Monday, May 28, 2007

When strangling children is not in your job description

Did you hear the one about the eight Buddhist monks who were two full days into building a sand painting on the floor of Union Station in Kansas City as part of a yearlong tour to raise money for their monastery when an unattended toddler wandered past the ropes and did a stomp dance all over the painting, completely destroying it? We did when we brought our girls to see Union Station this weekend. We arrived in the massive lobby with our heads in the air admiring the architectural details and light play of the structure soaring way above our heads. We wandered over to see what was engaging the crowd near the post office. A group of monks were just finishing the redo of their intricate sand mandala which, I was told, represented compassion. The painting is created by pouring brightly colored sand into a metal funnel called a chakbu which is then rubbed gently with another stick in order to guide the application of the sand. It's a very slow process. As soon as the painting is finished it is destroyed. We happened to walk up just as the finishing lines were being added. At 2 pm a ceremony began in which the monks chanted, bowed, prayed and went through a number of mysterious motions such as unspooling and draping diaphonus white fabric over the shoulder of one and intermittently banging symbols and blowing horns. I found a birds' eye view on the second floor from which to watch so, unfortunately, I could not hear the monks address the crowd. The ceremony went on for 45 minutes but it seemed much longer as my perch was directly over the air conditioning vent and my fingers slowly became frostbitten. They ceremony seemed to cresendo multiple times and I gave up trying to figure out when we'd reached the culmination of events. Finally, one of the monks reached to the center and plucked up a fingerful of sand. From there the destruction quickly commenced. In moments the design was a pile of putty colored sand which was swept from the table, destined for home gardens or the Missouri River. In the end it seemed the monks' destruction process only reinterated toddler's: nothing is permanent. The toddler just performed it a lot less ceremonially.
Click the post title to see the toddler's sand dance.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Get em while they're hot

The current issues of The Southern Review and versal contain some recent poems of mine. TSR is available at many bookstores in the US but versal is out of Amsterdam and not as readily available. However, either one can be ordered online. TSR is filled with top quality poetry, fiction, essays and book reviews. This issue includes the poem "Among the trumpets" by a favorite poet of mine-Margo Berdeshevsky. I've long admired her work and am pleased to find myself two doors down from her in this issue. versal is an annual pub and features avant garde poetry and artwork from writers in many countries. I'm working on having a full manuscript ready by fall. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Another Houston Cool Item

I met my good friend Deeanne Gist just before her first book, A Bride Most Begrudging, was published and went on to become a bestseller and to win the Christy Award for Best Romance 2006 (the Christian equivalent of the Academy Awards). She was finishing book two at the time, The Measure of a Lady, which has just been nominated for both The Christy Award Best Romance 2007 and the RITA (Romance Writers of America) Best Inspirational 2007. Deeanne joined our writers group at Taft as she was beginning book three, Courting Trouble (as if this woman needed help!) I had the great delight of witnessing a master story teller weave her spell. Plot, characters and dialogue seemed to spill effortlessly from Deeanne's keyboard week after week until she held a(nother) finished manuscript in her hands. I am thrilled for Deeanne and imagine Courting Trouble and its spunky and irresistable heroine Essie will bring even greater accolades to a very deserving author. Thanks for the ride Deeanne!

Hot Town Cool City--Houston tonight on PBS

Absense has certainly made this heart grow fonder, and many of the spots featured on this film will tell you why. Click this post title for the link to the show's website and more info on some of Houston's best loved places, many of which I spent more than my fair share of time at. It's almost exactly a year since we departed and I'd happily drive 900 miles back for one more afternoon of reading, writing, habanero pepper chicken salad and iced hazelnut in the courtyard at Brasil (the unmarked and unrivaled insider favorite cafe at Westheimer and Dunlavy where poet Mark Doty is interviewed on this program.) Shown above: Brasil, the art car parade, the Water Wall, Allen Parkway and the city.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Snake Handling and Sand Bagging

This is getting creepy. Sunday I was up close and personal with a 5 foot snake draped over my front door and yesterday this was at our backdoor. I'm running out of exits. This must be a metaphor for something.

