars. Writing: five stars.

Friday, August 17

Must See: Uzbecki Embroidery

The Uzbecki embroidery ended up way down at the bottom of the post, but here is a link. "Uzbecki embroidery" sounds dull and obscure, but the bold colors and the simple-yet-sophisticated motifs just open your heart and make you grin. The exhibit is at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

I'm having one of those afternoons when I'm flooded with creative ideas for writing, work, and dozens of other projects. The only problem is that as new ideas come up, they replace the old ones, which I forget.

Last night I went to "A Mirror of Nature: Nordic Landscape Painting from 1860 to 1910," at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. (Some of the images are shown on the museum home page and there is a slide show on the exhibit page.) Some parts were wonderful, others looked like the kind of landscape you would buy at Sears and hang over your sofa. Now I know who all those painters-of-lame-paintings got their ideas from. (I'm hoping against hope that they weren't lame painters, just paying the rent.) The exhibit was arranged chronologically to show the changes over time as new ideas changed the painting scene again and again.Things got progressively looser and more emotional. Works for me.

As always, the art museum is a good place to people-watch and eavesdrop. I am completely tongue-tied when I talk about art, yet I get a chuckle out of all the high-flown sentiment flowing around me. Likewise, the explanatory notes for the paintings are very useful and help one get more out of the paintings, but occasionally someone gets carried away.

I found this last night: "the lack of figures and the tenebrous sky imbue the scene with an odd quiescence."

Exactly what I was thinking!

(Punchline from one of my favorite jokes: "Up in the hills where my people come from, we speak of little else.")

The museum is filled with lovely things and lovely people, but it is surrounded by a very tough neighborhood.The contrast was unsettling. Read Tim Wise for an exegesis of "white privilege."

All this leads up to the amazing Uzbecki embroidery. The embroidery is amazing mostly because it absolutely sings. You almost want to laugh out loud for joy. (OK , someone is getting carried away here.) The pieces are usually on black fabric, completely covered with mostly flower motifs ranging in from hand-sized to a foot or so. The colors are mostly reds, greens, blues and white, in strong clear colors. Many of the motifs are circular or paisley shaped, and many of them are constructed so they almost vibrate with motion. They have very sophisticated details, because this embroidery was purely decorative and displayed a woman's (highly valued) artistic skills.

I get excited just thinking about them! I wanted to buy the exhibit book, but it is $60.00! Yikes.

Sunday, August 12

River Level lowered to aid divers

See the low wall on the left of the picture? Marius and I sat there this spring and dabbled our toes in the water.

I-35W Bridge

I went down to the Stone Arch Bridge today to pay my respects to those killed and injured in the bridge collapse, and to pay my respects to the bridge, too. I arrived a little after 8:00 on a Sunday morning. There were already people on the bridge looking toward the wreckage, which you can barely see from that vantage. It was a hushed and solemn crowd.

Here are the things that stood out most for me: the quiet, respectful mood of the crowd, the very low level of the Mississippi, and when I crossed the river and went to Gold Medal Park by the Guthrie, just how close everything is. I tend to see the city cut up by the routes I take; from the hill in Gold Medal Park I could see the Metrodome, the U, the color-blocked apartments of Cedar-Riverside, the downtown skyscrapers, and across the river to the St. Anthony mill neighborhood.

Sock Watch Photo

This is the first photo I have uploaded. It took me way too long to figure it out. The blogging software was easy, I just couldn't find the photo in my iPhoto library. I hope it gets easier.

Saturday, August 4

The words we choose

One of the things I've been doing this morning instead of getting up and on the road to see my beloved aunt is reading a magazine, "Artful Blogging," which highlights and excerpts several artists' blogs. These are artists who work primarily in mixed media, doing altered art and collage. (The magazine is published by Stampington, a vendor of rubber stamps and a publishing kingdom for altered art and collage.)

I'm fascinated by the altered art and collage, mixed media movement. Rubber stamps give access to art and images for those who can't draw, as does collage, which has unleashed a torrent of creativity. There is a wide range of styles, and I can't tell you how many hours I have dawdled away browsing online and print, absorbing images, techniques, and discussion of this art/craft trend. (See my links. Click on the tags for collage and artblogs. I'm still working on making the page easier to use; bear with me.)

As in any visual art, there are pioneers, visionaries, a great many people who do cool stuff, and some uninspired followers. One of the few things that annoy me are the words people choose to use in their art and collage. It probably relates to the rubber stamp words that are available. The ones that sell, and so are created and kept in stock, are the ones you can guess: "Dream." "Dream big." "Delight." "Believe." "Take flight." There is also a fascination with French words and images which charmed at first but now has become tedious. I do get tired of all these relentlessly cheerful words. Here are my modest proposals for additional art-appropriate words:

slightly cynical

in keeping with the French themes that are so popular, I offer the following phrases from French I:

C'est vrai, c'est aujourd'hui Mercredi! (That's right, it's Wednesday!)

donne moi une coup de telephone (call me)

cherchez une livre (look for a book)

c'est moi (it's me)

and my favorite fruit,

(that can't possibly be right; I'll look it up tomorrow, it's past bedtime) -- grapefruit

Escaping the Gravitational Field

It's so hard for me to escape the gravitational field of the house. Today I am going to visit Aunt Lucille in Park Rapids. Though I know it will be good, I always have trouble breaking from my home and the familiar to go someplace new.

If I weren't traveling this weekend I would be working today. But in this moment when I haven't yet committed to the countdown sequence of launching myself, there is a free space. Knowing I will travel has kept me from making the usual lengthy list of things I should do, so I don't have any other plans for today. Into this small mental free space flood a dozen longings to read, do art, write, work on projects, walk . . . not weed, or do housework, or any of the things I would really do if I were to stay home. It's a small free space, a rarity for any of us. A duty-free zone.

In truth I also drag my heels because for each trip there is at least one unpleasant task that must be done before one leaves. Usually it is bill paying or doing the dishes. Today my paycheck has been deposited, the library books have been returned, and I even have something in the house to eat on Sunday night. There is plenty of book and paper clutter that could be cleaned up, and vacuuming to be done, but the real show stoppers are emptying the kitty litter box, which has been left a little longer than usual this week, and cleaning my suitcase, into which Potamus has peed. I left it out after my last weekend away, just two weeks ago, and perhaps he sees it as a sign he's going to be home alone, which, as a very social cat, he doesn't like. Whatever the reason, I absolutely am not interested in attacking two depositories of cat pee before I go--but I must. So here I am, procrastinating.

And if it weren't that it would be something else.