Monday, November 24, 2014

First Word: Larissa Higgins: Interview


"I can see auras, you know. And yours is just the littlest bit blue."
            I blinked at him. Not a test, just a man, a happy man in his own office.
            "Are you nervous?"
            "A little."  I said. "I've been doing this since October, and every single  time there is something -"             
            He grinned at me, red hair, florid face -"Do tell."             
            "The Department of Education sent me the wrong forms. I spent weeks over Christmas getting references from people who weren't in their offices, and when I turned in the application, the head office in Adelaide called me to say that it was all wrong - come back next term and start again. The Special School isn't hiring right now.  The TAFE only wants field staff, and up at the Catholic School - I imagine you heard about that."             
            He nodded judiciously. "Her aura was brown. Not a nice color at all. What the school board was on about appointing a woman like that as principal, I don't know! Did I tell you I used to be the principal up at Hansen Avenue?  I had to work with her quite closely. The whole school was going brown by the end of last year, and when she started hiring in January, everyone in the resource department had turned green-"  He broke off and nodded. "What did you think of her?"             
            "She's nuts." I said, and met him squarely in both eyes.             
            He barked with laughter. "You'll do." He said, and held out a large, square hand.  "Maths and English, Tuesdays, specializing in times tables and spelling for the parentally under-equipped.  Welcome to the club."

Friday, November 21, 2014

Tuesday Prompt: Judith Ress: Photograph

Ana Changed her Profile Photo

Amid all the postings of
Welcome to the planet, Baby Betsy.
Our little Charlie takes his first step.
Bobby wears his new boots to school
My groovy tattoo of Obama.
Can you believe it? Here we are in Tibet meditating with the monks.
—one catches me up short.
     The photo of a man and a woman—a close-up. They are not young. He’s sitting behind her and leans his head on her shoulder.  His glasses are sliding off his nose as he rests against her.  She is looking at some fixed space in the distance, her reading glasses parked on her head. Yet I sense she feels him there. His arm is around her shoulder and she’s taken his hand. I stare at the photo, blush and turn away, my own poverty revealed by such stark, radiant intimacy. They are so comfortable, you see, each contained in the other. 
            Ana is my Facebook friend. She’s a psychologist, as is her husband.  She taught me to knit. Every Monday morning as we ply the needles on our way to crafting yet another Granny quilt, we talk about sexuality, intimacy, the value of fidelity, the relief that comes with forgiving. 
            Ana’s changed her profile photo. With one postage-stamp image, talk of defining intimacy somehow becomes superfluous. 
            “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in Thee.” I wonder if St. Teresa might have been mistaken.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

First Word: Tessa-Too-Kong: Box


I can see my daughter, aged there, chubby legs pockmarked with mosquito bites, curled up inside a brown cardboard box by the double mattress on the floor, at my sister’s house in Georgetown, billowing white gauze curtains, rain thundering on the zinc roof, me in a hammock reading on the verandah. I’d just walked out on my husband in Chile, grabbed my three- and five-year-olds and flown home. He didn’t try to stop me although he could have, nobly said children belonged with their mother… what he meant was, I can’t be tied down, you deal with this…you learn to read between the lies.
            Funny how you always run back “home” in a crisis, just like Sheila said: we always sit in the same chair. There is this desire to belong, to lay claim, to a place where you will be known, and know, understand and be understood. I didn’t return to my mother’s house, but to my sister. We are three, and wherever there are two of us is home. The homing instinct must be wired into our DNA. Even my three-year-old, getting inside the cardboard box – although in her case, it was imagination, a boat, or a spaceship or a doll’s house, but still, the idea of a space all her own.
            Mozart adores getting into glossy plastic bags, suitcases, handbags, crackly grocery bags, crinkly gift wrap paper or soft laundry bags, you name it. Oh! The excitement of it! His whiskers twitch, his tail stiffens, he approaches cautiously then surveys the entire surface and then the interior jealously for scents of treachery – what, other cats? other places? – what data does he collate and what conclusions does he draw? If it passes muster, he curls up inside and won’t be budged. I wonder if it looks as comical when we humans do it…
            Putting people in boxes is very easy, so decide carefully what box you want to get into and woe betide if you want to change boxes. Some minds, like boxes, can be very square.
            My dear friend left for her home country after 17 years, her entire life packed into a container, stacks of boxes of all shapes and dimensions, her precious piano included. And in the end, we ourselves go out in a box, feet first…the other boxes no longer matter.

