Friday, November 29, 2013

Behold the Bold UMBRELLAPHANTS Along the Oregon Coast Drive to Lincoln City

What do you get when you cross a toaster with a toad?  A tuba with a baboon?  A clock with an octopus?  A hat with a chicken?  And an umbrella with an elephant?
Behold the bold UMBRELLAPHANT
That’s not the least afraid
To forage in the broiling sun
For it is in the shade
The pachyderm’s uncanny trunk
And ends in an umbrella
That has yet to spring a leak.  -Jack Prelutsky

Nothing quite clears the mind like driving...
Are a clamorous quartet
For they’re in a constant frenzy
They’re incessantly upset
You’d imagine they’d be calmer
No one means them any harm
And besides, they’re thickly armored
Yet they’re always in alarm.  -Jack Prelutsky

Leaving the Redwoods, we follow the ocean north, toward home.
Emerging from the salty sea
A wondrous beast appears
It is clearly a CLOCKTOPUS
We marvel as it nears.
It moves with slow precision
At a never-changing pace
Its tentacles in temp
With the clock upon its face.  -Jack Prelutsky

Along the way singing songs, playing games with the blurring objects passing by... making shapes and stories about everything in our world.
The EGGBEATURKEY’s whisklike legs
Are excellent for beating eggs
They beat them by the dozen, then
They often beat those eggs again.  -Jack Prelutsky

By Lincoln City, we run out into the sand and play in the slow moving waves...
And the reason is that
Instead of a head
They only have a hat
They muddle about
In a permanent daze
In bowlers and beanies
Sombreros and berets  -Jack Prelutsky

We let our senses come alive.  Salt surf.  Warm summer wind.  Stiff grass.  The ocean is bank of memories that meets you throughout your life.  
Are blaring out discordant tunes
They play them loud.  They play them long.
But most of all, they play them wrong.  -Jack Prelutsky

For me, I watch the world now, so joyful of everything.
Regularly cry.
They seldom cease their weeping
And they seldom even try
They have zippers on their bellies
On their legs and heads and backs
But their zippers keep unzipping
So they rarely can relax.  -Jack Prelutsky

Daughters on driftwood mounds... campfire dug deep into he cool sand with embers bright as night stars...listening to the crash of waves in the dark... knowing all that one knows.
At home within a blue lagoon
The solitary SPATULOON
Calls longingly as it glides by
“Syrup!” is the plaintive cry.
The fowl, both curious and rare
Now flips a pancake in the air
Its tail, we note, is well designed
With this peculiar task in mind.  -Jack Prelutsky

I feel so grateful.  So overwhelmingly grateful to have everything I ever dreamed return to me as something I least expected.  

Thursday, November 28, 2013

I Too, Shall Have My Revenge

Well played, Paul.  Nice hairline.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Poems by Joyce Kilmer Not About Trees

“When dawn strides out to wake a dewy farm
Across green fields and yellow hills of hay
The little twittering birds laugh in his way
And poise triumphant on his shining arm.”  -Kilmer, Alarm Clocks

Drove south and hit the Redwoods!  A bunch of tree huggers in a van.
“The darts of toil and sorrow, sent
Against your peaceful beauty, are
As foolish and as impotent
As wind that blows against a star.”   -Kilmer, As Wind That Blows Against a Star

The kids strained their necks looking up... Dad too!
“For these young flippertigibbets
A-rhyming their hours away
They won’t be still like honest men
And listen to what you say.”  -Kilmer, Old Poets

We parked and hiked out into the trees and followed the trails... sat out in the little jagged lines of sunlight between the pine branches..and breathed.
“That I love a beautiful lady
Her eyes, Monsignore,
Are so blue that they put lovely little blue reflections
On everything that she looks at
Such as a wall
Or the moon
Or my heart.”  -Kilmer, A Blue Valentine

No phones.  No GPS.  No screens.  Just sitting and being in nature.  That's the best place for a person to be.  To just sit and be human.
“Love’s lantern
Through miles on weary miles of night
That stretch relentless in my way
My lantern burns serene and white
An unexhausted cup of day.”  -Kilmer, Love’s Lantern

Of course... when I sit for very long, old poems just start bouncing around in my head...Joyce Kilmer's Ode to Trees for one...even though it's totally ridiculous.
“The young poet screams forever
About his sex and his soul;
But the old man listens and smokes his pipe
And polishes its bowl.”  -Kilmer, Old Poets

I like his others so much more... especially Old Poets.
Xian's American Journal:  "Today we went to the Redwoods in California and we saw lots of trees...No, big trees... No, huge trees... yes, huge trees."
“For reckless leaps into darkness
With hands outstretched to a star
There is jubilation in Heaven
Where the great dead poets are.”  -Kilmer, Apology

