Friday, December 19, 2008

Winter Raspberries

I am an advocate for local food, working to help revise and revitalize the food economy here in South Central Indiana. I serve on the board of the Local Growers Guild, an agricultural cooperative that supports local growers and educates consumers about the importance of eating food from nearby. We even have a Winter Market, beginning again in January. And I've been working on new signs for our produce department at the co-op, including those that indicate products from producer members of the Local Growers Guild .

That said, I couldn't help but be delighted to find exquisite organic raspberries from California on sale at Bloomingfoods this week: raspberries for Christmas! They taste divine.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Compliments of the Season

We are in holiday busy-ness mode – around the house, at work, at school. I don't have a lot of words today, but that's okay: here is a homemade greeting! And a wonderful photo of my grand-nephew and niece in Papua New Guinea, Thierry and Thealani. Meeting the two of them for the first time last August was one of the great joys of 2008.

In addition, I urge you to check out my favorite blogs, posted to the left with snippets. There's a lot going on our there in the blogoshere. In the atmosphere, too, where the cold temps have really kicked in here where we live. Anyway, compliments of the season!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Tapestries of Kopanang

We are home today with ice on the roads, closing the schools. Last night Andreas made a harrowing trip back from Terre Haute in time to meet me at the Sounds of South Holiday Concert, where we heard Savannah sing with the choir. It was a wonderful show – there's nothing like being entertained by your children! They are sleeping soundly as I write, a luxury for teenagers on a weekday.

I continue to think about The Cosmic Walk, and was delighted when my mother sent over this message from Phebe Hanson. I was going to summarize it, but Phebe says it best:

Dear Joyce--I'm amazed that Ellen found that article in the League of Catholic Women newsletter and that the 80th birthday celebration was mentioned in an African [American] newsletter. I was at the World Aids Day meeting at the League of Catholic Women--maybe 2 years ago on December 1--and went several times to St. Olaf Catholic Church in downtown Mpls. to see that amazing tapestry exhibit. I called friends and family and ORDERED them to run not walk to see the exhibit. It was amazing! Only ran for a weekend here. Would love to see it again. Some of those women had never held a needle before they began on that project. An Irish nun [Sister Sheila Flynn] was responsible for its coming into being. She wanted the HIV women in her South African mission to have something of value to do. Pass this on to Ellen please. What is her email? Or would I find it on her blog. My eyesight is so bad these days I often miss little details. I have a chronic condition, one of the legacies of Wegener's Granulomatosis (first diagnosed in 1989), called "smoldering iritis." (Sounds like a romance novel!) Love, Phebe

I tracked down another article about The Cosmic Walk, from The Michigan Catholic, in the Archdiocese of Detroit, published in late November 2004. There is also a Word doc on-line that mentions:

Oprah Winfrey opened the Leadership School in Johannesburg for disadvantaged girls, fulfilling a promise she made to former President Nelson Mandela six years ago and giving more than 150 students a chance for a better future. Oprah has commissioned thirteen tapestries from Kopanang Art Project for the school. She said:-“Girls who are educated are less likely to get HIV/AIDS, and in this country which has such a pandemic, we have to begin to change the pandemic."

Kopanang means "gathering together" or "building bridges." This project connects to many of my interests: collaborative artworks, HIV/AIDS education (a project of my sister in Papua New Guinea), and now, to Phebe and poetry. I also love the easy acceptance of evolution as part of God's plan: no reducing the long cosmic walk to a literal interpretation of the Bible!

As for my email address: it can be found under "Contact" on my profile page. I love hearing from readers, and can also be found in facebook. And there is the trusty comments page, accessed by clicking on the word "comments" below each post.

It's all about gathering together, building bridges. And today, with the ice, about hunkering down indoors a little bit longer...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Not So Fast – The Cosmic Walk

Phebe Hanson has also written an account of a trip to Europe, together with her friend Joan Murphy Pride. The full title is Not So Fast: A European Grand Tour at a Mid-Life Pace, and like Phebe's other books, you can find it here and there and should really rush out to secure a copy of your own before they disappear.

