No Definition But Recognition

The title you see above is from the marginalia in my copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a book I haven’t looked at since I was an undergraduate (a long time ago).  I got it out today in order to write this post, and became engrossed, both in the book and in my own underlinings and notes.  I must have read it three or four times, because there are all the hallmarks of the OCD student I was.  [Ed. note:  Am.]  I used a blue pen the first time through; a red pen the second.  At some point a pencil became involved.  Then I came across a section which I had blocked off, and in the margin written:  Episcemology (from the Greek for Pisces, and logos, or knowledge).  That would be, I believe, the branch of philosophy concerned with can truthfully be said about:

I sat down on the floor, shocked.  Maybe all those years my brother and sister spent making me to stay in the recliner while they spun it around in fast circles had really done what Melinda hoped for?  And not just the eye-wobbling and toddler drunk-walk, but actual brain damage?  I looked more closely at my hand-writing and saw OH IT’S OKAY, THAT ‘C’ ACTUALLY HAD A LITTLE LINE ACROSS THE TOP!  It was a T!  Epistemology!  My GPA was not in jeopardy!

It turns out I didn’t need to review the novel, although it was fun, because Pirsig’s concerns (a definition of ‘Quality,’ which he believes to have Kantian a priori-ness, and the romantic/classical thought divide) are not mine own.  I would never mock a philosophical novel that sold millions of copies and was translated into twenty-seven languages.  Seriously, bravo.  [Ed. note:  Haven does actually take issue with Pirsig’s attempts to squash Eastern and Western philosophy together into a Thought Sandwich.  And also maybe it would have been a GREAT novel if it had been a novel, or a GREAT guide to motorcycle maintenance if it had actually been one.  She is unsure on both counts.  She does, however, love the story.]

This is what interests me:  my daughter had an amazing history teacher in high school.  We shall call him Ben, for that was indeed his name.  On the first day of class he said the study of history is nothing more or less than an attempt to figure out how we are to live.  When K. came home and told me that, my ears lifted and tilted forward like those of a good bird dog.  Because of him I did a most un-Haven thing and acted as a chaperone on a school field trip.  [Ed. note:  Never before, never since.]   I won’t say that Ben was responsible for my daughter going on to earn a degree in philosophy, but I think that was the start, and I am deeply grateful to him.  How are we to live?  That he asked the question of his students every day – that it became an ongoing and deep interest for some of them – is a wonder.  The study of philosophy (or theology, for that matter) is in itself an attempt to find an adequate and satisfying structure around which one may build one’s life.

These are the walls of the house I live in:  Children (my own, I mean, although I’m sure yours are also holy).  Family and friendship, which are bound for me.  Whitehead’s Process philosophy.  Quakerism, particularly as it was practiced by the early Friends (George Fox, Margaret Fell, John Woolman, Lucretia Mott, etc.).  The New Testament.  Poetry.  The American Transcendentalists:  Twain, Crane, Whitman, Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson.  Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.  Leonard Cohen:  consider how he combines various strands of all I love in just the chorus of ‘Anthem’.  There is a crack, a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.  Art.  Dogs. Conversation.  Popcorn. 

If I were perfectly honest, Emerson would rise and rise until he was bumping against Whitehead, which he does quite often.  I’ll close with one of his most famous and beautiful passages, and an image of a painting of Ralph Waldo my beloved Leslie Staub made for me.  I would love to hear from all of you about how we are to live.

Painting by Leslie Staub

Painting by Leslie Staub


Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration.  I am glad to the brink of fear.


Published in: on September 16, 2008 at 11:18 pm  Comments (134)  


  1. I remember when my English teacher in high school foolishly lent me his copy of Zen. He has never recieved it, and it rests on my book case with the pages snaggle-toothed from so many readings.

    Also, I remember sitting with my father(whom some of you know as George) and discussing the book in his back yard on a warm, summer evening. His old cat Zip sneaking through store bought shrubbery, and a din of cicadas.

    I loved Emerson and subsequently loved Zen. At times I feel as if I’ve based my entire life around the principal of personal strength.

    Thus, I believe in the resilience of the spirit, and that is how I live.

    If you always believe that you can achieve your goals; Then you must believe that the human spirit can achieve anything. You can never fail; and if you do, you know that you can overcome.

    Thank you for referencing this book Haven.

  2. I hope Mother Delonda tells everyone — but especially you, George — about the first time she read it. She and I spent many years talking about it, off and on, and I vividly remember her response to it, when it was first assigned to her in college. I was small. The cover itself is totemic to me.


  4. I can’t believe we now have two Stutevilles. I’m sorry I missed that the first time around.

    I’m sensing a dynasty in the making, similar to what Bobby Knight created at IU.

  5. This is the very thing I have been pondering for a while now, actually ever since I turned to pharmaceuticals to soothe that dark night of the soul I’ve been dealing with since I was about 8 or so. My faith has been shook up, shook down…I still have it but it’s fundamentally different, and I think that’s OK.

    I’m starting to embrace parts of myself that I tried to push aside practically my whole life. I’ve been intellectually lazy, spiritually ignorant, and trying to be too many people at once. Maybe it’s that whole turning 30 thing, but I’m settling into myself, finally.

    So, here are some things that I have built my life around, and they are all good and worthy, but they are not ENOUGH.

    Natural Childbirth (home, even)
    Cooking Whole Foods
    Being a Happy Homemaker
    Lipstick, Hair Dye, and Fashion (sticks out like a sore thumb!)

    Looking at this list, it’s glaringly obvious to me that I’ve been focusing only on the physical aspects of my life and ignoring the development of my mind and soul. I’ve made so many excuses why I don’t read what I should, don’t read enough, never have read enough. I’ve been saying “You know I can go through the maze, just give me the cheese” and I’ve been completely unwilling to work for it.

    So, I’m making a new list.

    Here’s the stuff I’m adding


    Jesus (the real one)

    Reading EVERYTHING, especially the things that are challenging and scary. I’ve been a hypocritical intellectual coward, I’ve told everybody that they should read it all because what does not kill you will make you stronger and I’ve been scared of some printed words on a page…afraid of what they might make me think or say or do.

    Listening to music again, and I mean actively seeking out stuff I haven’t listened to instead of just throwing on The Queen is Dead or Apollo 18 for the 5 bazillionth time. (Though listening to Johnny Cash, Elvis and Roy Orbison on repeat are thoroughly acceptable, and shall be a cornerstone in my children’s musical education.)

    Really listening to my sweet, amazing, smart, gorgeous children and working harder at being the mom they deserve (again, thank you Prozac, I consider you a gift from God (the real one))

    Writing, Writing, Writing. Not being scared of it anymore.

    Loving, really loving, without any desire to change people’s minds or do anything with them at all except see them as God sees them and love them with pure, true, love, the love of a mom, the love of a friend, the love I have been afraid of because of what people would think. I’m tired of trying to justify why I love people. ps I love Drag Queens. There. I said it.

    I’ve been trying to add Put Things Back Where You Found them for the last 7 years, maybe I’ll finally get it.

    Being more loving to my dad, who suffers from the same crazy disease as me, I call it Rocks in the Head.

    Pet turtles. I’ve always wanted one.

    Here’s the stuff I’m keeping:

    My husband Hugh is a given, that hasn’t changed except that everyone should be nicer than they are to their darlings. He’s one in a million.


    Antiques (but not too many)

    Skirts and Lipstick and Vintage Jewelry

    Rachael and Fritzi, the best introverts a loudmouth like me could ever hope for (I should include Hugh in this…I love quiet people)

    My dearest mom. When it is her time to go I will basically end up a torso on a skateboard (maybe I should add Cutting the Apron Strings to the list of things I’m doing? I call so often my dad tells her “It’s Kate on the Kate Phone” like it’s Batman calling Commissioner Gordon.)

    I’m keeping Film. And a few assorted TV shows on DVD.

    Here’s the stuff I’m trashing:

    Crippling Self Doubt (again, thank you Prozac. Now when I worry I only feel it in my head and not in stomach. But still, lets just do away with it entirely)

    Judgement (except towards my own private, moral code. Mind your Business sounds about right)

    Church Involvement. Not entirely, because I love my church, but hello! I have other things to think about, like this blog. I don’t want my kids to grow up tired and resentful, the way I did. Once a week is PLENTY.

