Compost: Touching again

I touch the smooth paper of the notebook, all blank and waiting for my words. There is nothing else that feels like paper on the fingertips, so smooth and fast, a racetrack for my pen. I touch the pen, gripping it between my finger and thumb and I feel its hard barrel unyielding, reliably delivering up my words. I touch the floor with my bare feet, oh how I hate to wear shoes, because then my feet touch scratchy wool or claustrophobic nylon or sweaty leather. I prefer to be able to wiggle my toes on the ground and feel my toes spread apart from each other, each one sending its little pad of smooth cool glassy tile up to the receptors in my brain. My whole body is one big toucher, if I try I can feel the separate red hairs of my sweater against my arms and the elastic tightness of my bra straps and the soft folds of my pants waving around my legs. I am alive and I am here because I can feel.

Compost: I don’t know blood

I don't know how to dance a measured dance, meeting the beat of tradition's music, and swinging to meet a partner's arms. I don't know the feel of his arm around my waist guiding me in the steps of the time-honored past. I don't know the sweet peace of families sewn into my dress or braided in my hair.

I don't know who my blood is. I don't know what my race is; my skin seems covered still by the soft cheesy membrane I was born with, moldy and crumbly like mealy little warts. Even my time seems distant, as if I am living behind smoked glass.

Writing Tip: Different topics

Here's a tip I've recommended before, from Natalie Goldberg, the best writing teacher on the planet, in my opinion. ( When your writing seems blah and boring to you, like you're just rehashing what you've said before, sit down and write uninterrupted for ten minutes and follow this rule: each sentence must have a different topic than the sentence before. Boy does this make your mind swirl, and new ideas literally leap into your brain.  Here's one I wrote:

The peppermint leaves steam with health. My cat is a pain in the ass. My scarf has beads of a vaguely Egyptian design. I wish I didn't worry so much about nothing, but perhaps it is my job, who knows. Far from here people die with the name of God on their lips. I don't think I'm as smart as everyone, but then again I'm pretty happy with my intelligence. Jim Morrison's eyes were wild with the frantic love of mystery. When I was in Paris I walked to Montmartre in the breaking dawn and saw the shop windows light, one by one. I've looked for gypsies under my bed but so far none have materialized. Today I was interviewed by a boy of perhaps twenty and got an unpleasant glimpse into the future. My grandmother totters on her old swollen feet and wants to die but doesn't know how. To do something well you must love with great passion all your relations, past and future. Walking underneath maple trees is dangerous, for they throw their missiles rapidly and do not aim at all. After all I've done, I still want more.

Sharing my Stories: First Date

When I was ten my father began a tradition of taking me out on a "date" each year on my birthday. First he'd take me to buy a new dress, something you would wear to a nice restaurant. Then we'd go out to eat, and he'd arrange it beforehand that the restaurant he chose would treat me royally, like someone special. Then we would wrap up the evening by going to a movie.

There are not words enough to describe how much I liked this tradition. I did feel special; someone who deserved the best — and incidentally, as no doubt my father intended, I learned how to behave like a "lady" in public.

I remember that first date, in 1960. It was an evening of bliss.

First of all, I was allowed to take the bus from our suburban home to meet my father at the bus station in downtown Seattle — all by myself. My mother had opposed this plan, but my father told her that I was responsible enough to be trusted now — after all, I was ten!

He bought me a pale lemon-colored dress and matching shoes at Frederick and Nelsons. I remember the saleslady fawning over me and flirting with him. I was so pleased when he agreed that I didn't have to wear white anklets, but could wear my new flats without socks, like grown ladies did.

We went to Canlis for dinner, and I remember the candlelight twinkling on silver and the food arranged in an artistic pattern on the plate, not lumped together any old how. It was the first time it occurred to me that there was more to food than eating it, that food could be an art.

Finally, we went to see Ben-Hur even though I was so tired by then I could hardly keep my eyes open. I don't remember much about the movie itself, but I do remember thinking that however heroic Charlton Heston was, he was nothing compared to my dad.

Take a Quiz, Maybe Win a Book!

Are you a History Whiz?  Test your knowledge of history with this fun multiple-choice quiz. If your answers are correct, you will be entered in a drawing to win a free copy of Making History: how to remember, record, interpret and share the events of your life. Email your answers to before June 20th –the drawing will be held June 21st, 2008.  Here you go:

1. In 1935 a situation comedy radio show premiered about a wacky husband and his patient wife. It was called: A) The Great Gildersleeve; B) Fibber McGee & Molly; C) Awake & Sing; or D) The Green Hornet.

2. The Kennedy years in the WHite House were often referred to as: A) Camelot; B) Atlantis; C) Brigadoon; or D) Utopia.

3. What was the result of the much-ballyhooed "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match in 1973? A) Margaret Court beat Jimmy Connors; B) Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs; C) Martina Navratilova beat Robert Redford; or D) Arthur Ashe beat Chris Evert.

4. Agent Orange was used during the Vietnam War to: A) kill jungle plants so the enemy could be seen; B) dye the enemy's skin orange so they could be identified; C) poison the wells in enemy territory; or D) improve the quality of the marijuana.

5. "The Dinner Party", a feminist art exhibition, was created in 1975 by which artist? A) Georgia O'Keefe; B) Judy Chicago; C) Grandma Moses; or D) Colleen McCullough.

6. Which product of the 1940s advertised that "a little dab'll do ya?"  A) M&Ms; B) Alka Seltzer; C) Bryl Cream; D) Preparation H.

Of course, ALL of the answers to the above questions can be found in my book, Making History: how to remember, record, interpret and share the events of your life. Another quickie history quiz will be coming in about 6 weeks.

Answers and Questions and Stories

On April 1st, I posted another little history quiz, and here are the answers, plus some questions that might trigger your own stories. If they do, write them down!

A: LBJ's social/economic programs were called The Great Society. Q: One of the most influential of LBJ's programs was the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. What effect did this Act have on your family?

A: In the 1950s the Russians were the first into space with the launching of Sputnik. Q: Did you ever want to be an astronaut? If you are fascinated with "outer space", how has your interest manifested in your life?

A: In 1978 a major nuclear accident happened at Three Mile Island. Q: Nuclear energy is still a controversial topic. Where do you stand on this issue?

A: Willie Sutton was famous for robbing banks. Q: Willie Sutton was one of the first "anti-heroes," known for his wit. Did you ever secretly look up to someone who broke the law?

A: Muhammad Ali's name when he won the gold medal at the 1960 Olympics was Cassius Clay. Q: What sports heroes do you admire, and why? How did their life influence yours?

A: In 1954 a group of people claiming to have been abducted by aliens gathered for a meeting in California. Q: What are your opinions about the possibility of extra-terrestrial life? Have you ever been abducted by aliens?

Another mini history quiz will be coming in a few days.