Friday, March 30, 2007

Lent's Failure is Passover's Promise...

I think I made it approximately 24 hours before I started cheating on my Lent plans. (Read Feb. 21st post if you've forgotten) Therefore and forthwith, I've decided to try my hand at Passover.

I don't want to give the impression that I'm abandoning my Lent plans simply because I wasn't perfect - as things go, how hypocritical would that be? I've already learned a great deal from my restrictions: 1) I totally use food as a reward and as a comfort (even healthy foods - I've totally caught myself rationalizing a trip for sushi because of a hard week). 2) I have saved a lot of money by skipping my soy chai in the morning. 3) Sudanese priests are suspicious of young women sculptors. 4) When you fail, or fall, it's important - vital really - to try again. So let's think of this restructuring as another attempt to honor my ancestors sacrifices - we're just switching ancestors.

Beginning at sundown, for the next 8 days, I will not be eating any leaven bread products. This means no bread, cake, cookies, beer, whiskey or pasta! It sort of includes some of my restrictions from Lent (sugar and salt) but is more focused and hopefully more realistic.

Technically, since I'm not Jewish, I am considered an apostate - or one that left their faith. But I prefer to think of my self as the opposite - one that embraces all the faiths and tries to live by a moral code that transcends the technicalities (and loopholes) of one specific religion.

My restrictions will be lifted on Easter, well Saturday. So I'll be able to celebrate with my friends at a wine and cheese.

Now, some randomness:
First, yesterday my mood was completely turned around by a crazy person. There was a man on the opposite corner doing that look-at-your-shoes thing that signals some one's not all there, but as I walked by... he looked up, smiled, and with all sincerity said "If beauty had a name, it would be you." Completely unexpected - drool or obscenities were what I'd planned for, so I was not only caught off guard, but floored and flattered in a way I have not been in quite awhile. So thanks, Crazy Man, very kind of you!

Secondly, if any of you are cleaning out your closets and come across any clothing that you'll be getting rid of or throwing away, especially in bright, saturated colors, let me know. I've got secret projects going on.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Wait one more minute, things will change.

I'm always shocked at how rapidly things change. Last week we had an awful snow and ice storm, but in one short week, it's Spring! And you can tell, even if it gets chilly, it's not going back.

The daffodils are up, the forsythia blooms look like they've always been there, the grass is super-green, and even the large expanses of brown fields are starting to grow again.

As much as this change to Spring makes me feel hopeful and optimistic, it also reminds me of how quickly things can change the other way too. We can be rolling along with our lives, and BOOM! - All of a sudden we lose something, and sometimes, nearly everything.

We all know the devastating stories of Hurricane Katrina and the Tsunami, but unless you're very lucky, we ALL have those moments in our lives. Those times when our very existence seems to be called into question - times when it feels like if even one-more-tiny-little-thing were to happen, it would all be over - impossible to rebuild.

But we do rebuild, one brick at a time. And when it happens again, we rebuild again - one brick at a time. And there are people there to help us. Maybe not the same people that helped us the last time, but there's always some kind-hearted soul that is there.

So instead of complaining about where we are, maybe we could just try to build on it. Maybe we could be grateful that our lives are not worse - at least not right at this minute. Maybe we could enjoy the Spring without thinking of the hot summer days ahead.

And most of all, we can use these moments of respite, between the harsh seasons, to thank the people that helped us rebuild - that helped us get to this moment. To all of you that have helped me get here - thank you. And to all of those that need my help to rebuild, I've got some extra bricks right here.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Don't-know it all, know-it-all

I'm feeling very awake and refreshed after a great game of Quizzo last night with my co-workers. Our team, Doctor Foxy and the Hot Toddies, came in 2nd - I'm happy to report. This combined with my two recent first place trivia victories at work have me feeling like a great, big nerd. (In a good way.)

Do people outside the Delaware Valley know what Quizzo is? It's a trivia game, usually played in a bar, and it tends to be a lot of pop culture stuff with a few traditional trivia questions thrown in. I like Trivial Pursuit better, since there's more culture, geography, and history questions, but it's still pretty fun - except the drunk, dumb people that make jokes that aren't funny.

Before Quizzo, I went with some friends to take their dogs to the dog-park. It was very interesting to be there. The dogs were all having a great time, were super-friendly, and only a couple dogs were a touch aggressive. I spent most of the time bonding with my friend's chihuahua, Ben. Ben was so excited to be there, but he was so scared of the bigger dogs that he spent most of his time on the sidelines with the people watching the action and shaking in an excited - but clearly nervous way.