Writer Judith Guest gave this synopsis, which I found in an on-line copy of a Minneapolis League of Catholic Women newsletter: “Here’s a look into a couple of witty, savvy minds as they travel together and exchange views on—well, you name it. From marriage to motherhood, terrorism to how French dogs bark, luggage carriers to language barriers, there’s nobody funnier or faster than Phoebe Hanson or more honest and astute than Joan Pride. Together they sail through Europe with style as they reflect upon their lives, lamenting past mistakes and laughing over shared memories. It’s much more than a travel journal, it’s two old friends exploring their inner and outer worlds while they revel in each other’s

(Phebe's name is misspelled in the piece, making it like the bird, and not like the Biblical figure.)

The newsletter also mentions the Tapestries of Kopanang, 31 panels embroidered by women in South Africa, commissioned by the Faithful Fools Street Ministry in San Francisco. These tapestries tell the 14 billion year story of evolution, and have been described in this way by Miriam MacGillis, OP, of Genesis Farm: "This is a story, the story of the Cosmos, the story of earth, the story of humans, the gazelle, the mountains, the story of you and me. In the beginning was the mystery, the churning of quantum foam of potentiality. Through the mystery all things came to be. Not one thing had its being but through the mystery."

I enjoyed the lucky juxtaposition of the book Not So Fast with news about the 14 billion year Cosmic Walk. I also find it quite fascinating that you can locate an article in the The African News Journal – of all places – about an event that was held in Phebe's honor on Saturday, March 8, 2008, at the Brookdale Library in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. It was International Women's Day and Phebe Hanson's 80th birthday. That piece (the dateline is my mom's birthday, February 27th) gives a good summary of some of Phebe's many achievements, and mentions the fact that "coffee and cake will be served." (Making me wonder if any romances were kindled there, on the order of the family romance in Phebe's poem "Close Call"...)

When traveling through Europe, Africa, or the cosmos (for that matter), be sure to take a good book, a diary, a friend, and embroidery thread. Try to slow down the pace as much as you can, and then transmit the story of your adventures and observations to others.

Monday, December 15, 2008

"Close Call" by Phebe Hanson

My mom, Joyce Kennedy, shares more with Phebe Hanson than an appreciation for Emily Dickinson and a gift for writing poetry. Both of them had Norwegian Lutheran fathers who went to college at Augsburg, near the West Bank in Minneapolis. (I wonder now if they ever knew one another, those two rather reserved men?)

I learned this in Phebe's poem, "Close Call" from her book Why Still Dance. The poem finds words for that common childhood encounter with the "incredible lightness of being" – thinking back in awe to realize just how lucky you are to have been born at all, given all the close calls out there.

If you follow this link to the Writer's Almanac, you can hear the poem read, and find 3 others by Phebe in the archive. Best of all, search out a copy of the book to buy, before they slip away. I went to Amazon and found a few, but like the work of so many great poets, there are not enough copies of Phebe's books in print or circulation. If you buy one today, you can call it a "close call": you'll never regret time spent with this book. Needless to say, it makes a great gift.

Close Call

All my life my father refused to talk about
his boyhood in Norway. "No," he'd say when
I cajoled him for details. "I'm an American now."

The only thing he'd ever talk about was how he'd
ended up in Minneapolis at Augsburg Seminary,
the story of his "close call," as he referred to it.

He was the only one of his three brothers and sister
who emigrated. "He broke our mother's heart," my aunt
told me when I visited her in Norway many years later.

She gave me the picture she'd taken the day he left, the
day after Christmas, 1920. He's impossibly young, already
wearing his life-long uniform—black suit, vest, white shirt, tie,

ready to go off to America, even if his mother's
heart is breaking, because he had to fulfill a promise
he made when he got the Spanish Flu, summer of 1918.