Monday, November 17, 2014

First Word: Ellen Hawkins: Box


 Boxes are tidy and enclosed. They have no loose flaps or absent ends, otherwise they wouldn’t be a box. Inside your box—for we all have one—you finger the limits of your space, Marcel Marceau without the painted face. Your box may be as large as a museum or as tiny as a cube of sugar; it may swell or shrink as you adapt to changing circumstances.
            A box protects its contents: what’s inside is vulnerable, sometimes wobbly or bruised. Think of wine and custard, think of foam and fish; think of rubber boots and last year’s calendar. Think of all the calendars you’ve hung on a wall. Dozens of them are lined up, one year plastered against another, all jammed inside your very own box.
            Not that you can’t share a calendar. But chances are, only one person will collect them. The rest of the family—children, cats, turtles—may not recognize the importance of keeping the years neatly aligned, ready to be perused with pride or longing or wistfulness or surprise. Each year the box expands to fit in another calendar. You pass your fingers over rows of spiraled wire, hoping not to catch a nail on a rough edge.

Friday, November 14, 2014

First Word: Mary Judith Ress: Emerge


We don’t age, we emerge.  That’s the new spin on getting old, as we now live well into our nineties. Spiritual writers have long insisted that with age comes grace, that as the body withers, the soul becomes more visible. 
            And yet. So many folks tell me they’re depressed. They struggle to get up and face the new day. They shrink before once ordinary tasks like renewing a drivers’ license or buying new drapes.
            As their testosterone dries up, men become more brittle, rigid—even mean.  “Crusty old goat” rests on fact.
            When our hormones dry up, we women become less svelte, if not quiet lumpy. We now become sexy in a maternal way and mother our husbands, sons and the neighborhood.
            The Buddhist monk, Thich Nath Hanh insists that the goal of life is to achieve happiness, which is not related to either “empty sex or consumerism”, but to compassion.  Feeling with—the dog, the tree, the wind. People too, but they are the hardest to get inside.
            Maybe that’s what emergence is all about—merging into otherness so that all that’s left is your smile. Like the Cheshire cat. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

First Word: Tessa Too-Kong: Emerge

A butterfly emerges from a chrysalis – metamorphosis, symbol of rebirth; emerge from your shell; emerging markets; E-merge, as in how to merge the craft of writing with e-marketing – Charmaine being our goddess! Emerging from hibernation – thank God the spring is here, that I can emerge from my SAD state! (What a large word and what will emerge from my thoughts but the procession of dates my life has become, a calendar of events of which I have only vague recollections of significance – like a hamster on a wheel, I keep pedaling on with no goal in sight…). Emerging hints at a time of waiting, of transformation, of expectation even… of something exciting going on behind the scenes that will be revealed eventually. Words have nuances that are difficult to capture in another language.
            My granddaughter can be surprisingly shy and bashful when put in the spotlight, so I have to curb my instinct to film her every performance. She will have to become an actress. On the paternal side, she has her great-grandmother’s sense of theatre, her great-aunt’s magpie love of bling, my father’s eidetic memory and playfulness, and my perfectionism, shyness and love of music and dance. She has her paternal grandfather’s sense of timing and performance, her father’s temper and sweetness of temperament, her mother’s gentleness, need for order and attention to detail, plus (heaven knows) what other values and characteristics from her maternal side. What will emerge from that fiery cauldron of talents, I wonder…

Monday, November 10, 2014

First Word: Charmaine Pauls: Play


She’s on the floor with her six-year old, surrounded by Barbie dolls and their wardrobes.
    “Your turn, Mommy,” says Isabel.
    Julia picks up a doll, the one with the mermaid tattoo, and sits her down for lunch.
    “How are you?” says Isabel’s brunette as she takes the seat opposite Arial.
    Squirming on her cushion, Julia starts pondering the dinner options.
    “Bella asked Arial a question.”
    “Oh. She can’t talk. Her mouth’s full. See? She’s having lunch.”
    “What are we eating?”
    Julia rests her hand in her chin. Will Franck come home tonight? If he runs out of clean clothes, will he come back? Will he pack the suitcase again, and get in his car, and drive to the seminar they both know isn’t happening?
    “Eat your broccoli,” Bella says.
    “But I don’t like it,” replies Arial’s whiny voice.
    Julia checks her watch. “Our hour’s up, honey.” She gets to her feet. “Mommy’s going to make dinner now.”
    From the kitchen she hears Isabel playing both roles, both dialogues. She leans on the windowsill and stares at the needy yard, the grass tall, the weed wild, and the roses browning. She’s tired of playing both mommy and daddy. She was just tired. Point. She hasn’t played in a very long time. Maybe that’s why Franck left.