Yesterday, a late lunch run into Rocheport for food, depositing packages at the post office and picking up a proof a printer had left me at the General Store resulted in a tetnus shot, a dousing in DEET for ticks, sunscreen, shovels and playing in the biggest sandbox I'd ever seen. The Missouri River is rising and the town was madly sandbagging (many with the memories of the flood of 93 still fresh in their minds) to save some lower lying houses, including the home of our friends Liz and Chris. Shown are photos from yesterday afternoon. The water is expected to crest today or tomorrow, I think.

This is the creek a couple of weeks ago and then yesterday:

The first shot was taken from inside the building you now see underwater:

Sunday, May 06, 2007

This is for the birds!

At last Tuesday's Orr Street event, our younger daughter won one of the books Anthony provided as door prizes. While others got books by David Lynch and Mark Doty, Hayley got The Automatic Millionaire. She was delighted. This past week at bedtime, instead of fairy tales, she chose this for reading material. And as is sometimes the case, she decided to read it to me. It has required that I answer a lot of questions as she sounds out the words such as, What is a millionaire? And, What is the American Dream? Today at my usual reminder to bring a book or journal, guess what she toted to church?

After church, on what began as a lovely spring day, I decided to walk to our pond to make a phone call and throw bread crumbs to the fish. I went out the front door carefully because a bird recently built its nest in our door light. We noticed two days ago that the nest, a foot or two above eye level, was brimming with tiny beaks. Every time we open the door, the mom flies to the drainpipe to monitor us until we leave. So when I stepped out the door today I first glanced at the nest to check on the babies' progress and then looked the other way to nod an assurance to mom before I carefully attempted to close the door. But it wouldn't shut. I tried to close it three times, each time a bit more forcefully, before assuming the doormat must be stuck in it. I opened it to push the rug out of the way but the rug was not in the way. I looked up to see what could be preventing the door from closing and saw a HUGE black snake was hanging half in and half out of the top of our door! I had been squishing it each time! Thank God his tail end was on my side and that tail ends don't bite. I screamed, released the door and jumped back. It dropped on the stoop, half in and half out of the house. It was a good five feet long. Wayne came running to the door (me now ten feet down the path) and slammed it shut leaving me momentarily outside with the snake. Remembering I was out there, he opened the door and the snake slithered under the bush beside us which is where he remained as my heart slowed to pre heart attack rates and we pondered what to do. Figuring the snake was going for the baby birds and had somehow hoisted himself up that high, I removed the wreath on the door which possibly helped him get up there. I only hope now he can't reach the babies. I may never know, however, because I'm never going out my front door again.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Oops, he did it again

My good friend Anthony became my good friend Anthony because we separately wandered into Taft Street in Houston around the same time several years ago and as serendipity would have it, the two of us, along with Mark Bertrand and then Karen Miedrich-Luo, ended up establishing a writer's workshop that lead to many wonderful happenings, both personally and collectively. The group, housed in what was then Strange Land Bookstore, was largely instigated by Anthony's desire to foster a nurturing community for writers. We had a good run and were joined by many great folks along the way before the four of us, in less than a year's time, were blown like dandelions to various points northward. Anthony's roots lighted down in Columbia, Missouri and it wasn't long before he was back to his old tricks, pulling creative people of all stripes together to form "Hearing Voices," a weekly arts salon which ran last night. Tuesday nights at Orr Street alternate between readings from local poets, playwrights, memoirists, novelists, etc. and films on art, artists or creativity in general.

This is Anthony's description of last night's offering:
"It was an extraordinary night of Cheese-Its; Green Tea Iced Tea beyond its expiration date and phenomenal lyrical expressions of love, physics, finding one’s soul mate and, well, rock, scissors, paper at last night’s Hearing Voices. Thanks to all of you for showing up, despite the rain. Special draws were held for free books including David Lynch’s Capturing The Big Fish and Mark Doty’s Source. We also held a special Shirley Jackson lottery and we are afraid to report Fred is no longer with us, but at least we’ll have a feisty crop this year. Readers Allison Smythe and yours truly lightened the benighted CoMo ever so briefly…"

He's the new kid in town but already he's bringing Columbia's visual artist and writing communities together in some wonderful alchemy at Orr Street, the newest art space in town (which also has a strong resemblance to Taft Street). Shown here is Anthony reading his essay, "Radio at Night" in the common area between halls of artists' studios and what the space looked like last week during Columbia's newly reestablished gallery crawl.

Notice the detail of the oversized door. Each studio has a unique door, sculptures created by the fabulously talented Chris Teeter.