"Twenty two million people died," he was fond of telling me,
"twice as many as died in World War I, but I didn't die.
When I was choking and close to death, my mother

called the village doctor who performed a tracheotomy
right on our kitchen table and I promised then I'd serve
God forever if He wouldn't let me die. It was a close call."

Close call, I say, echoing my father, now dead these 20 years.
How close he came to being one of the 22 million, how he
almost didn't make it to America, almost didn't spend a

summer in Duluth, preaching at the Norwegian Seaman's
Mission, almost didn't meet my mother whose youth group
was serving coffee and cake after the service, almost didn't

marry her, almost didn't make love with her that warm June
evening of 1927, the night I was conceived, in the white frame
parsonage in Bagley, Minnesota. Close call. Close call.

Poem: "Close Call" by Phebe Hanson, from Why Still Dance © Nodin Press, 2003.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Emily Dickinson's 178th Birthday Party

My mother sent over news and photos from Emily Dickinson's 178th birthday party, hosted at my parents' "house" (they live in a wonderful high-rise condo) on December 10th. She says there were 27-28 people there. Emily herself might have been overwhelmed by so much attention!

Here is some information from Joyce Kennedy about poet Phebe Hanson and her Emily Dickinson parties, along with a couple of photos.

Phebe has had Emily parties since 1972, starting when Emily was only 142. [I just did the math: that's 36 years!] The format since the beginning has been pretty much the same – people read their favorite Emily poems or recite the ones they know by heart. Little known poems are often read, too – lots of treasure in those. Spontaneity is emphasized – no going around a circle.

Often there will be a discussion about meaning or effect. Someone might provide a new insight into a poem or into Emily's life and/or times. We usually sing a few of the poems because with a predictable meter they adapt easily to hymns or a song like "The Yellow Rose of Texas".

All of this happens in a convivial atmosphere, this year helped along by sherry. I don't recall having sherry at any of the previous events that we have attended, but Phebe thought it would be all right since Emily mentions in one of her writings that her hair is the color of sherry that has been left in a glass for a time.

Phebe has many artifacts gathered over the years – posters, song sheets, pictures, books, etc. A couple of her friends gave her Emily Dickinson scarves – she presented me with one of them this year. In one of the photos you will see that we are wearing them.

The last part of the ritual is eating Emily's Black Cake, made from a recipe of the times. It is a rich, dark fruit cake saturated with brandy.

It's a joy to see this photo of Phebe with my mother, both looking so well.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Happy Birthday, Roger!

Writing a shout out to Roger Hale is not an easy thing to do, despite the fact that he has enjoyed so many accomplishments and been honored on many occasions. He takes all of these honors in stride, it seems, remaining balanced and averse to pride or avarice.

Now known as "Big Daddy" to his many grandchildren, Roger inspires because he lives a full life of civic engagement. Long before there were 1-Minute Managers or people learning how to Now, Discover their Talents, Roger was a successful businessman, heading a global company known for innovation, workplace quality and manufacturing excellence. He did this while also serving on many other corporate and non-profit boards, learning French, getting his exercise, and maintaining strong connections with family and friends all around the world. And he has a great sense of humor.

One of the things I'm most grateful for has been Roger's work with the Walker Art Center, where he served on the capital committee and was then board chair during the recent, most extensive expansion in the Walker's history. I can't even begin to imagine the full impact on the arts of his determined, dedicated effort. Roger also applied that drive to Public Radio International, broadcasters of "This American Life" and other outstanding global radio programming. He is now the chairman of the Ploughshares Fund, an organization begun during the Cold War that resists weapons of mass destruction.

I also find it to be incredibly cool that his undergraduate major (at Brown) was in English. When talking with my son Jack recently about college, Roger recomended getting a liberal arts degree before focusing on business or a profession in grad school. He brings that broad awareness, as well the ability to be influenced by great books, to his perspective on many topics: politics, the environment, business management, and the arts.

