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Thursday, February 28th, 2008

 This comes from Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, which I enjoyed watching last night: “The best moments in reading are when you come across something–a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things–that you’d thought special–particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met. Maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out and taken yours.” I can’t agree that those are the best moments in reading (there is also much to be said for the pleasure of encountering inner and outer realms one has never seen or imagined, for knowledge of the unknown, and for ideas one has never had), but I do relish that hand Bennett speaks of, and it seems to have been the theme of the day yesterday. [read on]

A book, Chinese aerobics, a garden

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

 Portland continues to uncurl to me. I’m discovering what it’s like to be free of wage-earning employment, moving forward on my current writing project. Yesterday I received a copy of a book of poetry written by homeless women in Seattle. Monday and Tuesday I attended the Chinese Aerobics, and this afternoon a new friend took me to the Japanese Gardens. [read on]

Waking up

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

I woke at 4 a.m. today, gasping in wonder at my privilege in being alive and here in this moment. I couldn’t go back to sleep and miss a moment of this. Will it ever feel “normal”? I sat up in bed and watched the traffic crossing the on-ramp and off-ramp to the Columbia River Highway Bridge; and I basked in the pleasure of (a) what is to come: my couch and chair will be delivered today and my new apartment will be fully assembled; (b) what just happened: a night out at the film festival with a vivacious new acquaintance during a total eclipse of the full moon; and (c) luxuriating: in my new adjustable bed with deep latex mattress that sucks me into its cushy stillness, in the view out the window, in the joy that keeps on coming. I could burst with so much happiness. Only my certainty that everything changes allows me to admit to it. This is as good as it gets. [read on]

Needs Assembly

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

I made another trip to Ikea yesterday, and now I think I’ve finished buying stuff for my new apartment. It should all be here and fully assembled by the end of the day Thursday, and from that point I think I’ll be finished “settling in” and can get on with living in Portland, Oregon. I think this is the first time I’ve ever been so clear and intentional about assembling a new life around myself. Is that because I’ve been absorbed in child-rearing, the needs of various partners, and whatever my job was, for the past four or five decades? Probably. So how does one assemble–not just the furniture with screw-holes in the wrong places and instructions that seem to refer to pieces not included in the package–but a whole, vibrant life: without a job, without family, without pre-existing friendships or any form of anchor? How, as Alice Walker says, do we choose to “be free indeed”? [read on]

Magical thinking

Monday, August 27th, 2007

It is always helpful to listen to someone a little older than you are, someone who has just crossed through the terrain you’re about to travel. Someone whose vision is not too different from yours, who can see further because she’s ahead of you in time. Joan Didion is one such person for me. She published Slouching Toward Bethlehem when I was an undergraduate creative writing major, and “Writers are always selling somebody out” became my motto. I even quoted it in my first little photocopied book, a collection of dramatic monologs based on women whose stories I had listened to. I used these monologs in my one-woman show, and although I made no money on that show–I made, in my best year, only $70 over expenses–still I felt conflicted about the stories: by performing them, was I celebrating the women, or exploiting them? It worried me. Didion wrote, back then, about hippies and drugs and Communism and other things that attracted and frightened me. Now she’s writing about grief. [read on]

Kennedy/Obama and me, blogging

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

I’ve been sick with a vicious migraine the last four days. It crested yesterday afternoon, and it was all I could do to lie back in the recliner with Basho in my lap, fighting the nausea with an ice pack over one eye, taking drugs. I did watch (out of one eye, with the volume turned low and subtitles-for-the-hearing-impaired running) a movie that should have been terrific but failed (beware the link; it takes time and bandwidth to download): Bobby, directed by Emilio Estevez. With a cast that includes Laurence Fishburne, Sharon Stone, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, and Harry Belafonte, how could it be bad? [read on]

Settling in

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

I’ve quit kicking things. The fragrances of Portland have worn off my clothes, and I can no longer remember what the cool air feels like. The sand of Muir Beach and the red dirt of Santa Fe have fallen out of my shoes. My molecules are all back in Houston, and I’m OK with that. My little apartment is a comfort and a delight. Basho is my best companion ever. It’s a pleasure to live near Manko and to see her occasionally. I love my friends. Poetry group met last night–our group has been together for nearly four years now. Gallo brought a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye that might just be my favorite poem in the world. I’ll put it in here, at the end of this post. And next week Gallo and I return to the prison. I love those guys. What was I complaining about? Whatever it was, it has passed and no longer matters. [read on]

Gender in The Lives of Others: Postscript

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

Here’s an interesting thing. I dreamed last night that I was in the world of The Lives of Others, but in the dream (in which I was an invisible presence) the playwright with the dangerous activist friends was a woman; the actor in her company was a man, her lover, insecure about his artistic worth and his career. That would have been quite a different movie, much more “edgy” and surprising. I don’t suppose I should fault the creator of the film for missing this…. But I’m sorry he did. I see that once again, a gifted German man, like Hesse, has created a work of genius, but he missed out on the opportunity to envision a woman as a co-hero or co-protagonist. The other main character in the film, Muehe, was still a man, in my dream–and I think for the film to work it’s better for him to remain a man. My dream-maker has more intelligence than I do. So do see this film. And then imagine the gender of the two artist characters reversed, and see how that feels.

The Lives of Others

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Came home from work today and watched a film of such power that I’m not even going to attempt a “review” of it, though I have to say something. Das Leben der Anderen, or The Lives of Others swept the German Lola awards; it got the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in the USA this year; and it is, for me, unforgettable. There are reviews everywhere already, like this brief but rather ecstatic one from a London critic, or this slick and shiny one from The New Yorker. But the film is a work of great intelligence, sensitivity, and power, much larger and quieter and more intelligent than its reviews. In the “Making of the Film” feature, there is a bit that made me gasp out loud. [read on]

Dave’s brilliant idea

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

I could blog mostly about movies and books! Now there’s an idea, suggested by Dave, who I’ve never met but who occasionally sends encouraging comments to this blog. Kendall’s Quest could morph from the quest for a-place-to-plant-my-little-self into a quest for what matters (to me, maybe to others) in books and movies. Travels, when they occur. And who knows what else. There are other blogs that do book or movie reviews, but they tend to be cutting-edge: movies you can’t get from Netflix and can’t see unless you live in New York, Toronto, or San Francisco and go to film festivals; books that won’t get cataloged at your local library till you’ve already forgotten about them and have lost the little pieces of paper on which you wrote the titles. I love writing about books and movies (and poetry and damn near anything else that crosses my mind)–so yeah, I could do that, Dave. [read on]