  6. Oh my heavens. I must now mention that I used to be friends with a Stuteville in high school. He was a drag queen, and once he came over to my house to watch Rocky Horror Picture Show. And that’s what I considered WITNESSING, oh you holy brethren and sisteren.

  7. Kate, as I have said before: I have experienced natural childbirth three times, and it is for wildlife.

  8. After my third baby, my 10 lb daughter who looked like a piglet (she’s fat, but has a great personality, I’d tell people) was born in a CATTLE TROUGH (it was on purpose…not like I was being air-lifted from a farm in an emergency situation and the baby just sort of fell out of me into one. I had a water-birth, and it was borrowed) after 36 hours of labor and 15 minutes of not being allowed to push I said NEVER AGAIN. I told my husband he could have surgery. I was done.

    And then two weeks later, I forgot all about that. I looked at her sleeping face and knew it wasn’t over, there was another one out there. And later I was told her name, and Hugh got the same message. So there I go again. But hopefully not for a while.

    And of course, I’ll do it the same way again, because hey, doesn’t evolution teach us that we’re all animals anyway? I’ll just pull some rags out of laundry basket and go hide in the closet next time.

  9. As usual this leaves me with so much to think about, and my best lines will come just as I am about to fall asleep. I am in that most glorius of places, where “40 year old people pleaser” meets “41 year old I am just fine like I am and getting better all the time”. I love being a new mom again, I love being quiet and eager and for once not afraid. It is all about my children, my husband who never gives up on me, my mother who I am giving a chance and my father who was 37 years too late to meet me but who gets a chance now too. It is about learning, and giving of myself. It is my faith, and seeing that faith in my children, and it is my daughters poetry and laying on the couch listening to a 9 year old play the piano.
    This topic is also timely in that I just received in the mail today, from Amazon, the new book “A Marriage, Monks, and A writers life- Acedia and Me” by Kathleen Norris and I could not recall why I ordered it. Now I know-I thought perhaps I was suffering from acedia and its clinical cousin depression, but writing this list makes me think maybe that is not the case. I do care!

  10. i think we should form The Waltons and do something new with it. I always did love that show, although I admit being confused on why the Waltons could be on the air and be so lovely and perfect and engrossing, while I was sitting in my alcoholic’s father’s apartment watching cockroaches skitter in gangs, while elsewhere country boys were being shot to ribbons in Viet Nam. my simple logic suggests that since everyone was suddenly divorced and not nearly as happy about it as they thought they’d be, and the limbs of teenagers were blown clean off in jungles for no good reason (as if there could be a good reason), and Nixon was president (a man whose only job in life should have been to pose for water pipes to smoke dope through his pursed lips)? well, what with allthat we needed some corn cob pipe smoking crinkly eyed grampa and a close knit family called the Waltons, with Michael Learned in a gingham apron serving pie on a regular television basis.

    once we do that, i think the information on how to live will come to us gradually.

    some things i am doing in the meantime include:

    not buying anything i don’t need
    having thumb wars with my son,pablo (“1..2..3..4…i call thumb war!)
    getting books from the library but sending books to haven to feed my addiction
    not participating in the production of the “commercial arts”
    may stop lying about my age,may not
    collect unemployment for the first time in my life
    pay more attention to my feet
    stop running into things
    continue the free fall that my life is now: i like it
    move into haven’s house when she’s done with it and when mine sells
    allow abundance to fall on my family of 2, as it always has through some unknown grace
    believe fully and completely that 2 is a family
    take more baths
    give up my loyalty to those who haven;t earned it and do not want it
    more nude sun bathing, fuck the bees
    continue loving everyone no matter what
    stop fucking everyone no matter what-although even this will leave me w/ more sex than a grown woman technically needs but certainly not more than she wants or is entitled to. i just like kissing and sex, it’s how i exercise. GOD.
    leave home. it’s time.
    go to church and sob my guts out until i let go of something heavy
    continue to talk to strangers and avoid my relatives, who are alien beings
    endure the waves of love

  11. ps natural childbirth would have killed Pablo. he was a double-wrap cord baby with a prolapsed placenta. otherwise, i might havefelt good about it, except for the pain that i literally could not bear. could. not. bear. i know, because the epidural MISSED THE SPOT and i felt everything until they rushed me to surgery and hacked him out, thank GOD ALMIGHTY.

  12. On The Subject of What Iodine Means And What Iodine Can Do

    well it’s just come to me – the answer to the quintissential mystery of iodine – via the majestic and timely glory of His Mysterious Ways. tonight i picked up a book i’d been recommended long, long ago and of course just happened to have a signed first edition of, because i am funny that way about books. my mother taught me to love books but she didn’t count on me making an obsession of them. she didn’t count on me cruising the Goodwills for first editions of Couples when I was nine. anywho. she surely did, however, count on me being a writer (i do not know how she knows everything, but she does and now we all have to live with it.) she just knew and always said It’s Your Destiny as though she were announcing the time on live radio. i made her a character with her very own real name – Bunny – in my last book, a memoir, which should teach her who’s boss once and forever. of course, everyone loves Bunny best, which suits me just fine, she deserves it for suffering me lo these forty-odd years; yes her real name is Bunny and my uncle’s name is Pinkie. swear to god. SO. i’m just reading this very fat, quiet, beautiful book tonight entitled BLUE HIGHWAYS, A JOURNEY INTO AMERICA. well, it’s perfect, is all. the author (a half-breed named William Least Heat Moon) is 38 when he loses his job teaching english and his wife leaves him and he decides to just drive the blue roads, the back roads, of america in a complete circle in his ford econoline van which he has converted into a spartan home on wheels. and he is a photographer as well (boy is he) and he brings his camera and $428 and thats about it except for gas credit cards. it’s 1980. true story. and fromthe very first page, this book is a phenomenal joy, because it unfolds with such blinding language and truth and grit. he stops where he feels like it to ask people directions or whatever, and because he’s in these dinky little towns and backroads, everyone has time and is open,more or less, to tell everything. he talks to them and takes their picture and just goes like that for a long ass time. it’s about the most beautiful book ive ever read. SO i’m only to page 33, WHEN HE STOPS IN A town called Nameless, Tennessee and chats with the owner of the general store and his wife – and that my friends is when the subject turns to IODINE.

    “I got some bad ham meat one day,” Miss Ginny said,”and took to vomitin’. All day all night. Hangin’ on the drop edge of yonder. I said to Thurmond, ‘Thurmond, unless you want shut of me, call the doctor.’ ”

    “I studied on it,” Thurmond says

    “You never did. You got him right now. He come over and put three drops of iodeen in half a glass of well water. I drank it down and the vomitin’ stopped with the last swallow. Would you think iodeen could do that?”

    “Knew all the old medicines,” Thurmond said. “Only drugstore he needed was a good kitchen cabinet. None of them antee-beeotics that hit you worsen your ailment. Forgotten lore now, the old medicines, because they ain’t profit in iodeen.”

    “Thurmond, get the boy a piece of buttermilk pie before he goes on.”

    “Hilda, get him some buttermilk pie,” He looked at me. “You like good music?” I said I did. He cranked up an old edison phonograph , the kind with the big morning-glory blossom for a speaker,and put on a wax cylinder. “This will be ‘My Mother’s Prayer,'” he said

    While I ate buttermilk pie, he served as disc jocky of Nameless, Tennessee. “Here’s ‘Mountain Rose’.” It was one of those moments that you know at the time will stay with you to the grave: the sweet pie, the gaunt man playing the old music, the coals in the stove glowing orange, the scent of kerosene and hot bread. “Here’s ‘Evening Rhapsody’ “. The music was so heavily romantic we both laughed. I thought: It is for this I have come.