Like everyone else in his orbit, I'm very honored to know Roger and to send out this shout for a fantastic birthday!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Smart Design from French Paper

I got a sample book for the line of Smart Paper from a favorite paper mill, French Paper, in Michigan, and used it to make a visual journal.

Here are the pages: read the bottom line first, and then the top, ending with the image with the car. It was fun to work with the color palette given by the sample book.

The guy in the gas mask on the cover is from a line of cards created by French Paper, the Go French Card Game, used to promote their uncoated papers. I thought this was an ingeneous promotion, helping brand French Paper as quirky, humorous, and dedicated to innovative design.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Emoticons Rule?

Nor Hall has written a lot of interesting things, including this blog post, over at Seven Sidekicks, one of the sites of her son-in-law, Sheff Otis. I've pasted in just the beginning of the post; travel over there to read more. ("Emoticons Rule?" Friday, December 5th, 2008). The photo images are tagged with misapplied emotions.

The post raises that issue we could call "Technology Pros and Cons." Or we could do a SWOT analysis: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. Both sides of the spectrum exist, positive possibilities, negative drawbacks. You can click over to an article called "So What Does Your Teenager's Brain on Google Look Like?" that refers to the work of Dr. Gary Small, a psychiatrist at UCLA who "argues that daily exposure to digital technologies such as the Internet and smart phones can alter how the brain works."

I want to think about this more, especially as I just met with my friend Jenny to discuss possible topics for future programs for The Art of Mental Health. We keep circling around exactly those topics Dr. Small considers: brain chemistry, aging, the effects of technology, managing rapid change.

Personally, I know that I spend too much time on the computer, and I wonder especially about the waves of energy entering our legs as we hold laptops. I want to balance this more effectively with more time outdoors, more physical exercise, and reading emotions on real people's faces. At the same time, I feel the postitive effects of these technologies every day, especially in their potential to link and engage people. My favorite tag line once again seems to be: "There is always a trade-off."

Anyway, here is a teaser...

The other day I watched my son-in-law playing with his 4 year old son at the table by asking him to imitate a series of wacky expressions: consternation, joy, quizzical-ness. It’s OK – this child can eat and play at once. Some grandchildren can’t. Perhaps their PET scans already look different due to biological causes other than the brain-warping use of computers – though that is coming for all of us if Dr. Small (Star Tribune, Dec. 3, 2008) is right in saying that the Google-brain of teenagers who’ve been on line for their lifetime appears to be less capable of interaction with real time people...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Nor!

December 10th is a high holy holiday for Sagitarrians – the birthday of poet Emily Dickinson and of my beloved friend Nor Hall. My parents hosted an Emily Dickinson party today, with Minnesota poet Phebe Hanson, who has held Emily Dickinson birthday parties for years. A number of us who are friends of Nor's, her "wolf pack" and a few add-ons, delivered a surprise birthday book put together by poet Patricia Kirkpatrick, in which each of us contributed 6 words for her birthday. (We generated many more words in our email messages back and forth, devising this scheme, believe me!) My words were:

Perfect muse Grandmother Boo moonstellar you

Okay, now I will try to unpack that.

Perfect: Nor uses this word more often than anyone I know, with good reason. Despite the fact that Nothing is perfect/only the dew/and it/only half (a poem written by a child that has stayed with me), she seems capable of elevating almost any situation to perfection. I've thought long and hard about this, trying to identify her secret, and have an inkling that it has to do with some alchemical balancing act between being very discerning and intelligent (on the one hand) and non-judgemental and open (on the other).

Muse: Nor knows how to "channel a muse" and has even written on the topic. She has also written on theater, valentines, intimate living spaces, theraputic strategies, war, ironworking, couvade, Norman O. Brown (her mentor and friend), and nearly everything else important. She works as a dramaturg with Ellen Hemphill of Archipelago Theater Company in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, co-creating many remarkable plays. Years ago I drew images for her first book, The Moon and the Virgin. A therapist on her own terms (Jungian, but a "friend of Freud" and of no particular school), Nor engages in psychic labor, paying attention to her own dreams and those of others (and keeping dream notebooks since high school).

