Reading Stitches
Books, Poetry, Things I Wish I Knew For Sure, and not all that much about Knitting

Oct 14, 2010

These Funny Black Holes

Thanks to Cordula Surmann-Schmitt, on Ravelry as Haramis17

Having just finished David Mitchell's latest, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet - with his almost feminine flourishes of precision and skill, and Peter Pan-like genius; where even in the darkest passages he brings humor and an everlasting fun; and where he can't help but share his enjoyment of every word, which works like a perfect puzzle piece to produce a perfect novel - I have just started Per Petterson's I Curse the River of Time, and The Pain Chronicles by Melanie Therstrom, as if to ground myself, fresh from a Disney ride.

Reading in Therstrom's book about ancient treatments for pain - for instance, how the Egyptians drank magic words liquified (edible ink); or how the Babylonians chanted over a poultice of beer, oil and herbs for toothaches created by the demon-worm residing in the jaw - and in Petterson's, about the relationship of a dying Danish mother and her freshly divorced Norwegian son; and reflecting on the fact that there is an ongoing joke in my book group that I enjoy "dark" writing (because I adored and suggested By Night in Chile by Roberto BolaƱo, no doubt), I've been pondering perceptions of light vs. dark a great deal lately.

My perception has at its core an awareness of darkness that has been present for me from my very first memories of this lifetime. I have indulged or wallowed in the drama of darkness, but as time progressed I learned the potent lesson: Heartbreak Happens. I came to understand that a heart has a limit to its capacity for breakage, and if I didn't want to end up slobbering in a gutter somewhere, I needed to decide that what was left of my heart should be less like a cheap plastic kid's toy and more like the moldable kind of plastic, like Play-doh or other, where the squeezes and shoves heal over soon enough, even when small chunks come off due to overuse. My heart may be distorted, oddly-shaped, and incomplete, but in this new consistency I may yet avoid that curb by the sewer drain.

As far as embracing darkness vs. light, I am much more prone to embrace them both as one entity, where I don't understand one without the other - fearing too much enlightenment at once, I suppose, or too much hell; I've been at both ends, and, although as initiations they can't be beat, you don't want to do it too often, unless you have a death wish - and I find that beauty almost always contains both at once. Too much light and I'm dizzy from overexposure. Too much dark and I'm blind.

I see a need for both, and can't see the light if there is no contrast. The gray area in between is what defines "reality", but with no extremes to shoot for or avoid, I would be bored. And I'd choose the gutter over boredom any day.

Aug 18, 2010

The Liminal Zone

It's where I live, it's my home:
That Time of almost feeling,
Of barely conscious perceptions
And full awareness.

I step over the line
And dance in wakefulness
And act as if committed
To the stability of one side
Or the other,

But I never lose sight
Of my safety zone,
Which is always in transition
And forever changing me.

The Space is filled
With beautiful characters,
And bright and dark,
And I touch all
And they encourage me.

Some taunt me for my lack
And weakness.
But, tip-toeing across those boundaries,
Or stepping lightly and precisely
Like a tightrope walker,
Is what I do best.

Aug 11, 2010

To Diana, with love

I picture you on the train
In the mornings.
All around you are bowed heads
And busy fingers
Forecasting their future
In shiny boxes.
I see you immersing yourself
Into your day
And it's as if you are falling
After a leap
Into a spider web
Of vast proportions.
Are you looking for God,
Hiding in a corner
And waiting for a meal?
It's relatively painless,
This moving through
Silken threads,
Some sticky from newness,
Some old and surrendering easily
To your slightest pressure.
If you get trapped
It's a welcomed rest
From the fall,
I can imagine.
Will you find me in there?
You'll find me only
As a shy neighbor
To God, but kinder,
And I will embrace you
Only lightly
With sticky arms,
Even as I know
You are only
Passing through
To your future.

Aug 3, 2010


I’ve been reading Eye of the Albatross, by Carl Safina, for book group - an amazing, beautifully written book. The birds are spectacular and gentle and brilliant. But, I am devastated by the cruelty, and the disregard our human “civilization” has had, and continues to have, for the lives of these creatures, and our oceans. I find it very difficult to continue reading. His writing is beautiful prose with gorgeous and loving descriptions, full of scientific and deeply researched information.

I think I don’t have the emotional fortitude to continue; but then it occurs to me that integrity is somehow very tied to fortitude, and I wonder if my lack of fortitude is related to some lack of integrity.
(Is fortitude always related to integrity, in any case or context? Is a strong character, for instance, always based on, or composed of, or generated by, a character of integrity? Or, put the other way, is weakness tied to an uncertain lack of integrity?)
I guess I wonder if, by “protecting” my emotional frailty (in any context, really), I am also surrendering my moral obligation to the Earth and her creatures (or to any challenge before me). Can I afford, in terms of my integrity, to NOT know the acute damage we humans continue to perpetuate? So, I fight the tiny itchy feeling of shame for not wanting to read the details, in order to not suffer more than I have to.
I know I would say, if someone were to ask, that we need to survive our lives to the best of our ability, that we each have our limits as far as what we can deal with, or live with, and we have to accept those limitations in order to survive, and not crumble. It’s about an obligation to live a balanced life, emotionally speaking, to make our society a more balanced and safer “place”.
But, if we know that pushing the boundaries of our limitations can also enlighten us, so that we can do more for our world, do we have an obligation to push those boundaries? It’s like being on the edge of awareness, but refusing to take that last leap for fear of failure or the unknown. I am afraid of the emotional pain. (Don't we avoid going through too much mental anguish for fear of losing emotional control? Aren't we afraid of losing our minds, from pain?) Yet, I have already read how one albatross, trying to regurgitate for her hungry chick, couldn’t pull up the last thing inside her because it was a toothbrush she had swallowed somewhere in the ocean. The pain is already there… why do I want to turn away if I already know the horror?
I think about the scientists in the book, and their precious work, and know that I “could be” there with them, if I had the right training and circumstances, a different life lived, obviously; but, I ask myself, would I require a different character? Would my emotional fortitude be nurtured from a whole different level of integrity? I wonder if their integrity is boosted by their courage and strength, or is it the other way around? From this perspective, all I can do, for now, is try to see their individual work as a balancing act of light and dark. And ask myself if I could do the same, on my small level, by informing myself of their work.