  13. Here’s my list to myself, in no particular order:

    Fail frequently, spectacularly, mindfully. I keep in mind that guy on 60 Minutes who, at every day’s end and with a bit of jolly cajoling, asks his kids and his employees, “so, tell me how you failed today!” putting failure in its rightful place, square in the middle of enthusiasm, because it is the genesis, the guide, for every success that follows. Of course, this is only given that one is paying attention, acknowledging mistakes, trying a new way instead of the insane thing, the repetition without variance of approach. So that eventually I shall stumble upon the right way. This is the hope, except for those of us that appear to be pathologically fastened on succeeding at failure at all costs, or maybe just loathe to admit that we were wrong and we might conceivably have to do something about it. — It’s also those history teachers’ hopes that nationally and globally, we make the time to be as meticulous about our histories, as informed in our political lives, as in our personal ones — how else to avoid doing the same thing and expecting a different result (apologies to Einstein).

    Have an awareness for our interconnectedness in every word/thought/deed. My first and last effective church was a “New Thought” church whose minister took the Transcendentalists as baserock instructive in how to live. We also heard a lot, in sermons and in classes, “what you’re looking for, you’re looking with, and looking at.” I run it through my head when I’m feeling alone, unconnected, isolated, like what I do has no effect on the people around me, even the strangers I don’t speak to. When I was younger, I operated as if I were a cipher and, inadvertently but no less responsible, hurt people. It’s my major regret, one for which I find myself continually (constantly?) looking for ways to correct for it in the present. It’s more than this, of course, and it seems a superficial expression of the depth and breadth of interconnectedness I’m speaking of: you will have to intuit the rest.

    Stop living parenthetically. I am continuously (continually?) deleting parentheses, as it somehow implies I’m not sure if “this really belongs here.” There’s an apologetic quality of declaration I’m no longer so tolerant of, and am trying to eradicate in all its insidious forms. I’m not sure if this is a product of growing up female or of growing up on ACOA’s outreach list. But: if I mean to say it, if it needs saying, it has a right to be there, and perhaps not just as a sidebar. This goes for my words, my actions, in the way I “live and move and have my being.” I will not indulge the trend of starting to speak before taking a breath, so that I am bewitchingly breathless (sorry for the alliteration, George) at the end of my sentence, a tip-off that I think what I have to say really has no weight or import, leaving me way overshooting self-deprecation and dropping right into irrelevance. Why open my mouth if I don’t mean what I say or if it doesn’t need to be said? I wrote to a friend recently about what I thought it took to sing well, how the flat note or time that wasn’t “in the pocket,” how the trite, cliche, or derivative phrasing was fundamentally disrespectful to those I’m asking to listen. If I didn’t mean it, I shouldn’t be wasting their time. My body language — my on-the-money time or clarity of pitch — is my truth. If I’m not speaking my truth, I should not speak at all. In the same vein: not every thought has to be verbalized. The filter between mind and mouth should be cultivated, courted.

    Oh yes, talk less, listen more. And for listening behind the words, be alert for that same truth I am trying to express in whoever I’m listening to: in their tone of voice, inflection, eyes, hands, breathing, stance, posture, if and how they touch, angle of body to listener. Listen for what they are not saying. (There’s that captivating study where researchers had a very high incidence of predicting divorce, without hearing the [innocuous] conversation going on, but watching body language. Eye-rolling was the best indicator of contempt, which was poison doom to the eventually divorcing couples.)

    We are stewards, not owners. Our air, water, resources, do not belong solely to us (and by us, I mean multinationals) but to everyone, including future generations of both humans and all other living beings. Therefore, one day, I will drive an electric car and power my home entirely off the grid. The peace and healing experienced in a place with few human traces is reason enough to keep my having visited undetectable for those who come later. Public space is shared space, not “me” space. I am not a fan of snowmobiles, leaf blowers, jet skis, stray beer cans or cigarette butts for this very reason.

    Lose the TV — though I am still entrapped in this one. At the least, limit myself to two hours a week. Read deep and broad, not just graphic novels, magazines, beach reads and thrillers (though I do like all that junk food), but life-altering, challenging books that bring me up. I didn’t give myself permission to read fiction until 2000, so I haven’t read all of what I should have yet, one of the many reasons I so often find myself here. Also, read widely for national and world news, as the truth is somewhere between the two extreme versions of how the story is told.

    Bring mindfulness to every moment. Absent a respect for the moment at hand, we miss everything.
    The juice of life is right here, right now. Everything is miraculous.

    Laugh big and often. Preferably in company, but alone is good, too. I have a long list, foremost our lovely hostess, also Augusten, and Rakoff, Vowell, Sedaris, Twain and Wodehouse; Russell Brand being interviewed (though not interviewing or doing standup), Suzanne’s lists…

    Unlimit myself as to what I think I am capable of accomplishing. I’m not alone, I know, everyone is too young, too old, or broke, or unschooled, or big or small (in all senses), or lost, or unconnected and without resources, or unlucky, or depressed. Say what I want without boundary, expansive as all hell, just say it. Without regard to what I consider to ever have any grounding in reality. To say it is to claim it, though there is work attached. Denying I make my reality relieves me of a level of personal responsibility that’s intimidating to a lot of us, especially early on. So the response becomes a rigid unyielding denial of our part in how our lives are, extending to a denial in our part in how the world is. An insistence on the lack of choice — though choices are usually myriad, and what we usually class as untenable is merely uncomfortable. I disappoint myself in how often I’ve made decisions based in fear. I’m doing much better now, thank you.

    Use my words. I am not a middle child, yet I occasionally find myself speaking entirely without contractions, perhaps owing to an early affection for Damon Runyon. I have a penchant for saying “penchant,” using correct punctuation, looking for how to use language at its best, with clarity. We are so … stymied for how to say what we mean, while hoping to be compassionate or to avoid confrontation, and this becomes true the more intimate we become with another … that if we have to dive for an archaic or unusual usage to say the thing to be most clear, then dive we must, and no mocking allowed (I have a sister who tortures me as well, but not in the nice way Melinda does).

    My friends are my family, and I will continue to cherish them as such. I will air grievances promptly and with compassion, or let them go entirely. I will be in their corner, always, even when they are just wrong, when I will tell them so, with the kindness and gentleness of manner required when preparing to mortify a loved one. I will suspend judgment — that is, the attaching of inferior character to actions — and assume purity of intent. I will gently but firmly detach from those who have less than purity of intent.

    Is it New Year’s already?

  14. Having lived several different lifetimes since my birth in 1959, my current M.O. is to live the moment. Trite, but I have a hard time doing it. I find myself thinking ahead, thinking back — Did I turn off the drier? Lock the door? Let the dog back in before … and then can’t recall my drive to school. I focus on one word: Breathe. It’s also overused, but! it works for me. I’m back in my body, I’m looking at where I am. I find myself sitting comfortably on my backyard deck, overlooking the lovely koi pond that I forgot while I was making mental lists. To me, that’s ingratitude. That’s a “sin.” Missing the Present worrying about the Past and Future.

    The eternal is now. And it’s FUN! This isn’t a rehearsal, and happily almost nobody is paying any attention to what I’m doing! “The Kingdom of God is spread upon the earth, and men do not see it.” I’m looking for it, and I’m seeing it. I bought a ticket to this movie, this lifetime, and before the lights come up I’m buying into it. When it’s too scary (and it’s been horrific in my current lifetimes more than once) I’ve wondered what the hell I was thinking when I stepped up to the box office window … But here I am again, munching popcorn and occasionally throwing it at the screen and laughing.

    How are we to live …? Enjoy your friends. Enjoy your meals. (Thank you, once again, J.C. Uhhh, no, not Him. I meant Joseph Campbell.) See the Big Picture and be Happy it’s Soooo Big you can’t even imagine it. Stand up and stretch your back and breathe deep. Look at the bright sky and your beautiful life and the sweet sweet dog/baby/world at your feet and think, “Who wouldn’t wanna be Me?”

  15. It’s really tempting to respond to this in a resolutions sort of way (this is what I am newly committing myself to), but I feel like perhaps, at 30, if something is not already a crucial part of my life, it may never become one. One example is exercise: I would love to tell you that keeping my body fit and healthy is something that is integral to my being, but it’s not and never has been. I do hope that may change in the future, but so far it hasn’t. So it doesn’t make the cut. So here are the people, things and ideals around which my life is currently built:

    My husband, who is immensely creative and funny and far more intelligent that he believes himself to be. I can have serious discussions with him, I can enjoy life with him, and most importantly, I can laugh (often!) with him.

