Saturday, July 25, 2015

Three Seeds and the Imaginal Garden

Walking near Lake Merritt in Oakland early evening tonight, where I used to walk with my dear dog Golda. We had a routine where I'd park near the gym on Grand, in side streets a few blocks away. Before or after I'd go to the gym, I'd walk her in the residential streets surrounding. We savored those blocks together, and there was a particular house with a garden that we both looked forward to going to.

Tonight I walked toward that Dr. Seuss garden again, this time hollow without my friend. But I went there again in remembrance of dear Golda.

It is a dry hippie garden. That is, the garden is dry, not the hippies--drought-resistant. You know the sort, with no grass but colorful flowers in abandon, no particular pattern. The sort with no pretense but only welcome, that gladly encrusts a cast-off skateboard into a little shrine by cacti. A shrine for what, who knows, but one feels it is for good. Tonight I noticed new sea-green ceramic shards scattered artfully, but not too carefully, into the shrubs.

When Golda was still alive, on just one visit we happened to meet the owner, a nice British man with grown children. As we spoke, Golda lay patient in the shade of the cacti and the great trees. She felt a calm there. He said the skateboard had been his son's and became part of the garden when he'd stopped using it. When the owner regaled in his delightful British accent, he said that his wife had put up the Little Library. I thanked him for it, as well as for his colorful garden.

They'd started a Little Library on the curb, not the cabinetry-approved, sealed sort, but the turn-a-moldering wooden crate-on-its-side-atop-a-wicker-something sort. Golda and I had loved to browse the books, and here I'd found a Trail Runner's Guide to the SF Bay Area last year. I'd only started on it since I wanted to put off hours-long runs while my dear old dog still wanted her slow walks, where we both spent hours sniffing the air and shrubs.

When I walked by tonight, I admired the garden again and remembered how it was one of our destinations, the sort of place that feels tender, warm, kind, cluster-bursts springing vividly with imagination.

I turned my head and browsed the slanted handful of titles. I recognized the deep green spine of Beryl Markham's West with the Night. Hadn't I read that when it had come out? Not sure, I flipped through the chapters. One caught my eye, and a paragraph on seeds called to me:

"Look at a seed in the palm of a farmer's hand. It can be blown away with a puff of breath and that is the end of it. But it holds three lives -- its own, that of the man who may feed on its increase, and that of the man who lives by its culture. If the seed die, these men will not, but they may not live as they always had. They may be affected because the seed is dead; they may change, they may put their faith in other things."
--Beryl Markham

May we hold all three of these seeds, even those of the imagination.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Completist Streak

In the New York Times profile on the famous mathematician Terry Tao, the author notes that in college, Tao had a penchant for long runs playing the simulation game Civilization.

Now, though, Tao, a UCLA professor, has sworn off all such games--due, he says, to his "completist streak" which makes it hard for him to stop playing.

Now, there! I had thought I had difficulty stopping reading a story or article because of--I don't know, an obsessive tendency? An obstinate, hard-headed, stubborn, impractical bent?

But Mr. Tao has taught me that what I really have is a completist streak!

That sounds so much better.

It took a mathematician to solve that puzzle.

Thanks, Tao.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

2 Poems in Drunken Boat: Orangutans in Sumatra, and an Oakland Lully, Lullay Carol

2 poems appear in the Union folio of Drunken Boat (thanks to editors Alvin Pang and Ravi Shankar).

One explores how palm oil plantations are affecting orangutans in Sumatra, and how Singapore palm oil companies are meshed with U.S. consumers' drive for palm oil as a transfats alternative. Read "Sita and the Orangutans Sumatra Sutra" here

The second poem I wrote in Oakland just before the holidays when the whole world seemed both stilled and streaming. Read "Lully Lullay" here

You may read both poems here

You can also Listen to the audio

Bee Poems

The Guardian has linked to some bee poems

The editors of winged: new writing on bees, an anthology of bee poems, link to information on colony collapse disorder