"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Say NO to Sulfide Mining in the Upper Peninsula

Media Mouse: Say NO to Sulfide Mining in the Upper Peninsula - Grand Rapids News & Independent Media

Find out more about the proposed sulfide mine on the Yellow Dog Plains in Marquette County and what it will do to the surrounding rivers and streams that drain into Lake Superior, ultimately effecting everyone in the Great Lakes Basin.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Who Came Before You

Christmas is a season of traditions. One of the oldest ones in our family is making Brandy Alexanders on Christmas Eve. Our father, decked out in his wool trousers, suspenders, and a bow tie, sets out the cordial glasses from the china cabinet and lines them up on the counter. Then he gets out the blender, the booze from the liquor cabinet, ice cream, and the old fashioned ice cream scoop. The formula is two parts brandy to one part Crème De Cacao with enough vanilla ice cream to fill the blender. Once the mixture is creamy and frothed, he pours it into the glasses and then, lastly, sprinkles a dash of nutmeg on the top of each one. (What we've been taught is the final essential step.)

The first time I was ever offered an alcoholic drink while growing up was on Christmas Eve, a sip from the bottom of a cup. And then at the age of seventeen or so I was presented with my own glass. It was a moment to be remembered, a drink to be savored with the aroma of nutmeg and the bite of brandy filling the senses, and with the fragile stem of the glass between my fingers, I felt like I was joining the adult world.

Three nights ago we repeated the tradition. Though his fingers are now swollen with arthritis and he walks with a cane, Dad scooped out the ice cream and poured the measures of liquor and brandy into the blender and then filled the glasses. But he forgot the nutmeg. We passed it around, each adding our own.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Twelve Days of Christmas

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love sent to me...
twelve beggars begging,
eleven bankers laughing,
ten gamblers gambling,
nine strippers dancing,
eight maids trash-talking,
seven crooks a-skimming,
six senators lying,
five bags of weed.
Four hedge funds,
three French whores,
two beer bongs,
and a partridge in a pear tree.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Sixth Toe

Does anyone else find it indicative of a paranoid society that so many people won't answer the phone anymore unless they know who's calling?

Is it the “I Spy” mentality of the internet, or the commercialization of our culture, or the privacy notices stuffed in our mailboxes that are to blame? None of this? All of this? Everything about us can be gathered and scrutinized, from the books we read to the votes we cast. My theory is that people are overcompensating for this loss of privacy by doing things like screening phone calls. Or they pretend to be absorbed in a cell phone conversation when they aren't so they don't have to make eye contact or engage in conversation or acknowledge what's going on around them.

We hunker down in front of our laptops and poke people. We are like a nation of hermits in a crowded auditorium, each with a blue tooth and a cell phone, in touch with the world but not the guy beside us. Will we eventually lose our ability to look a stranger in the eye and converse face-to-face? Will social skills be genetically weaned out of us by natural selection, like a useless sixth toe?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Is your glass half empty or half full?

What I was reminded of during a recent contest at Miss Snark's is that a good opening sentence gives setting and conflict. I repeat...a good opening sentence gives setting and conflict.

There are basic writing rules we all have to occasionally be reminded of. Some of my favorites are:

* 90% of writing is rewriting.
* Write what you know but more importantly, be honest.
* Write about what you're most afraid to write about.
(The hardest exercise I was ever given was to write about 10 things I was afraid to write about.)
* Use synesthesia in your writing “the old man had a wrinkled voice" but avoid the easy comparisons.
* Be completly absorbed in your writing.

This writing business is a solitary endeavor. An exhilarating, lonely, heart-breaking endeavor.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Higher Plane

The disciple left
his stained Koran
inside the strip club.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Casino Economy

Meet Mt. Pleasant,casino capital of the state. Soaring Eagle, where senior citizens can write personal checks against their social security. Where ATMs are plentiful and drinks are free. Where the light of day will never enter and my friend saw a woman giving a guy a blow job for enough money to keep gambling. Soaring Eagle. They name casinos like they do gated communities, after that which died to make way for development. This is not my Michigan.