Grandmother: Amusing and insightful, Nor inspires people of all ages, including her many grandchildren, amassed in several fell swoops during the past dozen years. It never ceases to amaze me that Nor is now surrounded by grandchildren (weren't we just young women together a few minutes ago?), but her house contains books, toys and special places for children – as it always has. (And she's a godmother to my children, who now tower above those smaller ones!)

Boo: Who knew!? She is Grandmother Boo, from Babushka, a name that came with Satchel James, John-Luke, and Sailor Ann, whose lives all began in the Soviet Union.

Moonstellar: A wonderful friend through all phases of life and the ebb and flow of tides, times, and temperaments, Nor helps excavate that which might otherwise be hidden. She is an ascetic aesthetic: both modest and regular in her habits (2 Fig Newmans each morning upon waking) and undeniably partial to beauty. ("She looks as if she raises her arms each morning so that beautiful garments can waft down to adorn her," her step-daughter Jocelyn Hale astutely remarked at a previous birthday party). The photo here is of Nor with her husband Roger Hale and photographer friend Laura Crosby, in the studio of painter Pierre DeLattre.

You: Singular, remarkable, exceptional friend, kind confessor, inspiration and touchstone. Here's a shout out to you, dear wonderful Nor!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Gifts of Advent

One of the most meaningful gifts I've ever received is an advent calendar made by Andreas' maternal grandmother after World War II, given to me by his mother, Marlies. She explained that in the years during and following the war everything was hard to come by: food, sweets, gifts for Christmas.

The advent calendar was created in a women's sewing circle, with gray wool remnants donated by a trouser factory, colored felt, embroidery thread, and small brass rings for attaching coins or candy.

Inspired by this gift, I made a blue advent calendar with no rings; the images are hand embroidered without the addition of felt. I've never used it to distribute small gifts, but only as something to look at. I included a Menorah among the images, as well as someone in a canoe in front of mountains.

Now I'm almost done with the blue wool I bought so long ago, though perhaps I have enough left to make a few more small ornaments, like the mitten and little doll's stocking pictured here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Advent Adventure

Years ago I worked at a small shop where we sold beautiful jewelry and Innuit art. This was The Shop on Cedar Avenue on the West Bank in Minneapolis – a strangely generic name for a little storefront with Lowell Lundeen's collection of handcrafted and collected jewelry, Linda Crawford's gallery of Innuit art, and Gary Crawford's pottery. Linda eventually opened The Raven over in Edina, and Lowell moved to the IDS Center in downtown Minneapolis. I wonder if Gary is still making pottery?

Anyway, it was a stimulating place to work, and I've since looked back a number of times to reflect on what I learned there about running a small business, stocking it with quality merchandise, marketing, maintaining a local business partnership, and giving good customer service. The owners were very involved in every dimension of the store, and I made my first advertising posters there, the old-fashioned way, with ink and a drawing pen.

At one point I was very taken by an Eskimo embroidered piece on blue wool, and I remember examining it closely. Later that winter I found a remnant of blue wool that was almost exactly the same color and texture, so I snatched it up, having no idea how I would use it. (A common situation among those of us with the DIY gene.)

Eventually I had two children and a husband who would drive us on the long and winding road to Minnesota for Christmases with family and friends. During the long car rides, beginning when Jack was a baby, I made Christmas stockings out of the wool. I liked the fact that these stockings were blue, and I recall the pleasure of these journeys, the delight I took in making something along the way.

It took me a long time – a number of years – to finish this project, beginning with Jack's stocking, then Savannah's, then Andreas', and finally my own. They were all constructed by hand during those trips in the car up to Madison (where we often stayed overnight with good friends) and over across Wisconsin into Minnesota. Finally all four stockings were complete, and so I went on to make a few small ornaments out of this never-ending bit of cloth.