I totally related to him. I get that feeling when I'm out... "I want to be there in the action"..."Uh-oh-no-it's scary...retreat, retreat, retreat"... happens to me all the time. When other dogs came up to him, he was great and very sweet to them. Almost grateful for their attention. I totally understood that - he's an introvert dog. And that's the way I was as a kid. More comfortable on the sidelines with the adults than playing in the mud with the kids.

So while my confidence in my trivia knowledge is growing, I still feel like sometimes I don't play well with others. I know I'm best one-on-one, and I am definitely grateful for the attention when I get it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tomorrow is another day.

I'm tired.

Spent, stressed, emotional. Good-for-nothing.

Nothing to write, nothing to say, nothing worthwhile.

I need a guest blogger. Any takers?

Especially if you want to enlighten all of us on how to get through days that seem too long to bear.

Send me an email and I'll publish you for all-the-blog-world to see.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

You should never meet your heros, they always disappoint.

I went to see Paul Rusesabagina, the man that inspired the story of Hotel Rwanda, last night at the Union League, sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia.

I was disappointed. I'm not sure what I expected, but whatever it was, I didn't get it.

I'm not trying to discount the lives this man saved, nor the courage he had in his position, but I was less than enthused.

At one point he called for economic sanctions against governments that are engaging in genocide. I'm not sure that works, but I really want to agree with him. He talked of his anger. Towards the West, towards his countrymen, towards everyone that could have been doing more. I totally understand that.

The one thing that I want to remember though is more abstract. The one thing that is categorically true, he explained in reference to a question about the architect of the genocide to whom he used to serve drinks, "there are no wholly good people and no wholly bad people."

A big lesson lies in that phrase for all of us that desperately want to polarize our lives into the heroes and the demons... it's just not possible.

People we love dearly will disappoint us. People we want to treat with kindness and respect will instead get our nasty-end-of-the-day scowls. People that we try to hold up, will fall. And despite our efforts, we ourselves will fall, and fail, and just plain be unworthy a-whole-friggin-lot-of-the-time. Generals will sometimes choose to save a few thousand, amongst the million they kill. Saints will sometimes sin.

And the only thing we can do is try to try. And then try to try again.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Visitations and Appropriations

I had a wonderful weekend - chock full of interesting encounters, primarily with two of my good couple-friends.

First on Friday, despite the snow and ice, I had a wonderful Greek meal with my good friends for whom I often cat-sit. They picked me up from the train station, brought me to the restaurant, paid for my meal, and then drove me home. We talked and laughed and caught up. It was great.

On Saturday, After spending much of the morning digging my car out of the train station - with the help of my wonderful roommate and a random good-Samaritan, I decided I was unable to continue with my plans for the day. When I called my friend and her husband to decline their invitation, my friend called me back and offered to pick me up and bring me to their house. So she picked me up, allowed me to mingle and chat with her friends all night, let me stay there, fixed breakfast for me, took me to a yoga class, and then drove me home. It was also really, really great.

Besides the outstanding generosity of my friends, what occurred to me as I was thinking about the weekend yesterday, is that I've gotten awfully good at appropriating other people's lives. I sneak into their existence, settle in for a bit, try it on for size, and then return to my daily routine.

It's quite fun. You get to experience how people do things - mentally marking the spots that you might do things differently, remarking how nice some parts of their lives are, experiencing them at their most relaxed moments, and convincing yourself for a day or so that you're a temporary part of it all.

If it's a couple, you also get to witness their interactions. That unique love that exists just between them. It's quite lovely.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Book Review: William Easterly, White Man's Burden...

I've finally finished reading William Easterly's White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest have done so much Ill and so Little Good.

I also had the pleasure to listen to a lecture by Dr. Easterly last night at the University of Pennsylvania.

Reading this book has invigorated me into the process of studying in a way I have not been for many years. It reminds me how fortunate I am to be educated and capable of thought on this level. I am grateful for the reminder.

Now, I'll try to be brief, because my reactions to my reading are somewhat intense and involved. I'll try to distill them to a manageable few moments.

First, Clearly Dr. Easterly, while brilliant, is acting primarily as a whistle blower - more comfortable with calling attention to existing problems than with offering solutions. While I agree that indigenous, bottom-up approaches are more effective, more empowering, and secure proper communication, buy-in, and feedback - I think that "Searchers"often find themselves up against corrupt governments, being harassed or jailed, or altogether shut-down for a variety of reasons - or forced to stop what's working because of lack of funding or just plain exhaustion.

