Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Art of Losing

One year ago today, something of great value was lost in Roxie's World. I refer, of course, to myself -- or the embodied version of myself, which slipped free of earth and pain and the encircling arms of my heartbroken humans shortly after 7 PM on the penultimate day of 2009. (Read all about it here, but have a hankie or three handy. My typist still can't get through that post without weeping.)

(Photo Credit: Moose, 12/20/09)

"The art of losing isn't hard to master," Elizabeth Bishop insists, repeatedly but not convincingly in her lovely poem "One Art." The poem begins with the trivial losses of objects such as keys and urges readers to "Lose something every day" in order to learn the lesson that "loss is no disaster." It gradually opens out to include objects of great sentimental value -- "my mother's watch" -- and cherished dreams or plans -- "where it was you meant to travel." It ends with the most devastating loss of all, that of a beloved "you," whose voice and gestures are recalled in a poignant parenthetical remark that exposes the speaker's bravado for what it is: an effort to contain and deny the disastrous consequences of loss upon the self. Poetry itself is caught up in the futile endeavor, as the poem ends by asserting yet again that "the art of losing's not too hard to master / though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster." That parenthetical "Write it!" is the giveaway, the proof that Bishop's speaker is seeking but not finding the consolation of form, even in the tightly crafted villanelle structure of the poem. Write it! as if that will make it so, but it does not, cannot. The loss does not merely look "like . . . like" disaster. (The poet's tool of analogy is so inadequate here that the word "like" must be repeated.) Loss is a disaster, dammit. Writ[ing] it doesn't change or mitigate that fact.

And yet, sweet humans, you court disaster daily, persisting as you do in attaching yourselves to creatures who will, even if they don't betray or abandon you, eventually be lost to time, slip out of your grasp to a place beyond touch or tummy rub. Loss will master you, and all the art in the world won't protect you from the pain.

Perhaps the wiser course of action is to stop trying to protect yourself from the pain. Stop trying to pretend it isn't a disaster. Call a spade a spade. Accept the fact that the only way to get through it is to go through it. Moose stumbled across a bit of Intertoob wisdom on this very subject this morning, by way of a Facebook friend. It comes from a place called DailyOM, which sounds pretty hippie-dippy, maybe even a little reverb10-y, but its emphasis on the need to "sit with our sadness" really resonated with Moose, because she has found herself so resistant to the compulsory happiness of the holiday season this year --- for some reasons that have been discussed in this space and others that haven't. Believe it or not, we don't tell you everything, darlings. Deal with it.

The point of "sitting with our sadness," according to the (unnamed) poster at DailyOM, is that in doing so we open ourselves up to "deep learning." (Don't roll your eyes. You know that's true.) The post continues:
Sitting with our sadness takes the courage to believe that we can bear the pain and the faith that we will come out the other side. With courage, we can allow ourselves to cycle through the grieving process with full inner permission to experience it. This is a powerful teaching that sadness has to offer us the ability to surrender and the acceptance of change go hand in hand. 

And it concludes with this nifty bonus pearl of wisdom:
Another teaching of sadness is compassion for others who are in pain, because it is only in feeling our own pain that we can really understand and allow for someone else's. Sadness is something we all go through, and we all learn from it and are deepened by its presence in our lives. While our own individual experiences of sadness carry with them unique lessons, the implications of what we learn are universal. The wisdom we gain from going through the process of feeling loss, heartbreak, or deep disappointment gives us access to the heart of humanity.
Yeah, we distrust universals, too, but it's hard to deny that our own losses make us more compassionate toward others reckoning with sadness or sorrow. If we wall ourselves off from the pain of our losses, we reduce our capacities for empathy and connection. Loss is part of what makes us human. To deny loss is to deny the love that made the loss possible and meaningful. Trust me, darlings, you do not want to do that.

"Well now everything dies baby that's a fact," declares Mr. Bruce Springsteen in a little song called "Atlantic City." The next line offers the hope that fuels Springsteen's and this humble blog's stubborn romanticism: "But maybe everything that dies someday comes back."

Maybe everything that dies someday comes back: The proof is right in front of you, isn't it, my pretties? I am here for you, as I said I always would be. Meet me tonight and every night -- in the undying space of Roxie's World. Peace out.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rose-Colored Glasses

(Photo Credit: Moose, back in Roxie's World, 12/29/10)

The Department of Tropes and Leisure pointed out in a recent memo that glass and glasses have emerged as something of a theme this year in Roxie's World. Perhaps you noticed, too, close readers that you are: blue glasses, party glasses, half-full glasses, beach glass, window glass. Why? Who knows, darlings. The methods behind the creative madness around here are obscure, even to us. We like to think some desperate grad student will figure it all out fifty years from now when she stumbles upon this happy little place while doing research for her dissertation, Blogging: What the Hell Was That All About? Pretty to think so, isn't it?