The kids have strong opinions about the images I chose, and the whole effort reminded me of the feelings evoked by the homemade Christmas stockings made by mother for my siblings and me. We examined every nuance of difference on those stockings, reading a great deal into them, fiercely preferring our own.

Finally, I still had one long piece of fabric left. I chose to make an advent calendar, inspired by one Andreas' maternal grandmother made after the war, given to me by his mother, Marlies. It is one of my most treasured gifts, and I gathered ideas from it for my blue calendar. There are 25 numbers and images, including little pictures of Jack and Sav, and my nieces Veitania, Jasmine and Jade.

I'm posting photos of those stockings today, and will snap a few of the calendar later in the day. It's December, and I'm overdue to hang the Advent calendar! Can it really be December already again?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Labyrinthian Pathways at Dialogue Indiana

I had the chance to retreat for a couple of
days last week, Wednesday night through Friday noon, for a workshop called Dialogue Indiana, held at the beautiful Waycross Conference Center in Brown County Indiana. It was a wonderful experience that will stay with me for a long time, both as a memory and as a defining – even transformative – moment.

The workshop was given by communications expert
Joe Williams
, who holds week-long
Dialogue in the Desert seminars in Arizona. LuAnne and Bill Holladay, along with other alums of the Desert seminar, organized the mini-version here at Waycross. I drove out with my friends Kimberly and Pam, joining a group of less than 20 for the retreat.

Our sense of time got a bit distorted, as it tends to do during immersion experiences. Joe kept talking about what we'd do "this week" and joked at the end about how we'd accomplished so much in one week's time that it felt as if the seminar had zipped past in just a couple of days.

This is Joe the Wisdom-Keeper and Guide. He compressed a great many insights, stories, and useful tools into the hours we had together, rigorously working his trademark, trusty flip chart. Because Joe embodies generosity and engagement, we were able to move quickly into the receptive mode necessary for challenging work, with its implications for our professional and personal lives.

Joe uses horses in the desert to teach about body language and "leading from behind."
We didn't have cactus or horses but we did have two grassy labyrinths. We talked about the experience of walking them, both as a metaphor for strategic planning, and as a meditative practice.

One of the participants, Barbara Coffman, gave a presentation in which she described labyrinths as unicursal pathways in and out, unlike mazes (where you encounter dead-ends and roadblocks). LuAnne said they remind her of the fact that you may be working with a group of people in the direction of a common goal, and (just as in the labyrinth) you are suddenly much farther away or much closer to one another than you'd thought – for awhile. You double-back, move in and out again, twisting and turning your way to the heart of the matter. As an individual you are just putting one foot ahead of the other, carrying yourself and all that implies – and no one reaches the center or opening/exit at the same time.

I had a chance to show Joe elenabella and he sent me to his blog, too, so we had a few moments to think about the value of this form of communication. If you go to Joe's webspot, Dialogue, you'll see some beautiful images (such as this one of Saguaro blossoms), and get a feeling for the profound and practical work he helps accomplish.

A nice bit of syncronicity across the globe: I showed Joe how to click over to Amphibious Andromeda, to take a look at the rich images and audio clips there, and we found that Ricardo Bloch had posted a picture of a child making a labyrinth in the gravel with a chair somewhere in France!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Señor Wences! and Joining the Circus

Remember Ed Sullivan, the Richard Nixon "twin" (but better, and with the Beatles)? You'll find a gem below from his frequent guest Señor Wences...with perhaps a little lesson or two about performance. It is charming and fun, and he is so skillful.