(Note: Dr. Easterly hastily left the World Bank after a long career there as a researcher after his first book came out. He is now an Economics professor and all-around smart guy at NYU and other places. Clearly well-educated, funny, and well-connected... he's a rock-star.)

Second, I think his understanding of the poor is flawed. He seems to understand that the poor do not have the same ability to advocate on their own behalves as the rich, but he seems to conveniently forget this fact. The most maddening example in his book was of his town in Maryland (which I also lived in for a few years). When he had a pot-hole, he called the mayors office and they came to fix it. This example was meant to illustrate how a market-driven, democratic environment allows people to get things done.

Well that town is in one of the richest counties in the country. Number 15 richest county in the country, in fact. Just one mile away in the same town on the District of Columbia side, they've closed down the only public hospital that serves the poor, gang-violence and prostitution run rampant, car-jacking and muggings happen with certainty and regularity, and be assured that the people in that neighborhood cannot simply call up their mayor and get their pot-hole fixed.

Now, all that being said - is he right? I have no idea. I do think that the World Bank and IMF are badly in need of overhaul and accountability. YES. They are only slightly better than the evil corporate creditors and the local usurers. I know micro-credit is not the complete answer, but it seems better. I know tied-aid is being reduced, but not enough. It all makes me long for true altruism and more humanitarian aid.

And above all, it makes me want to fund my way into moving to Botswana, Uganda, Kenya, or South Africa... collect street orphans, give them a home, feed them, teach them how to protect themselves against AIDS, and educate them to become leaders.

I know that makes me such a stupid American, to feel like I could offer help or save someone. But for me, I have so often been saved by the love and financial efforts of my friends and family. And really in the grand scheme of things, they don't need my help in return, so reading about these things makes me want to give to those that actually need help just to stay alive.

It also deepens my respect and admiration of the people that are already pouring their lives into saving people, into creating meaningful policy, and into fighting to make things better. (Big shout-outs to Denis, Connie, Nathan, and Patrick... to name a few.)

In Jeffrey Sachs review of this same book, but in the prestigious New York Book Review, he starts with a quote from John F. Kennedy:

"In a very different era, President John Kennedy declared:

to those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required—not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich."

And while Dr. Easterly and I agree that people must also work to save themselves and their own countrymen, I also pledge my efforts to helping those that may need me.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Killing time

I've noticed an alarming trend about the locations that I've lived.

Each city has quoted itself the "murder capital" of the country at some point while I was there: Detroit, Baltimore, DC, and now Philadelphia.

What's going on here?

Here are a couple of ideas:
1- It's all bull?: perhaps there's some cache with presenting yourself as the worst, most dangerous city in America. Do city governments perhaps feel that it will stop more violence from happening? I'm guessing not, so this is probably not what's going on.

2- Coincidence?: Maybe I'm just extraordinarily good at picking cities at their worst possible moment. Like a moth to a flame... except in this case, the flame is because people are looting and rioting.

3- It's all my fault?: I'm willing to concede that I'm not always the most wonderful person to be around, and perhaps after interacting with me people think "Wow, I'm gonna kill someone." And then they actually do.

4- The opposite?: Maybe, I'm so WONDERFUL to be around that when I leave, even the lecherous murders are so distraught that they have to put their guns down, causing the murder rate to go down and pushing the city away from being the worst of the worst.

5- I'm attracted to fixer-uppers?: Perhaps I'm unconsciously choosing cities that are in some sort of depression, but are full of potential - a potential they realize at some point after I leave.

If anyone has any thoughts on this, I'm very curious.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A rose by any other name...

My mother is allergic to me. I've always said this. Ever since I was a young teen and I discovered the beauty-product aisle at the drugstore, I've offended her olfactory sensibilities. My shampoo, my deodorant, my lotion - all repeat offenders. Now I keep special toiletries at their house for my visits, to try to lessen my impact on my mother's sensitive nose.

I'm starting to feel her pain. There are two people in my life that I am allergic to. The only difference is that I don't know either of them.

The first is a woman at the gym. She wears this very potent, high-note, powdery smelling perfume, and she seems to ALWAYS end up on the machine right next to me. By the time she really gets going, I can barely breathe. I now stop working out and move if she comes near me. I wonder if she notices.