    My parents. My dad is one of the most incredibly sweet people on the planet, and my mom loves me so fiercely that she would rip anyone who hurt me to shreds. Their house is one of my favorite places in the world to be – it gives me happiness and warmth and comfort.

    My niece. Before her, I didn’t know that I liked children. In fact, I was afraid of children. She changed everything. I want the world to open up for her and offer her whatever it is she needs to live a full and amazing life (note: needs, not wants – I love her enough to want her to experience all of the wonders of life, including the unfulfilled wants that make us stronger).

    Dogs in general, and my dog in particular. I don’t know what more I can say – if you don’t understand the importance of a good dog in a person’s life, then I can’t explain it to you.

    Independence. How fortunate I am to live in a country where I have the freedom to heartily disagree with our political leaders (and I do, often). I resent being treated a baby by the government I elected (*fill in the blank* is bad for you, and you’re too stupid to know that, so we’re going to make a law against it!); I value my right to make independent choices, even if they are mistakes – they are MY mistakes, and shouldn’t be taken away from me. I also value freedom in my personal life. I began freelance proofreading and copyediting outside of my regular day job in the hopes that some day, I will be able to work for myself and no one else and enjoy the freedom that comes from that. I love my day job, and I have a great boss and wonderful co-workers, but I still chafe under having to go to the office between certain hours and wear certain clothes, etc. I want my freedom job-wise, I am willing to work hard for it, and may choose not to have my own child until after I’ve achieved it.

    Books. I devour books. I always have. I imagine most of you were like me and were frequently fussed at as children for reading when you should have been getting ready for school, reading under the covers with a flashlight after you were supposed to be in bed, reading under your desk while the teacher was talking, etc. I never lost that passion. I read somewhere around 75 books per year (I counted last year for the first time). If someone took away reading, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.

    Friends. I have about 2 or 3 really close friends who are more like siblings than anything else. My mom considers them part of her brood. They stand up for me when I can’t stand up for myself; they hold me together when I’m falling apart; they encourage me in everything, including being the best person I can be.

    Chocolate, the really good stuff. ‘Nuff said.

  16. Oh, Haven. What a beautiful quote. I know that moment, and it occurs for me nearly always in Meeting or in nature. My brain quits racing and my chronic anxieties ease, and I have an overwhelming feeling of abundance, an abundance to the point of utter fullness—of life, of love, of beauty, of God’s presence and guidance. It is moment when I am neither worrying about the future or the past, a moment transcendent of time, when I am simply there, right there and right then, and all is good. Amen.

    How to live? The answer for me, on an ideal kind of level, is easy: to love everyone and serve others, using whatever gifts we have and wherever we are so led. And, unfortunately, it seems to me that the answer to that question on a daily, practical level is individual rather than universal, and it requires working at answering the question and then living the answer on a daily basis, which sometimes makes me mad. Well, maybe not mad, but sometimes longing to have a faith that is not so demanding, so difficult. You know, in one of those not-feeling-the-Emerson-moment moments.

    And by the way, that is the most ADORABLE fish face I’ve ever seen!

  17. OK. I just got to work and saw my RSS feed that Haven had posted, and so I immediately had to check in … will have to read all the thoughtful, interesting posts from this good group of friends later tonight, but I fear I will be thoroughly distracted throughout the day by visions of that purple frog-fish creature if Haven doesn’t reveal its origins … is that really a tadpole? What on earth are those fronds around it’s neck … my heavens but this planet is full of some amazing life ….

  18. Indeed, another Stuteville from the Indiana clan. I’m still here staking my claim in the Hoosier-Land; the crossroads of corn, over-priced gasoline, and band. Or the occaisional “Mangoe.”

  19. That was my son, in whom, I am well-pleased! There aren’t enough words; the deep well of love is too shallow; the range of all emotion too narrow for me to even begin to describe what his — and his brother’s — life means to me!

    I will write more about how to live later…right now I am eating a sausage, egg, white bread and gravy sandwich and it is sopping up all my creativity.

  20. The life anthem I have used for about 20 years . . . even as I read other enlightened works, this is the one that is my favorite guide and helps me reflect and refocus . . . I have capitalized the parts that mean the most to me . ..

    The Desiderata by Max Ehrmann (copyright 1927)

    Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. SPEAK YOUR TRUTH QUIETLY AND CLEARLY; AND LISTEN TO OTHERS, EVEN TO THE DULL AND IGNORANT; THEY TOO HAVE THEIR STORY. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however, humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and EVERYWHERE LIFE IS FULL OF HEROISM. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. BUT DO NOT DISTRESS YOURSELF WITH DARK IMAGININGS. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gently with yourself. YOU ARE A CHILD OF THE UNIVERSE NO LESS THAN THE TREES AND THE STARS; YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO BE HERE. AND WHETHER OR NOT IT IS CLEAR TO YOU, NO DOUBT THE UNIVERSE IS UNFOLDING AS IT SHOULD. THEREFORE BE AT PEACE WITH GOD, WHATEVER YOU CONCEIVE HIM TO BE. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, KEEP PEACE IN YOUR SOUL. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, IT IS STILL A BEAUTIFUL WORLD. BE CHEERFUL. STRIVE TO BE HAPPY.

    Haven, can you believe this man was an attorney in Terre Haute, IN where he grew up???

    I have returned to this anthem for more than 20 years and it has helped me center and opened my mind and shed pain, more times than I can count.

    My house is built on a foundation I have built – I had to dig out the faulty foundation and rebuild one with strength, love, and truth. My walls are thick and filled with fecund earthiness – those born to me, those nurtured by me, and those who nurture in return. My home is adorned with color and vibrancy and some quiet places to dwell. My sanctuary is quiet and reflects the outside world I have chosen to bring in. My roof includes battlements that protect me from the outside world and from the past which tries to lay siege – my lanterns are bright and keep out the night. Paxil and Celexa fill in the cracks when high winds blow, there is nothing that can bring my house to the ground, it has been rebuilt strong and has a team of keepers. We wave flags as needed: fewer days have SOS as many days have PEACE WITHIN . . .

  21. For the past thirty to forty minutes I’ve been pondering the question while reading other peoples responses. And it was humbling to read what everyone else had to say on the subject. Humbling because “My Brilliant Response” never came to me.

    It did lead, however, to several things I consider essential. The first is: Make plans but expect them to change. I never wanted to be in another relationship after “the psycho” (short relationship, long story that ends with a protective order). Then I met Robbie. All through that first summer I just expected us to be a fling. Oh, I missed him when I went on a vacation to Rehoboth Beach with my neighbors in August. But I wouldn’t allow myself to realize that I was falling in love with him.

    That all changed with four words little words from him during the first weekend trip that we took together in October of that first year. Robbie and I were standing in the parking lot of a flea market outside of Union Pier, Michigan waiting on my neighbors to finish buying some monstrous old castoff for their antique booth. I remember I was daydreaming and looking at Robbie from across the lot. What brought me back to reality was him looking me right in the eyes and saying “I know, me too.” And that was when my head caught up with what my heart had known for most of the summer. I loved him with every measure of my being. Eight years later, I still can’t believe how incredibly lucky and blessed I am to be with him.

    That brings me to the second part: Live honestly. From an early age I had been taught that our lives are to be hidden from everyone. I grew up in an alcoholic household. I don’t mean to garner any pity here, that’s just the way it was. For those of you who aren’t Adult Children Of Alcoholics, it’s akin to having an elephant in your living room, but no one will acknowledge it. And you’re not allowed to. EVER. So that gave me plenty of training to be able to deny any “elephants” in my own life.

    And as an ACOA it was easy to deny that I was gay. I denied it so well, that I ended up coming out twice. L-o-o-n-g story! I won’t go into the details, but after several bad relationships (OK, all of them) I decided I couldn’t live that way. So for many years after, I would always pick the wrong women to date. Or try to date anyway. They were either unattainable, mean, or just plain wrong for me. And the simple truth was that I picked those women because deep inside me I knew that I was gay and one day would end up cheating on them if things worked out. I just couldn’t do that to another person. I didn’t want to be one of “those guys”, hooking up on the sly ( I think it’s called “being on the down low”), hoping not to get caught. But eventually everyone does. So after much soul searching one evening, I came out. Again. And irrevocably.
    (As a footnote to the above disastrous dating of women mentioned here, I did receive the gift of a very good friend. Kim has been there, always supportive of me, for 24 – 25 years now.)