Anyhoo, today's contribution to the theme offers a digitally enhanced (through the new desktop version of CameraBag Moose downloaded as a holiday treat for herself) photo of a family heirloom that made its way to Roxie's World from the Land of the Moosians just yesterday. These ruby red glasses graced the table of every special occasion meal of Moose's misspent Midwestern youth and childhood. They were as important to any feast as green bean casserole and the cheap lambrusco Moose's uncle would let her swig on the sly. Moose is delighted to have them and looks forward to filling them way more than half full for many years to come.

We'll get back to regular blogalicious programming soon, kids, as soon as we've resolved the annual dilemma of how to wrap up the whole damn year in a single post. Stay tuned. You won't want to miss it. Meantime, we hope you are enjoying not being at MLA 2010, the conference that time forgot. We hope to see some of you next week in La La Land, for MLA 2011, the conference that hopefully won't get mucked up by an epic weather event. Peace out.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

And So This Is Christmas . . .

. . . in our neck of the woods. What does it look like in yours?

(Photo Credits: Moose, in the Land of the Moosians, 12/24/10)

Peace out, my pretties. May all your Christmas dreams come true. Here is your musical thought for the day:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In Lieu of a Post . . .

. . . we offer a poem, my pretties, which is in no way holiday-related except that it expresses Moose's wish that Santa existed so that he could bring her a puppy for Christmas so that she could have a furry companion to go along with the human companion who walks with her on the long, arduous, lovely trail called life. The poem, by the Australian poet Petra White, was brought to our attention by our beloved Candy Man, our personal authority on all things Australian and many things poetic. Thank you, kind sir, for a beautiful poem and so much more.

And thanks to all of you for being such excellent furry and non-furry companions to all of us in Roxie's World. If you are traveling this holiday season, may your journeys be safe and joyous. If you are not, well, lucky you. The moms hit the road bright and early tomorrow morning for a few days in the Land of the Moosians. Details as time and circumstances allow. Meanwhile, the poem (which we found here):

Woman and Dog

A woman and a dog walked all day
beside the non-moving canal.
People who walk dogs displace themselves:

the dog sniffs and leads, harnesses
a human soul, spirit and flesh
willing or not. Its human-dog eyes

cradle the walkable world – a happy place –
a brimming here-and-yet. The canal
neither followed nor lagged behind.

There was the simplified world, on either side, green
fields and red houses. There was the little pub
they always got to.

So long they trudged, two bodies and one
soul, so many miles,
the paws began to bleed.

Little flecks of ruby blood glittered the black
rubbery pads, as if the dog was inking out
all the sadness of the woman.

And the woman, being just strong enough,
gathered up the dog (not a small one)
and carried it all the way home, wherever that was.

© Petra White

Don't you love that line, There was the simplified world? Let's take a long walk in the new year, darlings, and see if we can find it. Peace out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Winter Solstice, Lunar Eclipse

Tonight (by which we mean after midnight, or Tuesday the 21st) is the longest night of the year, darlings -- the winter solstice. And tonight, in case you haven't heard, the moon will go into full eclipse, starting at 2:41 AM Eastern. When was the last time a total lunar eclipse occurred on the winter solstice? Oh, not long ago, as the universe reckons such things -- December 21, 1638, according to NASA by way of WaPo, which is where we picked up that pretty pic of a 2001 eclipse by AP photographer Heribert Proepper. We'll take NASA's word for it -- There were no photos in 1638 and no Intertoobs for speedily transmitting them upon. 1638: The Thirty Years' War ended in March of that year, and Anne Hutchison was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for heresy, also in March. We learned that on the Intertoobs, with a little help from our faithful research assistant, Wick E. Pedia.  Oh, and King Louis XIV of France was born, on September 5.

What does it mean, this remarkable convergence of astronomical shenanigans? Two things at least, my pretties: 1. As of tomorrow, the days start getting longer, which dramatically increases the possibility that life will start sucking less. 2. My typist has a certain cheesy song from 1983 stuck in her head, and the only way to get it out is to pass it along to you. I am so very sorry for subjecting you to it, but it's a bitterly cold night and her grades aren't finished yet. We simply must get the cheesy song out of her head.

Peace out, darlings. Snuggle up to something, for dog's sake, lest you freeze to death -- or fall apart.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Today in Gay

It Gets Better -- according to a small, brave group of openly gay college presidents, who made this video, which we picked up here, at the Chronicle of Higher Ed, and which you should watch in case you find yourself, on this chilly Friday before Christmas, feeling the need for an uplifting message about hard work, visibility, and success:

It Gets Worse -- or certainly could, according to our pal, Columbia law prof Katherine Franke, who kills the buzz about the prospect of finally ending the odious Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy by pointing out that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military is likely to lead to a significant increase in hazing, harassment, and violence toward such service members, at least in the short term. Considering the military's (horrible) record "of preventing and prosecuting violence against female service members under the current regime," Franke observes, "why should we think they’d do any better in addressing harassment and violence against lesbians and gay men?" Good question! Go read the whole piece, especially if you have been eagerly awaiting the day when donning now your gay apparel would mean dressing up like the guys on the left rather than the happy fellow on the right.