The second is a man on the train. He is a large, white-man-with-dreadlocks and he smells like mildew. Perhaps he's drawn to my new white-girl-with-poodle-afro look, but he's started sitting next to me, even if there are other seats available. He makes me feel like I'm in a damp basement badly in need of a sump-pump. This morning it was so bad that I had to keep eating mints so there was a few brief moments of respite from the smell.

I feel completely evil even mentioning these two. But I do understand, they're just being them, but I'm my mother's daughter and they are offending my special super-power: my sense of smell.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Dollhouse Destroyed

I've been trying to figure out how to overcome the challenges that my current life presents. Trying to learn from my tumultuous move to Philly, I'm trying not to change EVERYTHING at exactly the same time.

So yesterday, like magic, a small glimmer of possibility fell into my lap.

A friend of mine at work emailed me to try to convince me to move to the city. Armed with my usual excuses (too expensive, not worth the money, bad location, don't want to leave the bestest roomate in the world, etc) I listened to the description: $400 a month, including all utilities, next door to a friend-of-a-friend, at 11th and Pine, above a doll-hospital.

The rent is quite nearly the same as my commuting- and all those commuting-related expenses, the location - PERFECT, three blocks from two groceries, and a nice walk to both work and more going-out opportunities than you could shake a stick at! Above a doll-hospital, next to a beautiful park, close to friends in the city. Yes, it sounded small, quirky... and did I mention small, but I was down-sizing and planning already.

I made an appointment to see it with my friend. But today the dream has been dashed. The previous resident set fire to the little apartment, forcing my friend-of-a-friend-potential-neighbor to move, and dislocating my fantasy.

Maybe the dolls drove him to his porno-induced-pyromania. (He used his porno mags as kindling for the fire.) Oh, well... I'll just keep searching for the key to my soon-to-be-found-new-happier-than-ever-wonderful life.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Barber of Seville

I know all you loyal readers (oh wait, that's me), are so used to seeing reviews of cultural offerings that you probably think this is another description of some fabulous opera that I've seen.

No, this is a very different kind of story.

On Saturday, after deciding that I had no desire to follow through with any of the potential plans that I'd made, I thought I would treat myself to some pampering. What constitutes pampering for me usually takes the form of someone else doing something for me that I could easily do for myself, but it's so nice to sit back and just let them do it. (Okay, that sounds kind of bad... minds OUT of the gutter, please.)

So I decided to go get my hair straightened. Not permanently, but just for the day with the hopes that I could keep it that way for the Opera the next day.

I walked into the local cheap hair place and asked if they had time to blow it straight for me. "Um, sure... I do, but you have to get it cut too," was what the man said to me. "Okay, but just a tiny bit of a trim" was my response.

I sat down in the chair and the man put gloves on. "I have to wear these, because I cut myself badly today with the scissors." (Ominous music should begin to play here.)

One half hour later, I emerged with a burnt scalp, and a lop-sided new style that is easily 4 inches shorter than it used to be. Oh, and some of the man's blood in my hair because he cut himself badly again while cutting my hair - to the extent that blood was running down his hand and dripping on me.

The whole experience only cost me $20, but it took me almost an extra hour to get ready this morning. I must partially straighten my hair to get it to look less like a poodle-afro.

Moral of the story: Kathryn's desire to be pampered will be punished by the Gods.

Ballet Review: Carmina Burana

Yesterday, due to the continued generosity of my new friend Anitha, I got to go see the ballet Carmina Burana at the Academy of Music.

The performance started out with the short and lyric Serenade, which is kind of like whipped-cream... sweet, frothy, a lovely way to top off. There is no obvious plot, just lovely dancers in lovely outfits doing lovely things.

Ah, but then... after intermission... CARMINA BURANA... with the drums and the costumes and the leaps and the pure madness of it all! Based on medieval poetry about wine, love, and other sundry subjects, this piece is visceral and abstract. The set design and costumes were NOT period and lent themselves to the aesthetic of the piece dramatically and unexpectedly.

If you read my review of Giselle, you'll remember how the young ones in the crowd were whining to be set free... this time, they were on their feet, acting out their own versions with pure, unadulterated joy.

The Kantorei, of the Opera Company, lent their wonderful voices to the pit orchestra and were amazing. (The soloists presence onstage was distracting, but forgivable.) Oh, and Jermel Johnson was spectacular! Rarely does a male dancer capture my attention, but his athleticism, flexibility, and power are formidable.

I want to go again!

