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More on Steve Richardson and Impermanence

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Today marks a week since Steve’s body was found dead. The memorial service isn’t till Saturday, March 3. This past week, no matter what I was doing, I was trying to take in the specific truth of Steve’s death, the fact that we won’t go dumpster-diving for materials for his art again, the fact that I won’t have a chance to watch him scanning for things to use in his work, things to give other people, things to love. It was a glorious weekend in south Texas: afternoons in the 70s F., bright sun, weeds breaking into flower, the redbud trees just about to burst into flame. Steve didn’t get to see this, I thought. I do. Don’t miss any of it. [read on]

The Midnight Special Shines Its Ever-lovin’ Light

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Thanks to Kate, at Bootsnall, for mentioning our prisoners’ literary magazine in her Volunteer Logue. We now have 510 prisoners who get free subscriptions to The Midnight Special, and 17 free people who donate $10 for a year’s subscription. It would (ahem!) be really nice if more people who aren’t in prison would subscribe. There’s more about the magazine on the website for The Prison Show, a Houston radio program for prisoners and their families. The main thing I think the magazine has to offer people who aren’t in prison is literature strong enough to jerk our heads around (and up out of whatever other areas they might have been stuck in). In addition to that, every free-world subscription provides ten prisoners with a magazine and gives them a chance to read what other prisoners have written. [read on]

Peacetrain link

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Slide show with music. Speaks for itself.

“Look at that!”

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

Steve Richardson was a sculptor who made his living as a butcher. I have to say was. Two days ago is. Now, was. He was cremated today, but I don’t believe it. Can’t take it in. Not yet. Say it again. Steve Richardson was a sculptor who made his living as a butcher. He was about my age, and he loved being alive. His neighbor found him dead on his couch Monday morning, probably from a heart attack. Steve lived a working-class life in the working-class town of Rosenberg, Texas, and most of the people in Steve’s life couldn’t see the value of his work. He didn’t care. He made things because he had to. Because he loved making. [read on]

Great teachers and mentors

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

The work of a great teacher is not to do but to see: to see where a student is going before the student does; and to en-courage the student to keep moving in her own (authentic) direction, whatever that may mean or cost. My first grade teacher was Agnes Grinstead Anderson, in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. (I’ve chosen a link to an article written about her by a high school student; I think she’d like that.) Agnes taught me how to read in 1951, and she lived just one Mississippi thicket away from where I lived with my mother, step-father, and baby sister. Sometimes I ran away from the nightmares of my house, plunged through the briars and the undergrowth to Mrs. Anderson’s house, and hid there. Her daughter, Leif, was a year older than I and was my first childhood friend, but it was not Leif I went to visit. Agnes was my genie, my inspirer. Of course I didn’t know then that she was supporting her four children and a dysfunctional genius husband on a teacher’s salary and her own raw strength, or that the last thing she needed was someone else’s abused child hanging around her doorstep, but something in her shoulders, her eyes, and her words called me to my best self. I only knew that she saw promise in me, and her belief gave me hope. [read on]


Thursday, February 15th, 2007

Two blogs converge for me tonight: Inside Iraq with its first-person account of women trying to reassemble the body parts of their nephew (horrifying, but until we can find something more effective to do, at least we can bear witness), and Joan Halifax’s Blog with May Swenson’s poem, which frames the only question I can hold after reading Inside Iraq. [read on]

An Authentic Life

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

I begin by noting that Karen Armstrong moves me with her clear thinking, her rigorous scholarship, and her fine writing. Her book, Buddha, is a fascinating examination of the mythical foundations of Buddhism. Last night I started reading The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness, and in the preface she explains that she joined a Roman Catholic convent and embarked on a seven-year attempt to become a nun because she wanted to “live more authentically than seemed possible in the world I knew” (xi). That grabbed me so powerfully I had to put the book down. What is an authentic life? That question is driving my intention to quit teaching in ten months and move to a Buddhist center. It is a familiar question–it’s the question that has driven most of my life-wrecking decisions: to bear and adopt children alone, to leave lovers, to pursue college degrees, to leave Smith College, to emigrate to South Africa, to leave Africa, to explore Portugal, to start this blog. . . . [read on]

New Blog Discovery

Friday, February 9th, 2007

Back in the early 80s I used to read (usually on my friends’ refrigerators) a cartoon strip I loved, called Dykes to Watch Out For. I haven’t seen one of those strips in years, but a friend just sent me a link to a blog of the same name, written by the cartoonist herself. The strip still exists and is widely syndicated and read, apparently; the cartoonist/author has recently written an autobiography; and there she is, Alison Bechdel, bless her, writing a deliciously literate and thoughtful blog, attracting MASSES of commenters who discuss & argue about interesting subjects like celibacy, bipolar disorder, and the ethics of writing autobiography, among other things. [read on]

My day job: loving it!

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

Great day in the classroom! One of the courses I teach is “Humanities”–a polyglot course created as an alternative for students who hate to read and can’t handle literature classes but have to get a “humanities” credit to satisfy the State of Texas that they’re educated. I send them out into the streets and public spaces of Houston to experience paintings and drawings, sculpture, music, architecture, dance, theatre, photography, and film. I challenge them to find “art,” and I give them some basic terms so they can talk about what they’ve seen. Today I left the classroom in a state very near levitation. Here’s why: [read on]