Whatever you wear, darlings, be fabulous and have fun! Peace out.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Party Glasses

(Photo Credit: Moose, on her iPhone, somewhere in the swamps o' Jersey, 12/5/10)

Did we or did we not assure you in our previous (kinda grouchy) post that the moms had "ordered a fresh supply of half-full glasses to arrive in time to ring in the New Year?" Et voilà, mes amis. Here they are! Not half-full yet, but they will be. You see? I told you everything would be fine in Roxie's World.

OK, technically, the part about ordering the glasses above isn't true. And the whole fine thing might be slightly exaggerated, too, but have faith, kids. We'll muddle through.

The whole truth, no stretchers: The incredibly happy glasses in the picture were pressed into service for a champagne toast at a wonderful celebration the moms attended last weekend in honor of the 91st birthday of one of the last of the Bonus Moms. Ninety-one! Wow. Way to go, JZ!

Anyway, you know how my typist loves a riot of bright colors backlit by the sun. We thought we'd toss up this photo to remind us of warmth and longevity on an evening when Goose is far, far away, and a patch of cold, nasty weather is about to roll into town. Why? Because otherwise we would feel compelled to do a Debbie Downer post on the death and funeral of Elizabeth Edwards. Or a Sally Snark post on the Big Dawg's triumphant return to the White House yesterday to save the skinny a$$ of the sorry Little Pup currently living there. (Please go read Dan Balz's bedazzled report, which was the lead story in the dead-tree edition of today's WaPo, on Clinton's unparalleled wonkery and his undiminished political acumen. Then go watch the vid of Obama and Clinton together in the briefing room, as Clinton cogently and non-defensively explains the importance of supporting the imperfect agreement on taxes Obama managed to strike with congressional Republicans this week. The moment [which comes at about the 10:50 mark in the vid] when Obama says he has to go because he's got to join the First Lady at some holiday event and Big Dawg practically pushes him out the door so he can go on explaining how it is, still and always, the economy, stupid? Priceless. Watch the whole thing and tell us if you think we're crazy to fantasize that there ought to be two Clintons in Obama's cabinet. Bye-bye, Geithner. Hello, Blue Eyes! Tell us again how we gotta keep this goin' so we don't slip back into recession.)

But like we said, kids, we are not going to blog about any of those things. You've got your eye candy and a couple of luscious links to follow. Knock yourselves out -- It's Saturday night. Moose is going to light a fire, nuke some leftovers, and curl up with whatever movie she can find that Goose probably wouldn't want to watch. Good times, people, good times.

And here: We love you so much we are just going to embed that vid of Clinton in the briefing room. You don't even have to click away to enjoy it. Peace out.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Not Catching the Reverb

Are you curious to know why Roxie's World is not participating in #reverb10, the super-groovy end-of-year online initiative to get folks to reflect on what's happened in the current year and "send out reverberations for the year ahead"? I mean, gosh, we love nothing better than a bit of navel-gazing, especially when it's combined with the blogging equivalent of a group hug. Plus, you know, we've been known to go a little yogic on y'all from time to time, and some of our bestest blog buds have hopped on board the reverb train. (Love you, girls. Mean it. You are doing some great work in connection with this project, and we look forward to reading every single word.)

Here's the thing, kids. We thought about giving #reverb10 a shot, because we get all goose-bumpy over any opportunity to make our blogging part of a communal, collective adventure. I mean, hell, we're a dog blog, dudes -- We wanna be part of a pack! Shoot, we were even willing to consider committing to posting every fricking day for a month -- on prompts designed by total strangers who seem to have consumed quite a bit more herbal tea than we have! -- in an effort to be a part of this endeavor.

And then my typist sat down and looked at the prompts and realized we couldn't attend this party, because if we did we'd end up misbehaving. We'd either be the wiseacre standing in the corner, dumping a poisonous barrel of snarkitude into a babbling brook of earnestness and sincerity, or we'd be the Debbie Downer, killing everybody's buzz by yammering on relentlessly "about a new disease, a car accident or killer bees." Don't believe a dead dog? Well, take a look at the notes my typist made on the first few prompts:

December 1 -- One Word: Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. That's easy: D E A T H.  Because that's what happened every time we turned around this year in Roxie's World. We started the year grieving the end of the embodied life of the beloved critter who inspired this quirky little corner of the blogosphere. Halfway through, we mourned the loss of the equally beloved Mother of the Goosians. And we haven't even bothered to acknowledge in this space the recent death of a dear friend whom many of you may know as the director of the best film the Star Wars franchise, The Empire Strikes Back. We're big into Bonus Moms around here, but we only had one Bonus Dad, and that was Kersh. He's gone. That sucks. Our hope is that the grim reaper will leave us the hell alone in 2011. Enough already, 'k?

