Saturday, November 24, 2007

Losing Myself

(Sunday Scribblings prompt: My Misspent Youth)
Losing Myself
In the years that I was growing up in Berkeley, most Saturday afternoons were spent at the Saturday children’s matinee at the Oaks theater on Solano avenue My friends and I, possibly with my little brother in tow, would first stand in the long line to pay for our nickel tickets, then rush inside to claim the best seats on the center aisle or in the first row of the balcony. There we would thrill to the adventures of Tom Mix or other western heroes, preceded, of course, by the cartoon, the newsreel, the serial with its cliff-hang, and the sing-a-long when we would scream ourselves hoarse on our favorite Anchors Away. “SINK the army! SINK the army gray!” I would then forget the movies until the next Saturday.

Then in 1932, when I was eleven years old, my father was transferred to San Jose and I was uprooted from best friends and the school year that had just begun. I was thrust into a strange junior high school among classmates who already knew one another and the school routines. Since I had earlier skipped a grade, I was the youngest one in my seventh grade class, and, what’s more, I was the tallest. My mother and I were both embarrassed when the gym teacher phoned to suggest that I really needed to wear a brassiere.

Uncomfortable in my new surroundings, the movies became my refuge. In San Jose the programs planned for children were on Saturday morning. I went on Saturday afternoon when the regular first-run movies were shown. I fell in love with Gary Cooper. I began to spend my allowance on movie magazines as well as theater tickets. I immersed myself in Hollywood lore.

I saw favorite movies several times over, as they moved from the first run theaters, which changed the program every week, to lesser second and third-run venues. I saw “The Lives of a Bengal Lancer” thirteen times before my mother put a stop to it, and I could recap it scene by scene with exact dialogue. A new friend of my own age, Lillian Townsend, had moved to the house across the street from our home. She was equally fascinated with the movies. We would act out those we had seen (almost every one produced!), taking turns on the most dramatic parts (usually death scenes).

By the time I reached ninth grade I could recite not only the plot and cast of almost every Hollywood movie but also what studio made it, who the producer, director, and camera-man were, and the salaries of some of the stars. I remember that Greta Garbo made the then unthinkable salary of $1000 a week!

As other interests, new friends, new enthusiasms developed, I finally became a little ashamed of the frivolity of my expert knowledge. I expressed this to my father, who said, “Never be ashamed of knowing everything about any subject.” I moved on to interest in many other subjects, but they have never become the escape from circumstances that movies were to my young self.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Yesterday was Thanksgiving

On the day after Thanksgiving in 1963, I wrote this sonnet:


And still we mourned. While chill November lay
upon your hill, we gathered close beside

our fires, and, as you had proclaimed a day
of thanks, gave thanks to God though you had died.

We thanked Him for Himself, and asked He lead
the s
ad man with the grey November face
who now must bear your load and rue the deed
that forced him to replace your summer grace.

Thanked God, that, through grief shared, our festal board
extended North to South; and that the
sent Brahms to comfort us, and Donne to warn,

sent Whitman's sprig of lilac; that a horde

of vari-colored races sat at last

in common sorrow. And still we mourn.

Friday's Flowers (sort of...)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Too busy!

I have been so busy composing and printing my 2008 calendar (Christmas gift for about 28 dear friends and relatives) that I have not had time for new posts. I missed Sunday Scribblings for the first time since I started writing for it. Now the calendars must be assembled and bound. Above is the 2008 calendar cover, starring my favorite breaking wave, caught in my camera during our Smith reunion at Asilomar.

And here is what the November pages will look like when hung. Well, actually they won't! I looked at my blog after publishing and found that, due to the peculiarities of Clairis Works and its alignments, many elements of the lower calendar part are slightly shifted. The printed page has all the small pictures neatly between the grid lines, and the printed parts are similarly symmetrical.
Otto and Kristin have been in Chiang Mai, Thailand since the first of November giving music classes, taking part in programs, sight-seeing the beautiful mountain girt city, and exercising their cameras. They won't be back until December 15, but have only posted (on Facebook) pictures from their first three days there. Since I wanted to include their trip on the calendar, I went ahead and used the few photos they posted.

The calendar dimensions are 11"x8.5" for each of the two halves - the top "big Picture" and the lower calendar, which has family birthdays, holidays etc. noted for relevant days.

Well, back to Santa's workshop!

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Friday's Flowers

All that is left

There are many meanings for "left" which is one of Sunday Scribblings prompts for today. One might be left behind or left over or left in the lurch. One might have left the party early. This post is about all that is left when everything else is gone. I didn't write this poem today, but it seemed appropriate.

,The Gift of Words

You say I have the gift of words.

Someday my words may fail me,
lost in a maze of neurons, wells of words
with no bucket to retrieve them,
or they may tangle on my tongue
like Hannah’s yarn after her stroke
when she worried helplessly
among the skeins and needles.

Gifts are for giving.

Thus I would bequeath to you
a shimmer of words when I no longer
can order them into their patterns.
They will glint like breeze-tossed aspen leaves
or glimmer like showers in sunshine
where each drop holds a rainbow.
They will be as numerous as stars
as facets of waves
as moments of our love
and fragrant like water touching parched earth.
They will hold bird song and wind song
but, alas, no Mozart, no sonnets, no meaning,
just their fragments.

I will scatter them at random on a fragile web
spangled with words and syllables like sequins
and toss it scarf-like over you.

This is my gift.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Photo by grandson Byron Shock
several weeks after midsummer's
maximum light show.

MIRROR MIRROR (Sunday Scribbling prompt:"Money")

This morning I awoke with the rising sun just as it struck a building across the bay in such a way that it sent a blaze of reflection to my bedroom, almost like a bright message from a San Francisco window to my Berkeley one. For a few minutes it was a brilliant diamond.
My husband still slept peacefully . Knowing that the phenomenon would probably recur for several days, barring rain or fog, I didn’t waken him. Besides, bright as it was, it could not compete with our annual midsummer show.

Starting on about the fifteenth of June at about five minutes before eight o’clock in the evening, the setting sun hits the windows on one of the slanting sides of San Francisco’s Transamerica pyramid at an angle that shoots the light directly to us. The first night it is impressive but affects only a few of the pyramid’s windows, making them sparkle and glint. Then, night by night, it changes, light moving down from the spire to encompass more windows until, at the height of its brilliance, the pyramid becomes a molten pillar of fire, too bright to look at directly, brighter by far than any sight we have seen save for the sun itself. The triangular shape of the tower is lost in the swell of flame.

Each night the show lasts for about ten minutes from first gleam until the last window winks back to darkness, the peak of brightness being at eight o’clock. So too does the yearly spectacle arrange itself symetrically about midsummer. By July we no longer invite our friends to come see “our” Transamerica pyramid.

But by what stretch of the imagination can we call it “our” Transamerica pyramid? We own no part of this temple to wealth. Nor do we wish to. As former workers with homeless poeple, we are all too aware that, in the shadow of this impressive edifice, desperate folk seek a sheltered spot to sleep in doorways and alleys, their meager possessions heaped protectively beside them. We are reminded of what we consider to be one of America’s troubling problems, one that becomes constatly more acute. It is the growing disparity between the rich and the poor.

I would like to call to the attention of anyone visiting my blog the latest issue of National Geographic and the article(s) about the Mayan civilization. One of the main reasons for the collapse of this complex society was that it had become top-heavy, with the privileged demanding more and more.

Is that where America is heading?

Still, I shouldn't be too hard on the Transamerica pyramid. Not only is it a symbol of wealth: it is also the donor of a midsummer gift of pure molten gold.