Saturday, January 21, 2012



On the book/curio shelves embedded in the wall of our main stairwell sits a "sign."  I put that in quotes because the sign is really a set of brushed chrome-looking, chunky letters set in sections inside a sturdy cardboard box.  The letters spell "imagine."  I bought the "sign" for cheap at Target, back when the house was being readied for public tours, partly as a curio to place on a shelf to make the home look "lived in" and partly because at the time the letter spoke to me: imagine a magnificent beach-side abode that was lovely to look at as well as terribly environmentally conscious and then managing to make that image come true.  The sign seemed to epitomize what we have done.  And it served as a corny talisman of things we might imagine and do in the future.

Every day since we have lived here those letters have resided on that shelf; sometimes they are at an artistic angle to the shelf (as when I placed them there) and sometimes they are perfunctorily square with the shelf (as when the house cleaner replaced them after dusting under them.  They have sat there during euphoric times when we were doing well economically and the world seemed our brass ring and they have sat there during leaner times when they inspired us to think of ways to reinvent ourselves and they have sat there during reality moments when we tried to sell the house and there they sit now.  I see them every day that I descend the stairs.  These days I spend a bit more time contemplating them as it takes me three times longer to descend now that my right leg and foot don't function so well.  And, in my current state--physically, emotionally--they are not a talisman but a cruel joke.

Imagine.  The word is meant to inspire, to embolden the reader to think beyond what is or seems possible, and perhaps to consider that what we can imagine can truly happen.  An imagination is a wonderful thing but it is made more wonderful by presupposition that what we imagine we can bring to fruition.  Isn't that how most inventions happen?  Imagine is in many ways the same thing as "picture."  If I can picture something might I also figure out how to take that picture, deconstruct it into its composite parts, analyze how those parts work together and then recreate the picture outside the frame in the three-dimensional realm?  It is how I think the rational mind thinks.  We don't tend to stop at "imagining;" but rather our imagining carries our thoughts, sometimes almost simultaneously on to "creating."  This is why imagining--picturing if you will--can be an exercise in brutality.

I can picture myself totally healed, able to move my toes, bend my foot, make it do what my mind wills it to do but that unfortunately does not make it so.  Sometimes, I imagine myself waking some morning in the not so distant future, and as if this stroke and its residual effects never happened (were all part of some insane dream) I would turn to step out of bed and my right foot and leg would miraculously work in unison with my left foot and leg.  Imagining does not make it so, even though intellectually I think I know how all the parts are supposed to work and my mind wills my parts to work the way that they have effectively for more than 50 years.  I can picture myself thin (only thin; I am resigned to being older, it's really okay with me), picture what it would be like to once again fit into my meager wardrobe, picture what it would look like to eat and move like a thin person.  But it is a fleeting picture once the reality of hunger, depression, availability--whatever the cause of my eating--takes over.

Wouldn't it be advantageous to the psyche if we could stop "imagining" those pictures that are unattainable?  We would have less grist for depression.  But I think for most of us it is human nature, in part because we can't shake the notion that imagining will somehow be a step toward realizing.

You, you may say
I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

               --"Imagine," John Lennon, 1971

Monday, January 16, 2012

Early Morning Armada

Lazy Day

Yes, it's time for me to write some more but I'm feeling a bit lazy.  So instead I offer up another excerpt for your entertainment...

So from "Mr. Porter Builds His Dream Green House":

The good news is that we do continue to learn (I hope!) and weaning ourselves from shopping as some form of hobby or extracurricular activity has been one of our educational goals.  This may, at first glance, seem terribly un-American and downright anti-capitalist but I like to think that in the end it would be better for all of us to buy less stuff and spend our money—and therefore our time—on things that enhance life like good food, good wine, friends and family.[1]

We’ve been doing such a good job of learning to “reduce” that we have actually been improving the “reuse” part of the environmental cycle.  Of course, some people think we’re taking that whole principal a bit far.  Our local jeweler thinks I’m off my rocker for spending $100 to repair a $65 watch.  Maybe so.  Maybe not.  After all, it is my favorite watch and garners many unsolicited compliments from even total strangers!  It’s actually an investment in my fashion statement!  Even more important it keeps one more thing out of our landfill.  And although one might argue that it’s such a small  thing that it couldn’t make much of a difference one has to remember that I would not have been the only one to throw such an item out that day.  Every day millions of Americans are throwing millions of small things away.  And those small things add up to something huge when there are millions of them.