I took afternoon classes in high school at the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis, but never learned to juggle or perform as a ventriloquist. We spent Fridays watching classic films like Nanook of the North, studying master performers. It was enormously enriching, and many fellow students from that era went on to pursue successful careers in the arts, including musician Peter Ostroushko. I was charmed by this story at Peter's website about his childhood fantasy of running off to join the circus:

When I was a kid, one of my many daydreams of how to cross over into adulthood was to run away and become a carny — you know, one of those guys who work in the shadowy seamy underbelly of a touring carnival. Better yet, I’d run off and join the circus. I would picture myself in tights and a long flowing cape, climbing up to the highest point of the big top and doing death-defying stunts as an aerialist, just like Burt Lancaster in the film Trapeze.

At some point, the reverie ended. Real life intervened. I grew up to be a mandolin player. But some 45 years later, that childhood daydream became a reality. My daughter, Anna, went to see a show at Circus Juventas, an all-youth circus school in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was hooked. She didn’t need to run away and join the circus. She got mom and dad to drive her. Willingly. Five days a week!

Before I knew what was happening, I became a “circus dad” - chauffeuring my child all over town and sitting on the sidelines with other circus dads and moms. We cheer and moan and shut our eyes as our kids learn to do daring tricks.
In the process of becoming circus dad, I found out what a special school Circus Juventas is. I’d never seen such a wholesome atmosphere for youth. Toddlers to kids in their late teens work together in a noncompetitive way for one seemingly simple goal: to support each other and to do the best they can do in whatever circus art they’ve chosen.

Part of being a circus dad is, of course, volunteering to help with whatever talents you might have. When Dan and Betty Butler, founders and directors of Circus Juventas, learned that I play the mandolin and fiddle, they asked if I might perform for their summer production of Dyrnwych.

On the outside, I was cool as a cucumber, the hard-to-get sensitive artist. But on the inside, that part of me that was once a kid was jumping up and down screaming, “Yes, run away and join the circus!” That was in 2005, and I’ve joined the circus every summer since. I get to play my mandolin under the big top, and though I’ve been given the option of wearing tights and a cape, I’ve had to relinquish that part of the daydream. Some things are better left to the young.

My friend Sheff Otis, the Dadiator, wrote a piece about kids and circuses for Minnesota Parent. He mentions Circus Juventas and other big (and small) top options up there in the Twin Cities. You can also find a wonderful blog entry called "Dancy Pants" at his site Seven Sidekicks, with this photo of his kids John and Annie. Sheff (and Peter) are Master Dads, recognizing the value of children, the arts, performance, and a lifelong Señor Wences fascination. (Love the way Ed pronounced that name, by the way: "...and now, the Senior Wenches!")

Friday, December 5, 2008

Discover Magazine on Race, Revisited

I follow a blog by Daughter Number Three which you can find on the left and click into directly. She describes it as "a filing cabinet of stuff I've stumbled across. But you can't keep everything."

DN3 works in media and is a sociologist by temperament and training, bringing that sensibility to her work. She has a lot of good stuff in that filing cabinet, but what's most interesting is the critical sensibility she brings to it.

DN3 recently reopened the November 1994 Discover magazine, an entire issue devoted to the best scientific thinking on race at that time, called "Race: What Is It Good for? Science looks at flesh and bones, genes and behavior."

In her own words (below), Daughter Number Three describes her decision to archive and disseminate the articles in this issue of Discover. The pieces are very interesting, and I encourage you to go over to her site to take a look. She also mentions the fact that the cover of that issue (shown here) was stunningly unattractive, as have been (in my view) those composite images this year where the faces of various candidates have merged and melded. (Actually, this HillaryBarack one is growing on me...)

I was very taken with most of the stories, and put the entire issue into the filing cabinet. From time to time, I check Discover's website to see if they have put this content online, but to date, they have not.

Recently, I decided I would scan the text and run it through OCR software so it can be found on the web. I realize this is a copyright violation, but it's one of those things that no one is reading currently because it's not online. (Yes, you could find it as a bound hard copy in some libraries, if you went looking for it. But these days, doesn't that seem so... difficult?)