    And that brings me to my third part of “How are we to live?”: Live for the moment. I have a tendency to get way ahead of myself. I stopped writing years ago when a college professor of mine told me that I had talent as a writer and that while he enjoyed reading what I wrote, my grammar sucked! I apparently had never met a comma I didn’t like. (I think I would put in a comma where I would naturally pause when speaking. Not, such a great idea in print.) This was from someone who freelances and is published numerous times every month. So he knew of what he spoke.

    Hey! Great! No pressure there! Now I have to continue writing, learn grammar, and come up with new story ideas FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!!! I hadn’t even had the first article written, let alone published. But in my head I had already won a Pulitzer and was agonizing over how I was going to follow that up. So I did the only thing I could, I walked away. Besides, how could I write the truth if I couldn’t be honest about myself. [Ed. note: see previous paragraphs about being in the closet.]

    So, here’s the last truth for today. I worry too much. I worry that being a writer means success and failure. I worry too much (although not as much as I used to) about what other people think of me. I worry that all the things that are important and meaningful to me will be taken away. I worry that the people who mean the most to me won’t be there when I need them the most. And I worry that this is just an exercise in futility, that any talent I think I have is all in my imagination.

    By posting this, I’m letting go of my fear of criticism so that I can fully live in this moment, and with everyone’s help, become more of the person I’m supposed to be.

    Also, Melinda welcomed me back to the family in a previous post. Thanks Melinda, it feels good to be home again.

  22. You guys are so amazing.

  23. Suzanne, I would love nothing more than to form a tiny commune with every single person who posts on this site. I looked at my phone today and I realized there was NO one on it I really wanted to talk to. I have lovely friends, truly, but this place has been filling up a black hole in my life and I just want to carry you all around in my pocket.

    And I want to compliment Haven on having the courtesy to invite other people to blog on her blog. How incredibly unselfish. People post comments on my blog and I don’t say anything, I certainly don’t ask them to respond with their own insights. Damn. I think I’ve been doing this wrong.

  24. This applies to many of the posts here. This is a story told by the Ba’al Shem, relayed (I think) in Martin Buber’s book about the mystic. In a village where Jews were being persecuted, a man approached the local rabbi and told him if he could summarize the whole of the Torah while standing on one foot, the man would convert to Judaism. The rabbi lifted one foot off the ground and said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And put his foot back down.

  25. Sitting here in the after-glow of my 9,000-calorie breakfast sandwich wondering what to write about how to live…mercifully, a diversion in the form of The Desiderata by Max Ehrmann.

    Here’s my story on that, and it, too involves food. A couple of years ago I had just finished a really nice sail on the Chesapeake and briefly docked my boat at a marina so I could run to the restaurant to go to the bathroom (hated using my “head” for that function) and to grab some lunch.

    So I was seated at the bar having a beer and waiting for my burger when the woman, next to me, very drunk, started dancing and gyrating to the music, very briefly, before tumbling off the stool, taking her purse, loose change, cigarettes and what-have-you down with her.

    Being the chivalrous lad I am, I moved quickly to help her off the floor. In doing so, I couldn’t help but notice that her shorts had slid fairly low, thus exposing a fair amount of thong.

    What really caught my attention, however, were these words tattooed in tiny script right at the base of her spine: “Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms…”

    Her thong and pants waistband blocked the next line — or lines — but I thought, ‘Damn, that’s a really long poem, if memory serves me correct, I wonder if she has the whole thing tattooed there for all posterity.’

    Then I started laughing…

    Which she, probably being an English or Philosophy major, interpreted as my good-natured response to her embarrassing fall, saying, “There was something wrong with that chair.”

    To which I said, “No, the universe just wasn’t unfolding as it should.”

    To which she did not respond other than to light a cigarette and order another drink. She gave no indication nor acknowledged my little literary joke at all.

    By then my burger arrived and the moment was lost for a follow up, but I wondered, if somehow, she had the whole Desiderata etched there on her butt, or merely selected portions of text, or whatever. If I had been a younger and bolder man perhaps I would have asked for full reading, or at least a chance to edit.

    If I had asked, most likely she wouldn’t have heeded the “crack” wisdom deep in the poem: that part where it
    advises to pay attention to even the dull and ignorant or taking kindly, the counsel of years!

    Anyway…it was a great story, but one that can really only be told to a audience such as this.

    As for myself: I have no tattoos.

    Now I have to think about how to live.

  26. Kate, as I said to Christopher yesterday, no one can expect to know or be known except in dialogue. To post a blog is, in essence, to say to complete strangers, “Oh, here I am.” But if I didn’t have a conversation with you that would simply be another persona; without You there is no I.

  27. Ah, George. I need to remember to put down my coffee cup before reading your posts.

    As for myself: I have no tattoos.

  28. You also don’t sail from what I understand.

  29. Ha!!!!!!!!! You’re right. Not anymore shall you find my sturdy vessel, The Surprising Tern, bouncing upon the waters. I sold it and thus reclaimed my life.

  30. I just answered myself.

  31. Try saying it standing on one leg.

  32. Nay, George, I do not sail. I show unabashed favortism toward all land and air-based activities.

  33. I’ve spent _MANY_ enjoyable hours with Zen & the Art.

    Pirsig picks plaid as his favorite color in the preface; I paraphrase: “This is neither an authoritative book on motorcycle maintenance, nor Orthodox Zen Buddhism.”

    But that’s OK! Now I hear that Robert Pirsig has RENOUNCED Metaphysics of Quality! (MOQ).

    But wait! THAT’S OK!, I thought MOQ was sophist anyway. The mental gymnastics in the book were worth it though. Remember the clash between Phaedrus and the Chair of the Philosophy Dept? Intellectual Armageddon!

  34. George, I may never recover my pristine view of the Desiderata.

    The pithy “even the dull and ignorant” has always made it more believable (not so Pollyanna).

    Crack . . . I don’t have a tattoo, but I might just have to go for one now – what quote?? But I will wait for the Wii Fit and Personal Trainer result so that the tattoo won’t mutate in bizarre manners.


  35. How should I live and I ask for full pardon for leaning so heavily on the alliteration, for some reason, the letter, ‘L’ seems to permeate my thinking today:

    I want to laugh a lot — at myself, others, the world, the universe. If you can’t laugh about it, you can’t own it.

    I want to love a lot — without reservation, with singleness of heart, with regard to the whole of experience.

    I want to learn a lot — not be embarrassed or stymied by my ignorance of people or ideas or skills, but challenged and emboldened by what I lack.

    I want to be lucky a lot — to be open to chance and to vagaries, to wander off-script and schedule.

    I want to be local a lot — to be where I am needed and when I am needed.

    I want to be lucid a lot — to participate in my own life, not be apart from any of it, to be cognizant of what is going on around me.

    This is how I should live…and if I can think of anything else starting with the letter, ‘L,’ I will add to it.

    […and my son, Sam, who in his early teens renamed himself George to everyone else in the world, can vouch for the veracity of my Desiderata ‘tale.’]

  36. LOCAL. That’s so good.

  37. …I do truly mean these things, Haven, despite the word play.

    But where’s an editor when you need one. On second reading, I would however substitute the second reference to ‘needed’ in the local section with the word, wanted. That more precisely says where I want to be.

    ok, I leaving the Internet now because I am at work and actually need to work

    …but I thank you so much, Haven, for opening your blog like this so some of us can let it all hang out.

  38. Too true, the surroundings where we used to sail were filled with, to say the least, characters. Many braving the waters of the mighty Chesapeake with miniature Dachshunds and stout drinks in hand.

    I remember once in the marina by the tern receiving a grilled item from some Australians. It was a warm foil pouch and when I opened it I assumed the item to be a pork rib or some barbecue slathered meat. It was pineapple. I was also delicious.

    Looking back I can now understand a moral here. Surprises keep life interesting; and my dad’s obsession with having great luck “I’d rather be lucky than smart any day,” he would always say. Returns to me. And I think that perhaps a smart person would have not accepted a strangers gift, but a lucky person would discover that they enjoy cooked pineapple quite a bit.

