This weekend, while wandering past the cheetah exhibit at the Living Desert, Martin and I learned some valuable life lessons:

1. 'Life is about experiences, not the things you pick up along the way' (spoken by a father to his five year old son).

2. 'Cheetah's don't cheat!' (spoken by the wife of speaker number one, to their three or four year old son).

On top of all this, I have expanded my vocubulary. Almost. That is, I acquired this most fantastic word:


but have no idea what it means. It described a hawk that we saw - caged but happy - during our dusty tour of the L.D. According to their website, they also have a ferruginous pygmy owl, but this I don't remember coming across. I suppose I also ought to clarify that the image above is of a Harris's Hawk which, though may be many wonderful things besides, is not particularly ferruginous.
More to follow.


According to Blogger, my computer is now located in Cathedral City. The change occured on November 13th. Where was I? or should I be asking, where AM I? The room looks the same...


In anticipation of many busy days ahead, I want to write something - anything - for the meanwhile. There is not much to tell at the moment, which is odd, since I feel as though much has happened. Like as not, the feeling is more from the books and movies I've been watching than the actual state of things. Life is decidedly simple.

Tomorrow will be my first day working a good number of hours. That is, I might actually be earning enough to feed myself as well as pay off the creditors. Straight after work on Wednesday, I'll be driving to Long Beach to spend about 24 hours with my parents. I don't think I'll be there in time to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless (they're serving it a night early, then a big breakfast the next morning), but there will be volunteers enough for that. Mom and I will wear our cornacopihats while making pumpkin pie and sneaking tastes of cranberry sauce. Were more people coming, I'd make the cranberry sauce Nick made last year in Edinburgh. It doesn't quite feel a year ago, but so time runs. The dish was incredible. Though I'll not be tasting it this season, I'll copy down the recipe all the same, for any who care to try it:

Nick's Cranberry Sauce
Dissolve 1 cup sugar in 1 cup boiling water. Reduce heat to simmer. Add the following ingredients:
1 (12 oz) package cranberries
1 orange, peeled and pureed
1 apple, peeled and diced
1 pear, peeled and diced
1 cup minced fruit, chopped
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Simmer for about 30 minutes, until cranberries pop. Cool and serve.

I can assure you, it's better than the stuff in the cans. And I love the stuff in the cans. The little metalic grooves, the slippery way it ejects onto the platter, the silver of the spoon against the burgundy gel...

ah, Thanksgiving!

I'll get back to the desert sometime Thursday night, where Amanda will meet me on her way back from Minnesota. I think she's starting the long drive tomorrow morning. When I return from work on Friday, doubtless weary to the bone but of good cheer, my friend Martin will also appear on my doorstep after a less dramatic but still noteworthy drive from Arizona. I have not seen Martin in a year and a half - on the deck of the Midway. I am debating between putting him to work finishing the porch cover in the backyard (our own private Scottish monument) and actually entertaining him. Maybe he'll be wanting a wee nap as much as I will. :) In short, I will probably be busy till Monday. And since I've just told all I intend to do between now and then, there may not be much more to add when the freedom does come.


It would seem that I have joined another blog. Sprung from my Edinburgh peeps, you will find it here:
I am almost the only person to contribute, but I suppose that comes from the same impulse that makes me sit in the front of classrooms. If you're gonna do a thing, get it over with and do it with all you have. (I apply this impulse inconsistently; note the variation in my habits with regards to floor cleaning and phone calling.)
The new blog relates mostly to our reading habits, so it will not steal me away too often, nor should it deflect too many posts from this noble forum (if I may call such a self-centred site a 'forum').


A minor correction and some additions to my previous post on the subject of the McCallum Theatre's choreography competition of last night. The Hero-like ballet which completed the competition was entitled 'Falling Petals', not 'Falling Leaves'. I was in error. There was clearly no connection between the two routines. Leaves, petals, fluttering colours and swishy movement - utterly unrelated.

There were other observations that I wanted to make, however, before they slipped my mind. Years hence, no, even now, they may only be of use to jog my own memory of the actual event - of no interest to my readers at all - but I will put them here anyway.