Friday, November 7, 2014

First Word: Ellen Hawkins: Magic


At the moment, I need some of it: a drum roll and a swirl of the wand.  The magician will tell you the wand distracts the spectators while he manipulates the mirrors. His assistant, Shirley, is pure eye-candy.  With her around, no one sees the rabbit being stuffed into the hat.
            Here is a truth that magic cannot alter: the absence of a sense of smell is connected with death. I haven’t been aware of smell for years. Have I passed my due date? How do you know something is gone if you don’t miss it?  Or is it present but undetected? Maybe it’s like listening to what people don’t say. They don’t say, ‘you’re losing your marbles’.
            My husband is not losing his mind; he’s going deaf. I used to tell him he needed a hearing aid. One day he said yes, he was aware of his hearing loss but he didn’t want one. Since then, I’ve hardly mentioned it. Sometimes I clear my throat while he’s driving in traffic with the left indicator clicking away merrily. I don’t tell him that it’s telling people where he wanted to go, and did, but that now it’s only telling people that he forgot to turn it off. He doesn’t need reminding that he can’t hear it. He’s waiting for the magic to kick in and renew his hearing so that I can stop fussing about something he doesn’t care to know.              We are well matched: one going deaf; the other losing her mind. Sometimes silence is the loudest noise of all. I hear it when no one mentions how often I forget what someone has just told me. I hear it when I lose my train of thought and grope for a word or phrase that never, ever comes. When this happens in a crowd, the silence of the waiting audience is louder than the clicking indicator.  I’m aware of patient looks. They’re very noisy. So far I haven’t spotted pity though I’ve no doubt that it’s out there somewhere. Mostly I’m grateful for others’ patience.     
            Some days I try to concentrate harder; some days the words flow and the mind remains on topic. Some days I’m the rabbit, nose twitching, ears quivering, waiting for the sparkle.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

First Word: Judith Ress: Door



The Chariot (one of the major Arcana in Tarot).  Androgynous driver with the twin horses of the conscious and the unconscious.  Without reins, we go forward together, driver and horses. Go where?  Forward to that hidden beat the horses hear more than the driver. To do—or to die in the process.

Monday, November 3, 2014

First Word: Ellen Hawkins: Door


The paneled door opens only to those who know the password. This code is unique to that door but similar stumbling blocks bar entry to every other room in the house. Each code must have at least six alphanumeric digits and each door must have its very own password. No sharing. The result, for some of us, is life in a very small room. All the doors along its four walls are closed, their passwords long since forgotten.
            But being rational, or at least once considered not un-clever, you know it’s acceptable to create passwords that link to one another by changing the first or last character of each code as you make your way from door to door. So, for instance, if the password of door # 1 is FGT123, you can name door # 2 FGT124. Or you may opt for AGT123 followed by BGT123. And so on. Working on the premise that you are forgetful, though not yet entirely doolally, you may make a note of these codes and store the information in a safe place: a desk drawer, a notebook perhaps—a red one or a green one or one with a plastic cover—so that you’ll have it handy whenever you want to change rooms.
            By the time you’ve had your breakfast, which may involve going from bedroom to bathroom to kitchen several times, you will have forgotten which password belongs to which door. This may mean that you spend the morning in bed or cleaning the fridge.  You may as easily spend it looking for the booklet or folder, whose cover is either yellow or blue or possibly striped. If luck is on your side—happily, luck has a free pass—you may stumble upon the password of the door of the room in which you’re currently imprisoned, which will then allow you to leave the building. (NB: This is never a good idea.)
            If you missed that warning, you’ll likely find yourself on the street, half dressed and clutching a purple folder. It will be raining. Dogs will sniff your ankles. You will have forgotten your keys to the house, naturally, but you have one thing clear in your mind: that the last digit of the password that will take you back to the safety of your bedroom is 3.