  39. and a correction “IT* was also delicious.”

  40. I am quite fond of Sam Stuteville.

  41. carrie, your post was impeccable. i’m taking it all as the gospel. i am. it occurs to me that you would make a wonderful leader of something. if i could, i would vote for you, whatever you were running for and whomever you ran against. you seem very conscious, very righteous (the real Righteous) and most appealing. i can almost guarantee you that whatever you’re doing, you’re not being paid enough and you’re probably underutilized. i hope not, but? you probably are. the great ones always don;t FULLY know their TRUE worth – which may be part of what makes them great.

  42. I hate to do just quote somebody else, but whenever somebody asks me a question like “How should we live?” I think of this poem, “You Reading This, Be Ready,” by William Staford (hope the line breaks work okay):

    Starting here, what do you want to remember?
    How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
    What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
    sound from outside fills the air?

    Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
    than the breathing respect that you carry
    wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
    for time to show you some better thoughts?

    When you turn around, starting here, lift this
    new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
    all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
    reading or hearing this, keep it for life —

    What can anyone give you greater than now,
    starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

  43. Dang. William StafFord.

  44. Stafford was an acquaintance of mine, and remains one of my favorite poets ever. He was a member of the Church of the Brethren (close kindred of the Quakers) and was a conscientious objector during WWII. Rather than serve in the war he fought forest fires for something like three or four straight years. His selected poems, The Darkness Around Us Is Deep, is wonderful, wonderful.

  45. Sher, I met my first love in Terre Haute, Indiana. Yes, TT, I’m talking about you, if you can hear me.

  46. Have you all seen this?

  47. Oh, that video is wonderful. Filled my head and chest to see and especially hear it.

    Somehow I’m not surprised that you and Stafford might have been acquainted, Haven. By all accounts he was a true soul, y’know? Even in such pictures as I’ve seen, he seems to be at once gentle and made of iron. I’m not familiar with The Darkness Around Us Is Deep (er, yet 🙂 … The “You Reading This” poem is from a posthumous collection called The Way It Is.

  48. OH MY SOUL, JES, that is a gorgeous poem. Swoon. May I borrow it for Poetry Friday this week?

  49. With the reassuring knowledge I would never have my body tattooed (lord, the horrors I’ve seen tatted on women over 50), I’ve sometimes wished I could moon the ignorant of the world with the following printed on my ass:

    Do you still not understand? ~ Mark 8:21

  50. …back now, random stuff.

    TO JES: Sumptuous poem. Respect is one of my favorite words. I am astounded by its meaning: To look again.

    TO SAM: Thank God that meat turned out to be pineapple. I was somewhat suspicious when I bit into it and it bit me right back with all the barbs and pointy things on its rind. Jeez!

    TO KATE: Chances are real great that the Stuteville in Drag was a cousin. We have at least 200 of them in the Evansville area. Not all dress in drag, but, maybe ten percent or so might. I, myself, have worn a kilt as recently as last May, and found it quite satisfying. I did not wear blue makeup, however. …and your baby, born in a cattle trough…this anecdote will replace the picture I have in my brain next Christmas when hear, Away in a Manger!

    TO SUZANNE: Speaking of blue…Blue Highways is one of my all-time favorite reads. When that book came out, I read it to the accompaniment of Joni Mitchell, de Grassi and Herbie Mann on the stereo. Have never been the same since and that was waaaaay back in the 80s. And is there a truer or more humble or more thankful observation than: … “for this, I have come….Love it, love it.”

    TO ROBERT PIRSIG: Ok, ok, I didn’t read it all. I wanted to, but my mind wandered. Besides, there was some tough text to get through.

    TO RALPH: I ran into Hank over by the pond and he admitted that he indeed was the one who set the field on fire, and by the way, do you know Emily’s cell phone number?

    TO MY BOSS: Yes, I am just finishing up right now…I will email it over to you in just a minute. Can you hear me typing? That’s me finishing up right now.

  51. TO EVERYONE: Last night I watched the documentary, Young At Heart. It conveys everything we are talking about here today. Rush right out to your local video store and get your copy for the weekend. A wonderful movie.

  52. Oh yes, I can hear you. Even when you think I’m not listening. Wanted so much to come see you last week but with Kellie’s chemo and Chris’ tennis my schedule is mayhem. My daughter was up from Florida; my son from Bloomington – both over the weekend. It was madness. Great fun, but madness.

    We really should talk soon. I’m thinking of publishing a book of photographs. What do you think?

  53. I just love reading these posts, I feel as though complete strangers understand everything I am feeling and lots o’things I am usually thinking!

    Lately I have built my life around the motto “Sometimes you just have to” which, weirdly enough, I read in interview or some story about the actress Kathleen Turner.
    I love that saying, I repeat it to myself when I get up in the morning, when I drive to work, and all other terrible things I am forced to do as an adult!
    Also, I concur on all posts regarding dogs in your life. I am a firm believer that a dog can heal any part of your soul that has been damaged in anyway. I used to a self absorbed, destructive ( to my body and my mind) immature being until I discovered the joy and privilege of loving and owning a dog.
    I love the smell of their little doggy feet ( very similar to Fritos-which I also build my life around, no more effing diets more me!)and even find their stinky doggy breath comforting!! -Which on a side their teeth are perfectly clean per the vet.
    Oh, I have also tried to let go my phobias of health issued relating to me and my dogs. I tend to self diagnose all the things I love.

  54. Do you see that? I summoned Tim and he appeared. How witchy.

  55. You’re right…we are of one mind, like in Star Trek. Your blog delivered to me a wonderful surprise this AM in the form of my son. Deep thanks.

  56. Glad the Stafford poem resonated with so many people. The first time I read it, the hair stood up on the back of my head — which of course forced me to turn around, which forced me to confront that last line.

    Jules, yes: you have my permission to borrow someone else’s poetry for Poetry Friday ’cause God knows you’ll have none of mine. [laughing]

  57. PRIVATE TO HAVEN: “I am quite fond of….” You started reading The Shack, right?

  58. Tim — my Internet has been sketchy all day; I think I caught something from Kate, who was without power for like a month. YES, you should publish a book of photographs, absolutely.

    George, I haven’t started The Shack yet. I’m reading a blurb request, and it’s going slooooowly.

  59. Oh, good LORD. I have missed a LOT in the past few days apparently. Ohio was slammed with hurricane force winds Sunday – what is that about? I have power again, but alas no cable/internet until at least this Sunday. Thankfully, the Angie Internet Cafe (of failed sugarglider fame) is open for business. I almost started clapping along with the Obama chant. Good times! Haven – LOVED the Flat Stanley pic! Don’t worry about TSA as they’ve seen far worse than taxidermy. 🙂 I’ve put Zen on my reading list.

  60. Brandon, good LORD I was getting worried about you.

  61. Suzanne,

    I purchased a black baseball cap today at B&N, and it’s possible that one might fit into your life now and then. Look and see if you like it or hate it:

  62. What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy (or kindness) and to walk humbly with your God? –Micah 6:8

    I was just retelling my son the story of his name–Micah–which is just shorthand for this verse, and all I could ever hope for him–or for me.

    Except maybe to swoon endessly over John Donne, as I am certain that my life might be an enormous heap of metaphysical conceit.

    And maybe, with my family posse, to wander the country in the sweet VW camper van I just inherited.

    And possibly to listen to Prince until my head explodes.

  63. Haven,

    Thanks for the concern! I was worried I’d never get back on here. On the way to Muncie we took a side trip to Mooreland to check it all out. We managed to get lost twice on the way back. We have pictures if you’d like to see.

  64. Steiner, it’s possible that you and I are the same person. I’ve never seen us in the same room at the same time, for instance. I have a son named after a book of the Hebrew Scriptures; I have a wild crush on John Donne; I’ve always dreamed of a VW camper van; and I once listened to the Prince song, “You Need Another Lover (Like U Need A Hole In Your Head)” about 25 times in a row.

    Brandon, YES, I want to see pictures. Mooreland pilgrimages are SACRED.

  65. “Lost” is an overstatement. Western Indiana is really the same as northern Ohio after all. Except you have spotted donkeys. I never saw anything like it. It was a cream colored donkey with light brown spots, like something you would see in a candy shop but bigger.
    Drat, I wish we would have taken a picture.