To begin with, the first dance (Nicole Haskins's 'Fading Shadows' from the Sacramento Ballet Company, featuring several couples dancing alternately in variations on more or less the same physical/aesthetic theme - forgive me for having no knowledge of the language used to describe or analyse dance as an art) reminded me of a familiar poem of John Donne's that I would like to post here. It is lengthy, but certainly worth the time, whether you have read it twenty times before or never at all. The innovative beauty of Donne's language strikes forcefully and without warning, though not inevitably, and it is good to be very still and willing in case this should be the time:

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
"Now his breath goes," and some say, "No."
So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.
Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears ;
Men reckon what it did, and meant ;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.
Dull sublunary lovers' love-
Whose soul is sense—cannot admit
Of absence, 'cause it doth remove
The thing which elemented it.
But we by a love so much refined,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.
Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.
If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do.
And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.
Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th' other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

Essentially, I was reminded of the poem by the continuously repeated motion of spinning upon the stage - not in the twirling way that seven year old girls pretend to be ballerinas, but the influence of one body upon another so that a certain pull or pressure from one would cause the other to slowly spin as though feet and hands were rooted in place and the rest of the self spun upon these two opposing points. All the while, feet and hands were somehow held, if not in physical fact, then in nearness of relation by the partner. The presence of the one with the other, whether they moved apart or not, was always consistently influential. It reminds me now of the quotation from Jane Eyre, spoken by Rochester:

'I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you--especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I've a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly.'

Only the dancers never move far enough apart to snap the chord that fixes them one to the other. These were my thoughts with the opening piece.

The second dance, vaguely alluded to in my semi-incoherent post of yestereve, was called 'Push'. It was the competition piece by Jennifer Backhaus, coupling the music of Zoe Keating ('Frozen Angels') with a two-person ballet. My first thought when the curtain rose was of a Depression-era farm couple. They were wearing brown burlap-looking material, or so it seemed from the mezzanine (and I ought to add that I haven't had my eyes checked in a number of years...), standing side-by-side, moving in slow-motion with the kind of weary gravity reminiscent of Steinbeck. I am sure, had he seen them at the side of the stage in those first moments, that he would have been inspired by their attitude to write several chapters of slow-moving, carefully-crafted prose.

As I was saying, they moved in slow motion, walking forward as if responding to a plow before them, or a window shade at the side. From the first moments to the end, from their molasses motion to the quicker turns they made around each other, they would continuously move as though in action upon or reaction to some external thing we could not see. But, like the couples in the first dance, they never moved far from each other. Though one would open a door while the other stood oblivious, it was one dance - their dance. Of course, when they moved with each other, it was far more beautiful than these abstract, unrelated activities. But, unlike the first dance, they did far more than come together and pull apart. There was a lot of gentle falling (and every time one fell, the other had to catch and right again) and, as the title suggests, necessary pushing - that they might move together and not askew. At times, one would have to be lifted by the other - a common sight in a partnered dance, but not so common to see the woman carrying the man with the same willingness that he has carried her but seven steps before.

This is what I meant last night when I said that it was like Life and Love. A small and silly way to say that I saw two people face the world last night. Outside of time, neither meeting nor ageing, but simply - yes, simply - Being together. So that the push which is pain to one and force to the other becomes a perfect balance shared (yet alternately willed and trusted in) between two - in order to make the two into one.

(A thrilling fear ran through me as the curtain fell - that I could watch them move like that ceaselessly forever, their motions seemingly random and yet in perfect harmony one with the other - It was good that the curtain fell, that other dancers took the stage with or without skill to shake me from the blinkless gaze I had fixed on them - though it be beautiful, it was not right to only watch them with the thought 'how beautiful is life' and not to go out and live it, like or not the dance.)

There were others, of course, but the only other one worth so many Words was Greg Sample's 'Hold Me to This', a dance commissed for the 10th anniversary, inspired (as were two others) by Maya Angelou's words: 'Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.' Sample choreographed the piece inseperably with an original poem or set of poems, that I would love to have in writing (except for the sneaking suspicion that they should only be heard as they were last night - in tandem with the four dancers on the stage, doing whatever it was they did there that seemed to be speaking without mouth).