December 2 -- Writing. What do you do each day that doesn't contribute to your writing -- and can you eliminate it? Apparently, you're not supposed to count blogging as part of writing, so it would appear that pretty much every thing I do every waking hour of nearly every day of my life does not contribute to my writing. Which is, in its way, like, really impressive!

December 3 -- Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). Piece of cake: That would be the moment when I felt myself falling forward on a set of concrete stairs, knowing that when I landed something was going to break. That moment is vividly described here.

December 4 -- Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? By being continually overwhelmed and befuddled, leading me to wonder things like, Who the frack is going to die next? Will Obama and the Dems ever manage to get anything right? Why do I not feel grateful that I broke my left wrist rather than my right one?

December 5 -- Let Go.  What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? A whole lot of dead people and critters, dammit, because that's what the universe seems to have decided I will do.

December 6 -- Make.  What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? A delicious Thanksgiving dinner that was kinda sorta very nearly interrupted by -- Oh, never mind. See prompt for December 1. Yes, the pies helped.

See what I mean, kids? I really don't think you want the surly girls of Roxie's World messing with the happy vibe of #reverb10. Don't worry. They'll recover their equanimity soon. We've ordered a fresh supply of half-full glasses to arrive in time to ring in the New Year. In the meantime, click on over to our forward-looking pals Clio Bluestocking and Dr. Crazy and see what they are planning to (wo)manifest in 2011. You go, girls, while we curl up here by the fire, cover our heads with our paws, and quietly hope we'll get through next year with fewer casualties.

Peace out, darlings, and for dog's sake, stay alive!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Feisty Old Broad of the Week

And it's only Wednesday! I know, I know, the regulars are thinking, Wait just a goldurned minute -- Roxie's World has never had a "Feisty Old Broad of the Week." Not that I object or anything, but is this just a cheap, quick way to throw up a post in the midst of late-semester madness? To which we can only reply: Hell to the yeah, darlings! You betcha!

Anyhoo, back to our FOB of the W. Her name is Betsy Stanford. She lives in Northwest DC. She just turned 107. And she earns the FOB of the W prize because she shares our fundamental belief, which we might have stolen from someone else, that everything bad is good for you. For example, what does Betsy recommend you eat if you would like to live to be a spry century + seven? Why, anything! she tells WaPo. Everything!

"Juicy steaks . . . pork chops - as much as you want!" Stanford exclaims. "Everything they say not to eat, I've been eating it since I was 45 years old." (Puzzled aside from my typist: Why the late start, Betsy? I've been eating badly from the day I met my first Cheeto back in nursery school.)

And what's her idea of a pick-me-up? A smoothie, of course,"made of Guinness stout mixed with the nutritional supplement Ensure, a drop of vanilla flavoring and a sprinkle of nutmeg 'if [the stout] is too bitter.'"

A 107-year-old church-going lady who drinks stout? Oh, yeah, Stanford says: "I drink stout. It's good for you, baby!"

A smoothie made out of Guinness and Ensure? Oh, Betsy, my swooning typist says, can I hang out with you in the retirement center? Can we play Bingo in the afternoons and spend our evenings getting loopy on Guinness while we yell about all the morons on the teevee?

Get a grip, Moose. Betsy's game of choice is Scrabble, but she isn't even in a retirement home. She still lives in the home she moved into with her husband in 1976. Ah, so among her other feisty qualities, Mrs. Stanford is an independent gal who has managed to age in place, thanks in part to an extended network of supportive, nearby family. (Stanford never gave birth, but she raised a nephew whose children consider her their grandmother.) That's a point worth keeping in mind as we ponder the question of how to age well -- and we do ponder that question 'round here, pretty regularly in fact.

Wevs, kids, let's raise a pint -- hold the Ensure, please, for now -- to Betsy Stanford, for proving once again that being what the nutri-nazis and the pleasure phobes call bad can do a soul good. (As we noted just the other day in calling your attention to Richard Klein's tantalizing "The Case Against Health.") It's good for you, baby! We'll drink to that, Mrs. Stanford, and to you. Live well, live long, and speak the truth. Peace out.

(Betsy Stanford, center, at her birthday celebration at Wesley United Methodist Church. Photo Credit: Jahi Chikwendiu, Washington Post.)

(Guinness image picked up here.)