Mom got into the act too.  Swinging on a Star!
“Serene, unchanging, ever fair
I smile with secret mirth
And in a net of mine own hair
I swing the captive earth.”  -Kilmer, Madness (for Sara Teasdale)

Wish we could stay here forever...but the road is calling...let's flip a coin!  Ah yes, it's north we go.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Silly Bitstrips with Paul

 My buddy Paul cracks himself up by making comic strips of me.
If this avatar is how I really look... I'm in more trouble than I thought.  I will have my revenge!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Protagonist / Antagonist - A Lifelong Love Affair with Jumping

(Jumping at the Grant's Pass Caveman, on the road to California)

This morning before school my eldest daughter bounded into the kitchen while I stood bleary eyed at the stove stirring eggs and cheerfully announced, “Finished another book last night, Dad.”
“How perfectly delightful,” I slid one of three bowls of Cheerios toward her with skim milk ready to pour.   “Tell me all about it.”
(Jumping at the California / Oregon line)

 Instantly she jumped into the narrative like a skydiver plunging through clouds, describing with vibrant detail the characters foibles and failures as if they were long lost pals.  Lately she’s been staying up way past her bedtime, discovering the secret of reading books by lamp light.  A lifelong love affair, I tell her, with the page.
“So who are the antagonist and protagonist?”  I inquire, pouring a tall glass of orange juice elixir, settling into the nook beside her.  This is worth an extra minute in the busy morning.  The students camped outside my classroom door can just hush!
(Jumping at the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park... Hurrah!)

          “Well, the story is set in a school for really rich kids,” she began.  “The antagonist is a boy named Dylan.  He’s nasty and snobby and likes to scare girls by putting frogs in their desks.”
          Wonderful.  I take a long slow sip of tangy fresh squeeze and relish the world my nine-year-old daughter lives in, imagining my own boyhood filled with classic tales of Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher, Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe.
(Jumping  in the Redwood National Forest...Whazz-up Redwoods?)

          “The protagonists are two girls,” she continues.  “They’re twins but very different.”
          Splendid.  I think.  Ready for more.
          “They’re names are Mary Kate and Ashley, and they have a mystery to solve.”
          The Olson Twins?  Seriously?  I’m immediately nauseous as my daughter continues telling me every detail of their daily wardrobe. 
          Oh my!  This is more fun than I ever imagined possible.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Peeing in the Bushes at Ashland's Shakespeare Festival / A Story of Cymbeline in the Woods

“I am glad I was up so late, for that's the reason I was up so early.”   -Cymbeline, W. Shakespeare

What more can I say... this one was on the list for months!
“Lest the bargain should catch cold and starve.
If she be furnished with a mind so rare,
She is alone the Arabian bird, and I
Have lost the wager. Boldness be my friend!
Arm me, audacity.”  -Cymbeline, W. Shakespeare

I arrived in Ashland with only one thing in mind... bring my girls to their first Shakespeare play.
“That angel of the world -- doth make distinction
Of place 'tween high and low.   -Cymbeline, W. Shakespeare”

Shakespeare's Cymbeline is a perfect introduction, a fairy tale princess  (similar to As You Like It) who must enter the forest dressed in a boy's guise to save those she loves most.  It's funny and silly and kept my daughters on the edge of their balcony seat the whole way through,
 Rebekah's American Journal:  "We stayed up until midnight watching our first Shakespeare play, "Cymbeline."  It was a fairy tale.  We stayed at the Stratford Inn and had Sushi for dinner.  Daddy bought us masks.  It was so much fun."
“Poor I am stale, a garment out of fashion.” -Cymbeline, W. Shakespeare 

And yes, we journaled throughout the production.  Drawing and scribbling until it got too dark to see.  This is the outdoor Elizabethan theater mind you.
“It is no act of common passage, but a strain of rareness.”  -Cymbeline, W. Shakespeare

Birds swooping in and car alarms going off and characters making quick changes and bawdy jokes.  The folks around us practically giddy to see two little girls with their dad scribbling and whispering away.  
“I have not slept one wink.”  -Cymbeline, W. Shakespeare

At least five different people came up to us afterwards to chat and talk about how wonderful it was to see children at the performance.  (I looked, there were no other kids in attendance that night)  One woman told me of how her father used to take her to plays and she sat on his lap...fighting back a tear.  It was very touching.
“Thou art all the comfort  the gods will diet me with.”  -Cymbeline, W. Shakespeare

They also marveled that my daughters understood the play's plot so well... until Rebekah spilled the beans, saying her dad had been secretly reading it to them for months.  Nice one, kiddo!  Letting the cat outta the bag.
“The game is up!”  -Cymbeline, W. Shakespeare