    Here is the link to some of the pictures including the picture of us at the luncheon.

    *Disclaimer: We are not as kooky as we appear…okay, maybe we are. Taxidermied Sugarglider pics coming soon. 😉

  67. OK, so I read Haven’s post and I feel the need to respond immediately — and the I read everyone’s posts and I am distracted by happiness. Happiness that others in the world can open themselves so willingly to others; happiness that a community exists here that warms me with your willingness to reveal … whatever.

    Foundations for my life include:

    — Complete adoration of my three children. You must trust me; these people are so funny! So engaged! So willing to give their hearts! The planet is safe in their hands.

    — Need to read. My life verse doesn’t come from the Bible (well maybe, like Tom Sawyer, I connect to the verse which tells us, “Jesus wept.”). Thomas Jefferson wrote my life verse: “I cannot live without books.”

    — Are there actually people out there who might be torn between Obama and McCain? I offer you a write-in candidate — my father, Nathan Offield: A Good Man.

    — My sisters sustain me. One of them is actually kin by blood. The others are sister of the heart. I would founder without them.

  68. OK, I was just called a Republican for mixing up Eastern and Western Indiana. My sincere apologies.

  69. This discussion of a life’s foundation has prodded me into thought. Here goes, based purely on what my decadent ice creams have dictated…

    – My wife Kellie, who last year survived a major heart attack and is now fighting colon cancer. She is the embodiment of strength and hope.

    – My sons, who are so very alike yet sons of different mothers and 12 years apart. And much to their respective mothers’ dismay – they are both so very much like me.

    – My daughter, who seeks to cure the people of the world in any way she can. A trip to South Africa changed her view of, well, everything almost.

    – Friendships that are not dependent on time or place. These friends know who they are and that they dwell in my heart always.

    – Photography. It seems that I cannot go anywhere for any reason without at least one camera. It is my chosen medium of expression.

    That should be enough. Yes. Yes, it is.

  70. George- My son is also named Sam! Another thing we have in common.

    Oh boy, you folks are a hard act to follow. I have been in and out all day because my son is sick. He has mono. We just found out today. There is nothing worse for a 15 year old boy than to have to tell his friends he has mono. And, to feel like absolute crap at the same time and not even be able to appreciate all the high fives going around because they all still think you get mono from kissing.

    Steiner- I love the book of Micah.

    How we are to live? Like it is never too late.

    I started college in 1978. I completed my undergraduate degree in 2005. I decided that I needed to finish it before my kids went to college but I still freely say, “Do as I say,not as I did.”

    I got sober at 47. Ok, I probably should have before I turned 40, but I did it before 50. Never too late.

    I have never read the Zen book. Never too late.

    Oh, there are so many more things on my list still to be done. Thousands of things. But, you know, I have heard this saying a lot in the past 5 months that I take to heart. One day at a time.

    So, I guess there are two things that are important. To live one day at a time and remember that it is never too late to do that one or one thousandth thing not yet done.

  71. So, I think you’ve explained my sense, some years ago when I came across Zippy, that I didn’t need to write the book after all.

    Here’s my favorite Prince image:
    A student I taught in Cambridge City IN who was super smart and the head cheerleader and the lead in the school play and general queen of the Western Wayne Universe told me that she liked to drive her car fast around and around in the circle at the end of her cul de sac with the windows down, listening to Gett Off (63 positions in a one night stand).

    Maybe this is something you’d like to try, in the spirit of centrifugal force.

  72. Tim, I think about Kellie every day. I even attempt the Quaker Hoo Ha Hold Her In the Light stuff, but as you know I am a heathen and I’m not sure I’ll be much help. There is a reason I didn’t pursue a ministerial path. But still.

  73. Linda, one of my favorite lines from Delonda’s life is from one of the women in her prayer group at Mooreland Friends. She told them she was considering going to college at 41. She said, “But I’ll be 45 before I even finish an undergraduate degree!” The friend said, “How old will you be if you don’t go?”

  74. I love your mom. I, too, was 45 when I walked across the stage. Now I want to go to the Divinity School and Vanderbilt. I should say, I am going to go to the Divinity School. I am just not sure when. I am friends with the wonderful dean of the school. When I got my undergraduate degree he said, “You know Linda, you can take up to 6 years to get your master’s.”

    Bless him.

    Both of my kids will (hopefully) be finished with their undergraduate studies in 7 years. I will be 55. So, God willing, I will have my Masters of Theology before I turn 60. Not too shabby. 🙂

  75. I meant to say the Divinity School AT Vanderbilt. Not AND. But, I guess that is correct too. ha

  76. Haven, I apologize profusely for breathing Hurricane Ike germs on your ‘puter.

    Brandon…you lucky dog! Our camera was on the fritz during our whole trip. Every picture we took of our kids looked like they were shaking violently, so by the time it came to see Haven we gave up. As it turned out, we just needed to twist the little dial every so slightly to the left. We have terrible luck with photography.

    I have to tell you guys this…I’ve had bad caffeine-induced insomnia lately, which I cope with by napping on the couch while my daughter sleeps and my sons watch movies. I had been listening to Johnny Cash Unearthed while I cleaned (i.e. excavated) and I left it playing in the other room while my boys watched “The Miracle Maker,” a Claymation film about Jesus (Jarvis’s choice). The music and the dialog were doing weird things to my brain as they intermingled and I ended up dreaming about this blog, of all things. It was scrolling, scrolling and then Mother Delonda started sending me messages through my TV…they were like televised instant messages and in the background of all of them were Tex Avery style cartoons, and I got so distracted that I couldn’t read what she was saying, but it was something about the blog that she wanted me to know.

  77. GoodNESS, I adore you people.

    I live by the poetry and intricacies of ordinariness (one time while walking to class, I was reduced to tears as I realized that every single person I passed on my way had as many or more stories than me; they had loved ones and fears and heartaches; some of them might know each other; they were all changing the world, just by BEING, and my poor heart just can’t take that there is a whole WORLD of beautiful creatures walking to class, driving to work, writing on blogs…). I try to live day by day and not look more than a week ahead in my planner. I live by my faith — in God as well as this world. I live by hope (YES, Obama!). I live by the concept that God is Love (your wording on that in The Used World is stunning and perfect). I live by my dear parents and my brother who is better in all ways than me. I live by those gorgeous creatures I am lucky enough to call my friends, especially my best friend Blake who is so awe-inspiring in all ways that he seems to be a step or two ahead in evolution. I live by big black soul singing, kettle corn, flowy skirts, huge purses.

    I could fill up all of cyberspace with others’ words that I live by, but here are two that I cling to desperately:

    “I’m sick and tired of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.” — Franny and Zooey. I want to be sure that I do what I do and am who I am for the right reasons, not because I’m trying to “be somebody”. In a word, humility.

    “What was any art but a mold in which to imprison for a moment the shining element which is life itself – life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose.” — Willa Cather. As a theatre major and someone whose overlying passion is to create, those words are so dear to me. Much has been said on art and its creation, so that is just one of my foundations, but it is true, true, true.

  78. Haven – Just a couple of things. I went to J. Brent Bill’s website and found the Beliefnet Belief-O-Matic quiz. Not sure what to make of it, but here’s my top five results:
    1. Liberal Quakers (100%)
    2. Neo-Pagan (100%)
    3. Unitarian Universalism (96%)
    4. Reform Judaism (95%)
    5. Hinduism (91%)

    What does that mean?!? The same score for Liberal Quaker as Neo-Pagan?!?

    Second. I finally figured out what seems so familiar and that keeps drawing me back here. It’s almost exactly like the late night talks all of us had in college (ok, you were in high school but still light years ahead of me) when all of us would stay up for hours just talking about different ideas. Yup. Expand the cranium. Mental gymnastics. Either that or we’re all just a bunch of insomniacs.

  79. Havenest, we both thank you for your thoughts and Quaker get well wishes. Heathen or not, I’m sure you have helped in some manner yet unknown to all of us.

    And to the previous entry – I like the word witchy. Caster of spells. Ummmm-hummmm. Summon me and I appear.