Michigan, my Michigan... boundaries of water, wintering lakes and black woods . . . the majestic nests of a diverse bird population now visible in treetops. Detroit's no longer making Thunderbirds but we are surrounded by the oil of the 21st Century and all Americans should be actively participating in protecting this national treasure from a parched world, and, yes, from the desert southwest where development will come to a screeching halt if the true cost of fresh water is ever passed along to the citizenry. (Check out the current issue of Time and the picture of Lake Mead from where Las Vegas draws 90% of its water, predicted to be dry by 2021.)

Casinos have come and will hopefully go the way of the Thunderbird, but we will still be surrounded by fresh water and a strong manufacturing infrastructure and with forward-thinking leaders(a new president who is committed to keeping invasive species out of the lakes and incoming senators not regionally fixated), our rich, diverse ecosystem will thrive and our economy will rebound into the green.

SENATE BEAN SOUP

(From the Michigan Bean Cookbook)

1lb navy beans (Michigan quality preferred)
1 meaty hambone or 1 1/2 lbs hamhocks
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves minced (or use that garlic press)
1 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 1/2 cups mashed potaotes (if on hand)
1 1/2 t.salt
1 t. pepper
1t each of nutmeg, oregano, and basil
1 bay leaf

Wash and sort beans. In large kettle cover beans with 6 to 8 cups hot water. Bring to boil; boil two minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 1 hr. Stir in remaining ingredients. Simmer 30-40 min. until beans are tender. Remove ham bone, trim off meat,return to soup. Serve hot. Makes about 3 qts. (or about enough to fortify 6 senators)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What hooks you?

The first two sentences of two different novels:

1) The over-heated engine of the Chrysler was still ticking when Katie and her younger sister, Chrissie, ran to the edge of the dock to watch their father disappear under the surface. The wood was warm under their feet, and the lake stretched out before them like a canvas.

2)The vultures circled patiently above the trees that lined the drainage ditch on the Sopal family farm, with the deepest part of the gully the pivot point of their compass. In spring it would be a respectable creek flowing into the Black River, but now it was just a ditch.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Lost in a Lake Effect

Ahh...December. The season of Advent arrived on a snowy morning. The season of lights.

Our lights are still on, though we had an outage in the night with a heavy wet snowfall...clocks were all blinking this morning. I'm steeping a cup of hot tea with the temperature dropping and the wind shifting from out of the East (a sign of tumultuous weather), winding down from a treacherous drive home, during which my rear door suddenly came ajar on the highway, and the dome light came on giving me the bejeebies. Maybe a freezing/thawing explanation. But I had to leave the door ajar because I couldn't reach the handle without taking an eye off the road and a hand off the wheel and there was no easy place to pull off so I just left it and drove home with the whisper of the road wafting through the crack in the door panel, and I thought of how easily one could become lost in a storm.

LOST

How quickly does the familiar become
a thing you've never seen.
You lean against the steering wheel,
as the road traveled nightly becomes one you do not know.
Turn on the radio. You could be anywhere.
Snowflakes attach themselves to the wipers—
silent, silent,
softening tread and resolve to hurry.
There can be no hurry.
No light emerges to meet your own;
no porch door swings open, only silent driving
through the radio static of a forgotten song.


Still looking for an agent who will see worth in my writing. Farewell. Whistle the teakettle.

Still Life

in the chipped china plate
you won't throw away;
in arms that drape shoulders,
graceful as the legs on the bistro chairs,
enclosed in a frame.
The ruffled tutu of the fuchsia
falling off to ground
is frozen by the chance
of a backward glance.
The sun sets a twenty-second fire
to the ridge across the valley from the shelter,
fleeting as the shrug of your shoulders
to have missed it.
The self-portrait I couldn't finish
stands in the back of the closet,
behind sketch pads full of hands.