Friday, March 9, 2007

The Three Most Attractive Traits in a Young Person

Now that I work in an educational environment, with all the challenges that come with it. I've developed the trifecta of traits that make a young person tolerable and downright sought after compared to their peers:
1) Respect
2) Humility
3) Gratitute

I'm sometimes surprized how rare the three are.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Love in a Fallen City

I've almost completed the short story by Eileen Chang "Love in a Fallen City." The book of all her short stories has the same title and seems quite well translated.

I try to wait to talk about things until I've finished them, but Love in a Fallen City contains a sweet, mournful poem that I must share. By way of background, most of the stories are about modern love and the push-pull of the games we all play in the pursuit of a lasting relationship. The women are torn between trying to maintain their virtue and reputation versus trusting in the men that are courting them. While reading, it's impossible to tell if the men are honestly in love or simply using the women for whatever reason (oh, how art mimics our sweet and sour lives).

So this sweet ancient Chinese poem, dropped in a complicated, isolating story of ambiguous intentions, brought tears to my eyes. For what more do we all want from our relationships, from our lives than the following:
Facing life, death, distance
Here is my promise to thee-
I take thy hand in mine:
We will grow old together
A solemn pledge. Not promising happiness, nor wealth. A promise of age and companionship only.
We should all be so lucky.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Perfect Combinations

I was reading an article on food pairings this morning on the train. The topic is one I've read quite a bit about since vegetable protein absorption depends on the appropriate pairings.

I'll copy the article below, it's from Runner's World, but it got me thinking about how combining certain things or people can result in a more desirable outcome.

For example, as I get dressed in the morning, I am often about to reject an outfit when I realize that one more article can solve the problem and make it wearable. I'm sure we all have friends that we adore, but we adore them more when one of our "buffer" friends is around.

I think I forget that often a fun time, a nice place, or a good day are the direct result of a combination of things: the right people, the right place, and the right mood - everything aligning to make it perfect.

Here's the article:
Perfect Food Pairs
By Liz Applegate, Runner's World
Runner's World

Cereal + Strawberries = Higher iron absorption
Even if your bowl of iron-rich breakfast cereal contains 50 percent of your daily iron needs, your body will absorb only eight percent. Double the absorption simply by topping it with a vitamin C-rich food like strawberries or kiwi.

Whole-grain toast + Peanut butter = Higher vitamin E absorption
Whole grains, especially breads, are a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, which helps stave off muscle soreness after a tough workout and offers protection against heart disease. Your body, however, needs help getting vitamin E into your circulation. Pairing healthy fats, such as peanut butter or a dip of olive oil, with your whole grains helps the body access vitamin E.

Black beans + Salsa = Higher mineral absorption
Beans are chock full of nutrients, but the phytic acid in them blocks absorption of important minerals, such as zinc and iron. To help your body absorb more minerals, eat beans with a vitamin C-rich food like salsa, since vitamin C counters the effects of phytic acid.

Yogurt + Jerusalem artichokes = Higher calcium absorption and increased immunity
Yogurt is loaded with calcium and live bacteria that help keep your immune system strong. Jerusalem artichokes, also called sunchokes, contain inulin-an indigestible carbohydrate that helps promote the growth of healthy bacteria and increases calcium absorption in the intestines.

Mixed greens + Olive or canola oil = Higher beta-carotene absorption
Arugula, romaine, and other leafy greens are a great source of carotenoids like beta-carotene, which offer protection against cancer and Alzheimer's. But a study from Iowa State University revealed that virtually no carotenoids were absorbed by those who ate a salad with fat-free dressing, since carotenoids need fat to be utilized by the body.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Angels and Little Children

I'm back from my somewhat exhausting trip to see my grandmother.

I had a wonderful time, she was so sweet and childlike, and she seemed so happy to have me there.

One of the things challenges of the weekend was listening to the tales of small children who come to visit her. Now I've always been the willing ear to her visions. Years ago when I visited she confided in me that her mother was coming to visit her in the night. She slept under her bed, and my grandmother worried that she didn't have enough space under there because she has these under-the-bed storage boxes with her extra linens.

Well this visit, the visions seem to have become more intense and a bit more troubling for her. There is one good one: a little girl that runs into her room, on Easter morning, kisses her on the cheek and runs out. Every time my grandmother told me about her, she kept saying "I still haven't figured out what that's all about." In her sweet, sing-songy voice.