Whoever has had the patience to remain with this post so far, I hope that upon leaving your screen and stepping into the greater world, you will be able to see such beautiful things - whether in the washing of a teacup or the humming of a roommate - rather than relying on my own poor description of some random choreography. For the most beautiful of these was only so in that it took that life that is so common, found between waking and sleeping, and sometimes not even bound so far, and placed it concisely on a stage. What words here are nothing to the living.

p.s. 11.11. God bless Psalm.


My eyes are foggy with sleep and strain - sleep I have not yet taken but need, and strain for vision... as I've just returned from the 10th annual choreography festival at the McCallum Theatre. There is much I could say that I have no will for. Above, I have tried to post a video of clips from the Backhaus Dance Company, whose choreographer - Jennifer Backhaus - arranged my favourite piece of the evening. It was... like life and love in a dance (it is so horribly incomplete to say such a thing!). Two people, interacting with an unseen world, interacting with each other, being one and yet two, acknowledging moments of intimacy in a pattern of distraction and yet never veering far from each other's skin. There were other beautiful dances which I cannot describe or give credit to (the grand prize winner looked remarkably like the falling leaves scene from Hero. it was called Falling Leaves. hmm...) due to the state of my eyes, the fuzz of my brain, and the distance between me and my programme. Perhaps more tomorrow?


I'm in the mood for lists. Lists of favourites and bests. Here's one, sprung from the moment. Add to it as you please.
Favourite places to sit quietly:

1. the living room (not the family room), at the couch where no one can see you but where you can hear everything in the house just enough to know you are escaping it.
2. the tall tables by the windows in the French restaurant, reading Anna Karenina or talking to Tara about Jack.
3. the ledge outside St Giles Cathedral, particularly when escaping the flood and flow of tourists along the Royal Mile - watching them flood and flow, pleased in one's own stillness, with the fortress of Scottish Presbyterianism at one's back.
4. the fox bench at the park, where my Mom and I once fed Luke Carl's Jr. burgers at dusk and where, on a different nightfall, we thought the world was coming to an end. 'It can't be the rapture,' she said, only half-believing herself, 'because you're still here.'
5. underneath any Christmas tree.
6. on any empty ocean pier.
7. the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, preferably beneath the broad white hand of St Peter.


Things to hope for:

1. A photographic blog-account of the wedding of Tara and Spencer, as much as might be interesting those who were not in attendance, i.e. you.

2. Another somewhat-mindless minimum wage part-time job so that I can buy groceries.

3. My First Things subscription, ordered two months ago and still not arrived.

4. Protestant clarity.

5. The return of Harry the Mailman. Since his absence, I have declared my love for him shamelessly to so many. Come back so that I can return to my silent and sensible self.

6. Ceilidhs and kilts.

7. Finishing one book. Just one. And being able to afford a coffee date to discuss this book with my new friend who is still merely an aquaintance who used to sit behind me in church and whom I silently acknowledged and secretly admired for being one of the marrieds without seeming obnoxious.

8. 26 more pages.

9. Making this list go to ten.

10. Being able to pay my library fine, now at more than six dollars.

Things no longer hoped for, but present and fantastic:

1. A MSc in Nation, Writing, and Culture from the University of Edinburgh. I did a dance in the office with whips and whorls. Glad no one saw it. Other than 'Yes!' I believe my first words were 'It's about time!' I suppose two months isn't too long to wait, but it sure felt more like six.

2. A roomie. Sort of. I think. She hasn't really moved in. But she has. It's complicated. Or maybe it's very simple, but since I keep typing about it, it's becoming unsimple more and more.

3. Protestant clarity.

4. But of course, and it should really be first, Mr and Mrs Smith. Though not quite present, being in Paris, yet realised and most certainly fantastic.


That might just be it. Right. I'll try to make sure the next post has illustrations. I can be a bit of a bore, I know....
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