I also paid $30 to replace the zipper in a favorite, well-worn hooded sweatshirt.  While some might think that’s nuts I defend my sanity by pointing out that I would have paid the same or more to replace the sweatshirt and probably with a sweatshirt that I don’t like nearly as much.  Plus, that’s one less sweatshirt in the landfill which is already filled with everyone’s broken watches!

[1] Though, of course, we now are learning that our eating and drinking habits are also contributing to the planet’s demise.  Sheesh!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Form & Function

At the risk of getting too personal, our bed is a mess!  David made the comment last night that he wasn't sure where the sheet and blankets started and I noticed in the middle of the night that part of me was covered and the other part was freezing.  And in the middle of the night (and by the way...why do we call it the middle of the night when it is really early morning?  And why does morning start in the middle of the night, when it is clearly still dark outside?  Why doesn't morning come when it is light and night when it is dark?  And why do the days start getting longer just as winter begins and shorter when summer is just beginning??  Doesn't that seem wrong?...but I digress...) I came to a very important conclusion: there is a real purpose in making your bed daily other than just for pretty-ness' sake. 

I used to make our bed diligently every day without fail.  I redistributed sheet and blanket and tucked them in with military corners, rearranged the comforter, tucked the pillows back into their respective shams (did you ever wonder why we call them "shams"?  Is it because they are somehow phony pillows??  Whatever...) and dressing the bed finally with decorative throw pillows. (At the risk of making you crazy, I digress once more because I need to vent a bit about throw pillows.  Apparently my family is under the impression that "throw pillows" are thus called because when they are sitting in a place in which you wish to plant yourself you simply throw them on the floor, or behind the sofa or chair, or wherever!  This is not what the term means at all!  But I am resolved that they will never get that!).  Anyway, this has been my daily activity de rigueur for as long as I can remember with very few exceptions.  Until I had my stroke.  Although, once I was beginning to be more mobile I actually made my own bed in the rehab clinic as well as was possible and I made my bed in my makeshift bedroom as well.  But now that I have moved upstairs and am responsible for a larger bed with heavier bedclothes used by one very messy sleeper and myself I find it to be too much of a chore and the bed goes unmade more often than not.

By now you are asking yourself, "and so??"  Well, as I lay in my unkempt bed in the wee hours trying to make heads or tails of the bedclothes tangled around me it struck me that all those years when I made the bed so neatly this generally was not a problem.  Every day we started afresh with things rearranged and tucked neatly so that at least at the beginning of our evening repose things worked.  It turns out that it wasn't just for looks.  Making the bed serves form and function.  Yes, a freshly made bed is more appealing to the eye (and in some cases might make points in a job interview!) but it is also more functional for the people who sleep there.  And that argument could be made for a great number of activities that I find important that others (such as my family members) might scoff at as simply "fluff."  Form and function do go together. Form is what makes our surroundings more fetching, drawing us in and making us want to take care of them to keep them looking good. 
When a place looks "nice" we feel better about it, we want to take care of it.

This extends to nature as well.  Biophilia, a term coined by Professor Edward O. Wilson, is the affinity (philio) we have for nature (bio).  Humans have this naturally and when it is nurtured so is the function of caring for nature.  We care and so we care for.  Many sociologists fear that younger generations actually suffer from "nature deficit disorder," the lack of time spent in/with nature, the effect of which is fostering whole generations of people who don't know nature and therefore don't care about nature and therefore don't care for nature.

It might just start with making a bed.  Form and function. Go make your bed!