The other visions seem to bother her and keep her from sleeping well. I didn't even have my coat off before she started telling me about them. My aunt had told her to give me a tour, and she took me into the bedroom and said, "This is where they have their door." And proceeded to tell me about these little boys that have a secret door into her apartment under her bed. She lives next to a machine room - so for her - the boys come in to bother her and then go slipping out their door when she tries to tell others about them. She's more indignant about these visitors, and more upset that people don't believe her stories. She even told the maintenance men about them and made them check the machine room for the door!

I just listened. Listened with concern and she seemed comforted by that. She talked about them over and over again, each time feeling a bit better and more relaxed.

It must be so hard to survive everyone you feel truly close to, to have been strong, but to now grow old and become sick and failing. Even with her trouble breathing and her awful cough, she still goes to visit my great uncle several times a day and forces him back to consciousness. She needs him, needs to care for him, needs his companionship, and needs a confidant. He was thin, bedridden, and didn't recognize me. But I felt like I said goodbye, so I hope he goes peacefully soon - for his sake, even though it will be so hard for her.

I realized she's a man's woman. Even with all her sisters, her two daughters, and three granddaughters to her two grandsons, she was always closest to the men. For example, her brother Lewis, he's the youngest of their family, and the only one sibling still active. She was so close to my grandfather, their neighbor Kermit, and to my uncle Chuck. Couples were always the male first and then the woman "Lewis and Dell," "Bill and Jeanie," the subtle emphasis on the man. I always felt like my aunt did all the work and my father got all the praise, but I think it was just her flirtatious adoration of the male.

Regardless, I was so glad to see her. So happy to hug and kiss her. So delighted to listen to her. So happy to hear her laugh and see her joke. She was adorable and she tried very hard to be okay. For that I thank her. I want her to be at peace and feel loved and adored. I want it for her and for all of us who love her and find it hard to watch her slip away.

Friday, March 2, 2007

The Next 100 Million: Where will they go?

I went to a panel discussion last night sponsored by the Institute of Urban Planning at the University of Pennsylvania. The topic was the above title: "The Next 100 Million: Where will they go?"

It was fascinating to have 3 hours to think about urban planning, massive immigration, and smart growth. Paris Glendenning, former Maryland Governor, was one of the panelists ... and he's my new hero.

The discussion got me thinking about creating a personal utopia. I've created a plan.

Part 1: The Urban Model
This would consist of a townhouse divided into at least three spaces:
1- An apartment for me
2 - A communal area for studio work and meetings
3- And a divided space for living and/or studios for rent.
To make this work the mortgage would have to start below what I would be able to pay in rent, so I could save money for renovations. It could be in a "developing" neighborhood, but I would want it to be walking distance from a grocery and public transportation, no more than 2 miles from the city center.

It would have the following:
1- A green roof and area for trees and outside communing
2- Solar panels
3- Sustainable materials: bamboo or cork flooring, milk-paint, recycled glass tiles, and energy-efficient windows and appliances.

Ideally I could use the communal space for meetings for groups that are like-minded. I would also like to develop a community of like-minded folks in the same area. And the extra living space would be available to people in need for short to medium stays.

Part II: The Rural Model
This would consist of a farm, protected wetlands, and would be in a northern area.

I would either rent it to organic farmers or use it in the summer to farm beautiful natural food for the Urban Model to use throughout the year.

It could also be a seasonal retreat center.

Now, I just need to make this all happen.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Poem by Billy Collins

Oh the rollercoaster of life. Yesterday hopeless, today strengthened.

What has brought me around? This poem.

Aimless Love

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstresss
till at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door –
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor –
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

~ Billy Collins ~

(Nine Horses)
I'm in love with this poem. This is how to live your life - falling in love with the subtle.
So I'll try to remember this poem as I sit in my lecture at Penn tonight, listening to the panel talk about where the next 100 million people will go, listening to the postering about urban planning, the urgings for sustainablity.
I'll try to remember this poem while in Michigan this weekend. As I visit my ailing grandmother and great uncle, I'll remember that their lives were filled with the love of the subtle. I'll picture my grandmother's hands in bowl of dough. I'll think of my uncle scolding his dog with the same love he has for his children and his grandchildren... and now, his great-grandchildren.
And when it's all too much, I'll focus my attention to the things I fall in love with everyday: the eye contact with the stranger that makes me feel I've known them forever, the soft sinking feeling of sitting on my bed after a shower while I decide what to wear, the peace that washes over my body when I remember the touch of a loved one, the joy of seeing new growth on my plants, the laughter I share with my friends.