Saturday, December 31, 2016

Sharing Light of Yesteryears, and a HAPPY *NEW* YEAR!

Gather, embrace
sing, and then preen
For all that has been
and all we have seen
Bye and goodbye 2016


Tuesday, December 27, 2016


That was the day before yesterday---

Photo of candle lighting second night taken by DD, so she’s not in it. The guys (DH, DS, and DD’s boyfriend) properly covered their heads and donned hats for the blessing of the candles—
A mad hatter’s party^

The night before that one was the first night of Hanukah. DD is vegan now, so I worried about how eggless latkes would pass for the real thing. I needn’t have. The vegan latkes were successful, maybe better than ever.

DS and DD had just returned from a wonderful all-day hike in Point Reyes. DS then proceeded to put on a Santa outfit and head with a sack of gifts for the little kids in the house next door. He does it at the neighbors’ request, and from the fact they ask him to please do it every year, he must be a good one. Nothing like a Jewish Santa! Only after DS’s Santa duty could we all light the Hanukkah menorah, sing songs, and EAT.

The only thing that went wrong was that DD came back without her wallet. She thought she might have lost it on the second of three buses they took, but couldn’t be sure. It had her bankcard, her ID, her Juilliard student ID card, her dorm room key, and some more things... Oh, and there was money also. All the cash she had.

The office for Marin Transit Bus Company was already closed, (Christmas eve) and would be for the next day. (Christmas day) We thought it might be closed Monday. (Christmas Day observed in offices) We had no way to call their lost & found.
We figured that if it isn’t located by the time we call on Tuesday, we‘d have a lot of work to do to replace everything. What a shame.
As my grandma would have said, “it’s always something.

Now for the rest of the story---

DD called the bus company Monday just in case someone would be there, and a woman answered. DD didn’t have to say much, only that she may have left a purple wallet on bus line #68, when the lady asked, “do you go to Juilliard?”

Yup, they had her wallet. That afternoon we drove to San Raphael to the central terminal to collect it, and everything was in it.

But there’s more---

DD said there’s twice as much cash inside than she had before. All her IDs are there, and someone added some $$$.

Well, that’s our Hanukkah story, and we’re sticking to it.

Here’s hoping your holidays are joyous,

Sunday, December 25, 2016


Although they fall roughly on the same month, only a few times in every century do Christmas and Hanukkah actually occur at the same time. That is-- the first day of Hanukkah (beginning the evening before according to Jewish tradition) is also Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is also the evening of first candle lighting. 
This is one of those years.

If you celebrate both, or either, this one’s for you—

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Bad, the Competent, the Good, and the GREAT

I took the title of this post from Stephen King’s book ON WRITING, a Memoire of the Craft.
Confession: I’m one of the few who has yet to read a Stephen King novel, though I know I have read one of his short stories a long time ago. This very good and uber-successful author writes horror stories. I don’t read horror. Ah, the horror!

But I got a strong recommendation to read his book on writing, and it turned out to be a delight. The writing advice is solid if standard fare, but the memoire parts are a testament to why he is the Stephen King— a vivid story teller of the first order.

Mr. King puts members of his profession into four categories.  He sees this classification much like the government’s food pyramid, with the bottom having a larger mass than the pinnacle top.
At the bottom are the Bad Writers. Mr. King hints that a few are commercially so successful they live a life of luxury in the Caribbean. (Who could he be talking about? I have my list)

Above them, in smaller numbers, are Competent writers, who comprise much of the work-for-hire, journalistic, and other pretty decent writing we encounter. Competent writers have the ear for cogent expression, but their stories lack wings.

Above the competent are the Good writers, and Mr. king suggests he is in that layer. Good writers have solid technique and tell good stories.

At the very top are The GREATS.  Think Shakespeare, Yeats, Faulkner, or Eudora Welty.

Mr. King believes that no amount of teaching will turn a bad writer into a competent one. They lack the ear, or they wouldn’t have been bad to begin with. He insists that no how-to course or mentoring will make a good writer into a GREAT. The Greats are divine accidents.

The teaching and coaching have a place in the middle of the pyramid. There, the competent, who, if they listen well, try hard, and work at it, could become good.

I tend to agree. I see this in all fields, though it’s most pronounced in artistic pursuits. It fits with a certain perception, one divergent from Malcolm Gladwell’s and his ten-thousand hours of work to any expertise.

But then I wonder: how wise or true is it to have rigid classifications? It organizes the mind, and is fun in its way, but how deeply true?

Here is my other confession for today: I really don’t know, and I know that I don’t. Organization and classification (like these pyramids) make for easy, comprehendible and jauntier stories.

I don’t know about the substance of King’s notions, but trusting some of the best readers I’ve known, Stephen King is nothing if not a Great storyteller.  Maybe his system is just another one of his stories, cooked for easy digestibility.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Take the Day

In the Jewish Home, where my mother passed her last eighteen months, I met one of most magical people ever. Ben was a marvel. He was a resident who, by the time my mother moved in, had been there a few years.

On set days and times, Ben played the pianos on every floor for other residents. It wasn’t official, but he had a job—making music for those who were not mobile and couldn’t leave their floor. Sometimes he played the grand piano at the common area on the first floor, right next to his room. He’d shuffle over carrying his sheet music, sit down at the keyboard, and make marvelous music just for himself, with the whole house watching.
He shared my mother’s birthday month, and at the luncheon for all the residents who had a birthday then, he sat next to my mother. She glowed. I did, too. Ben was not only handsome; he was radiant. Ben was beautiful.

Wanting to make conversation, but already suffering from dementia, my mother made a valiant effort to connect with him and make a friend. It must be a Jewish trait, for he answered every question with first repeating it. The conversation went something like this--

My mother: “Are you very old today?”
Ben: “Am I very old? Just old enough.”
My mother: “What is that?”
Ben: “What is that? Ninety-two.”
My mother: “That is too old.”
Ben: “Too old? Yes, it is.”
My mother: “How long will you live?”
Ben: “How long? They give me a day, I take it.”

This last line stayed with me. My mother lived for another year and four months, and passed away eight years ago. Ben still lives. He is one hundred-years-old.

 I try to begin each day by saying what he said. I’ll take it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Word

A friend was rejoicing at the sale of her first manuscript to a publisher. The joy of being able to say my editor for the first time brought back memories.
Yes, there’s nothing like the first.

The first my publisher. The first my editor. The first my book. The first my agent. These can come in a different order, but that^ was mine.

But really, none of these is really mine. I don’t own them.

What writers have are stories. Stories we make with chapters we construct with paragraphs that we make by joining sentences. Sentences we make with words. It boils down to this: the only thing that we own are the words.

My word!

Even the words are a gift.
The opening verse from the gospel of John rushes in:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The meaning of this enigmatic phrase, for me, is that all comes from thought. Thought extended outward begins with words, and words begin with one word.

As I sit and contemplate this, I realize nothing is mine.  I rejoice at having nothing.