If they want me to take it down, I will, and if they want my version to post on their site, they're welcome to it.
So here goes. I'll post the articles over the next few days as I get them cleaned up.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Winter Wonderlands in Deustchland and North Dakota

My in-laws in Westen, Germany, sent this wonderful photo of the snow outside their windows. It doesn't happen very often, but they got the full impact winter wonderland snowfall!

Growing up in Minnesota, I experienced a few magical snow days as a child, including one that prompted my father to build a snow fort, complete with tunnels, in our front yard.

Once, as my family traveled back from North Dakota after visiting my mother's parents for Christmas, we spent a night at the North LaMoure "store", the childhood home of my mother's college friend Jonnie. I recall so many details of that occasion: looking at old Life magazines in the storefront (soda fountain and wooden store shelves intact), the long preparation of a wonderful meal, candles on the table, Jonnie's typed list of memorable and amusing phrases (a wordsmith, she has been one of my inspirations), a fragrant balsam in the corner of a cozy living room where my sister and I consulted the Ouiji board with Jonnie's nephew Tom, tall and handsome, vibrant and engaging. We slept upstairs in warm quilt-covered beds, in rooms that were icy cold by morning. The next day, the trees in the grove next to the store were covered with lacey hoarfrost, like those in the back garden in the photograph here.

Jonnie and Tom visited my parents last October and my mother sent along this image. Tom arrived from work in his chef's jacket; he is now a master chef and lefse-maker extraordinaire. My mother says the conversation that night moved from food and family to North LaMoure, technology, music, and finally "branched off into eternity and infinity...!"

Today, I wish we could recall the conversation we all had around the dinner table and Oiuji board on that snowy night so long ago. Perhaps it is archived in infinity somewhere?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bambi Obsession, Revisited

My Bambi fascination remains (downgraded to an interest), fueled by the view from our windows of the deer living in the woods along the back of our yard. Displaced by a new housing development, they roam along the gully, eating whatever they can find.

I wanted to garden, but they ate my tomatoes. They eat the hostas, the peonies, the peppers...and yet. There they are, in our urban wildlife sanctuary. I think about them, and we stare each other down from time to time.

Here's a photo of the Bambi piece I made long ago (mentioned last September 22), in its finished state...with images by Kurt Weise, copied from a 1931 edition of Bambi, by Felix Salten. The words are on the outside, images on the interior. (I know, it's kind of a traumatized Freudian Bambi – but aren't they all?)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Interregnum: In Between States

Another way to think of a time of transition is of an interregnum. Historically the period of time between the reign of one monarch and the next, an interregnum is a metaphor for a time of being in between "states".

An interregnum can be thought of as a gap or pause that emphasizes the transitional relationship between what came before and what comes next in a sequence. States or things (or spaces) are reconfigured, recalibrated, reset to begin anew.

I think these pauses are important in personal terms as well, and so I am taking my own little interregnum, at a workshop retreat in the hills of Brown County during the next couple of days. We'll be without laptops, cell phones, and other electronic devices, but have been asked to bring pens, paper and yoga mats. I'm looking forward to this pause, and will return to composing elenabella on Friday. In the meantime, don't go away – thanks to the magic of scheduled postings, I will have some treats for you each day!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Transition Time, Transition Team

It's the first of December, the last day of the amazing year 2008. I tend to love this month, as it marks the moment when the old meets the new. The old year winds down with a huge extended embrace of collective excess, then switches into the austerity of the "new."

So it is a time of transition, and Obama is building his transition team. He is setting a good example, I think, surrounding himself with people with expertise and experience. (And yes, I think Hillary will do an excellent job.) If you go to the website on the transition process, you will find both Prune and Plum jobs. (Who gets to choose the names of these categories, I wonder, and can I have that job?)

I've been thinking about all of this in personal terms as well. Who is on your transition team, as we segue into the new era? Do you have a team of advisers on issues of personal security, health, education and welfare, economics, peace keeping, diplomacy, transportation, and commerce? How about central intelligence? Hmmm...time to assemble a team.