But there is one family secret that I will share... a funny little anecdote to go along with such a splendid night.  One that makes my daughters and I giggle every time we talk about it.  At intermission, as we hurried downstairs to see all the refined adults filling their glasses of wine and the women in fine dresses standing in the lobby ... and seeing the line of men thirty deep winding outside the restroom... my daughter's did the only sensible thing!
“Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages.”
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages.”  -Cymbeline, W. Shakespeare

They ran around back, outside the Elizabethan Theater... and copped a squat like Cymbeline... then walked casually back inside like nothing ever happened. It is my favorite, most hilarious detail of the night.  On my daughter's first Shakespeare play, they pee'd in the bushes.
“Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.”  -Cymbeline, W. Shakespeare

It was well past midnight when we made it back to the hotel.  I'd promised ice cream and a dip in the pool, which we did.  Late into the early dawn I sat back on the deck and watched my daughters splash and recite lines back and forth until exhaustion... content beyond the measure of any king's wealth.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Love Letter of Sorts to Lady Augusta Bracknell in Ashland Oregon

(Arriving in Ashland, Oregon for the Shakespeare Festival...feeling groovy!)

It was Lady Augusta Bracknell that got me thinking…driving the minivan on a scorching hot June day down Oregon Hwy 62 from the snow at Crater Lake down to the Angus Bowmer Theater in Ashland… just when do characters in books step off the pages and become real living souls?
(Sweet Robot Chalkboard... love it!)

Maybe this is all your fault Oscar Wilde, but as I was driving and talking to myself, as all readers do… I was making a quick list in my head of characters who have always seemed more fact than fiction…and thank the good Lord of Literature for it.
(Keep Ashland Weird... Ya Hear!)

Darling Miss Havisham, your wedding dress looks marvelous, and Julien Sorel you’re wicked beyond delight…Scout Finch I will introduce you to my daughters (pictured above) soon, you’ll have such a marvelous time trading tales with always present Anne Shirley, she’s quite feisty you know.  Then later Elizabeth Bennet, oh Lizzie every time Fanny starts droning on about virtue and you slide in with a joke… you slay me.  Speaking of which, Holden you’ve been holding court  now with Hawkeye and Howard Roark and Humbert Humbert for ages now.   Even Yossarian, who’s words will end this blog someday, have to agree.
(Yes, that's a Crusader Costume... Yes, that Monty Python standing guard)

Of course, so has Oskar Matzerath  and Alexander Portnoy and Vicomte de Valmont, who probably changed my life more than any other character not enshrined the “Melancholy Dane”… and what do Kundera’s Tomaz and Fiver from Watership Down have in common anyway?   Oh Leopold Bloom, I turn to you, with your follies and desires and short comings… you understand me, don’t you, dear?  I’d turn to that Elinor Dashwood, but she’s such a puritan.
(Zzzzzz!  Dreaming of Books)

We pull into town and take a room at the Stratford Inn.  The girls hit the indoor pool and I pull myself together before a late night of The Bard!
(Oh yes, did I mention Willy the Shake was here too?)

These lessons I plan during the short summer months… Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Importance of Being Earnest…teaching Shakespeare and Wilde to the apathetic Chinese… who value nothing that I value… who care nothing for these things...who the currency of Madame Bovary and Dick Diver and Freaking Lady Augusta Bracknell are discarded at pennies on the dollar.  Yet, I still care.  I still have to try.  Maybe for one… maybe for that one…the pages will come alive.

Beat It! Father Time

Gentle Reader,
Allow me a small tangent in my daughter's American Journal Adventure.  Over the weekend was the big Sports Day at the school and despite being swamped with life and children and Chinese grades, the students convinced me to run a leg on their relay.  Needless to say... we tore it up!  Thanks to Paul for this excellent photo.  It's Monday morning now and I can barely move.  Yeah, it was worth it!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Discovering Morning

I was restless... I never sleep well.
Woke up in the dark, walked into the bathroom of the Crater Lake Lodge and took this picture over the magnificent lake...
Left the girls in bed wrapped up next to their mom... wrapped myself in a warm sweatshirt, and headed out for an early morning hike around the rim.  The lodge was eerily quiet, warming myself by the fire before finally setting out...
Up through the forest on the southern side I followed the mind clear, my feet plodding forward... the Oregon way.
Above the tree line, about two miles from the lodge, I could see Shasta at sun-up... California awaits!
Take the time to discover mornings... that's what I know.
Think deeply about what you have and what you want... where you've been and what is important...
Return to it... maybe you'll find... it was looking for you too.