  80. J. Shue, I for one am an insomniac. And in high school I was both precocious and unbalanced from the Twinkies.

  81. Who you calling Twinkie, cupcake? La la la la la la! Many fond memories of the raids to the Washington Street Women’s Penitentiary and several failed prison breaks.

    (with apologies to the warden, whom I’m sure still watches in the shadows.)

  82. OH GOD, I’d forgotten about that sign.

    In a desperate attempt to keep me from being kicked out of the . . . second high school to give me the boot, Delonda tried locking me in my bedroom. I could only come out to go to school in the morning, and at 11:00 I was supposed to be closed back in. But Jim Shue and my other roommates made a sign that read Washington Street Women’s Penitentiary and put it on the door, and I believe the whole debacle only lasted a few nights. Then I was kicked out of that school. Thanks for trying, Mom!!

  83. Yeah. Not one of our brightest moves. I, up until that night, never knew that Delonda was capable of anger. Hoo! Big mistake!

    Sometimes, I think we need a bottle of TAB in here. But maybe it’s best not to disturb some ghosts.

  84. Suzanne: only in the privacy of my own home do I play “If I Were Queen of the World” (universal health- and daycare figure conspicuously), but I do thank you very kindly for your vote! — I do hope my post read as I meant it, notes to myself — the residual smattering of “we” throughout is probably fallout from a recent attempt to write a business collateral piece without once using the world “I”; the emphasis on the global reflects my fear and loathing when I get a look at the polls, as well as the after-effects of a tongue-lashing I endured from a Canadian woman I ran into last fall who blamed me directly for Bush (“so unfair,” I whined to myself, “I did not vote for Bush!” But she had a point: I hadn’t done everything in my power to elect Gore, and for that matter, don’t spend near enough of my time on the needs of those beyond my immediate family/friends/self). — I strive moment to moment to be conscious, I pray to be righteous (and not the “self-” flavor), I doubt my appeal daily. But you’re on the money, here — few of us value our true worth, right? Our virtues are transparent to us because they’re ours. — Thank you kindly for your most moving words.

    Amy: bless you for the “Frito” and all those doggy smells reminder — I miss my pup something fierce, am not in a position to get another, and am so with you on the joys of animal presence.

    JES: thanks for posting the Stafford poem, comfort and warmth wash over me. Darkness and Way it Is now on the library hold list.


    anyone who hasn;t read JOE JONES by anne lamott is in for a hilarious, strange treat of massive proportions. i think it was her 2nd or 3rd novel, and it;s…well, teh characters are REAL. YOU WILL SEE THEM AND KNOW THEM ALL. killingly funny and real and wise.

    2. A COUNTRY YEAR by sue hubbel. magnificent, “quiet”, contemplative, exciting, perfect in every letter and page. i love her.

  86. As a fellow insomniac, I just came across something new to me that might just be exactly what I need- the chance to further my learnings without leaving the house and my many kids. Has anyone had any experience with the online courses available at Yale, Berkeley, or more to the point, the course titled “Ancient wisdom and modern love” at Notre Dame?

  87. Caryl, I thought by now I’d have a PhD in Ancient Wisdom and Modern Love, but not so much. Also no cathedral over here. (Or university in the barn.) So you take the course and report back to us, yes?

  88. Oh, and these aren’t courses for credits or a degree, just for those passionate about learning, like us.

  89. Haven, are you ever coming to California she says with a whine..

  90. Like it’s said that Eskimos have many words pertaining and revealing snow, so is it with reading. Sometimes all you want or can handle is a bite-sized read, tasty, easily digested, not a big banquet like Iodine, so huge that you have leftovers that become whole dinners or lunches and certainly not a five-courser like Split, tasty enough that you want to devour the whole thing quickly, tasty enough that you put the fork down between each bite and give some thought to the preparation and ingredients.


    Tonight sleep is sitting out in the car, parked in the alley as I peep out the window wondering when or if it will come on in.


    I re-read this wonderful collection of posts and poems and sharings and carings and conjurings and longings and blessings and laughs, memories and hopes and I know that a day such as this, recorded such as this, is a balm, a potion that can bring ease and comfort at times like this, when sleep is a stranger sitting outside in a car, smoking a cigarette, biding his time.

    And I need that comfort when the worries scurry across the floor, when the imagination and the joy leave me and tuck themselves in for a good snooze, abandoning me images of Palin, a DOW in freefall, a hurricane at the door, a conversation with someone who does think the world is 6,000 years old, Baghdad and bullets and a missile fired from an invisible drone hovering above the bed of children.

    …time for some light reading right now, switch on the porch light, wave at the person in the car in the alley and whisper: get your ass inside right this minute.

  91. following haven;s example and the advice of you kind folk? OK PEOPLE. YOU CAN NOW POST COMMENTS on my blog. have at it and be KIND .

  92. well. i now have a Comment link on my blog, thanks to Haven’s insight. sigh.

  93. Have any of you listened to Maggie Soboil read “Cry, the Beloved Country” on audio book? It’s transcendent.

    Or read Joe Hill’s “Heart-Shaped Box”? (He’s Stephen King’s son.) The someday movie version will be jump-in-your-seat scary.

    Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins”? I revere Sondheim, and I love “Assassins” just slightly more than “Sweeney Todd.” The history of presidential assassins is told with each one telling his own story, beginning with Booth and ending with Lee Harvey Oswald being coerced into JFK’s murder by Booth. John Hinckley and Squeaky Fromme sing a 1960s-style ballad called “I Am Unworthy of Your Love, Jody/Charley”. The music totally enhances the story.

    How about John Prine’s duet with Bonnie Raitt, “Angel from Montgomery” …

    And what happened to Sheridan Hay, because I really liked “The Secret of Lost Things,” but maybe I’m in too big a hurry for her to keep producing work.

  94. Kate dear, change the channel and you will be able to receive the wisdom.
    Beloved Haven, Zen was a life changer for me as you know. I read it too fast and got frustrated and threw it across the room (see Jim, the temper is there). When I went back, apologized to the book, finished reading it, I knew one important truth. I had forgiven John Mood (read She Got Up Off the Couch for details of that confrontation)because he was neither sheep nor shepherd, but the wolf on the outside of the fold.
    The philosophy is fascinating if flawed, but the style and the craft are perfect. I wrote the author a fan letter (I admit it) and received a nice postcard from his wife. We didn’t bond or anything, but it was nice of her to speak for him–he was out sailing or studying his navel or something.
    It was good to see Haven’s friends at the reading, and of course it was a joy to see my daughter.

  95. Delonda: The philosophy is fascinating if flawed, but the style and the craft are perfect.

    Yes. Exactly my sentiments.

    And as Haven mentioned, there’s also the story. At the climactic moment near the very end, a passage goes something like (sorry, don’t have it here), “‘Chris,’ I said — and it was his voice”… There, at that moment, it was miraculous to me in retrospect how his resolving the split in his soul suddenly resolved the intellectual split he’d been (ostensibly) grappling with throughout the book — miraculous how neatly he’d pulled the stunt off.

    But that was later. At the time, my eyes did well up.

  96. How we are to live – Mindfully and with compassion for all living things. Joyfully banishing regrets. Hopefully with humor, tolerance and resilience for life’s ups and downs. This blog brings me joy, humor and hope in knowing you are all out there.
    Also, for Delonda- My daughter is on her 2nd high school now. Not sure how long that will last. Any “words of wisdom”?

  97. Terri, I can’t speak for the Great Mother Delonda, but I can say that in her case she did one simple thing: she didn’t run away from home. That’s a LOT, given what I was like as a teenager.

  98. If I may take exception to one thing in Pirsig, and it’s what I mean about trying to squash East against West: the metaphor he uses for the split in his soul, the ‘ghost’ of Phaedrus he’s chasing (the ghost of rationality itself), is a knife “. . . an intellectual scalpel so swift and so sharp you sometimes don’t see it moving.” Now that’s a very effective image, but it’s the very object used in post-Platonic philosophy to explain subjective morality, or moral relativism — I don’t remember if the image goes as far back as Herodotus, or if it’s Hume or Spinoza — but the argument is that a knife, particularly as a scalpel, is neither moral nor immoral, but a tool in the hands of either a physician or a murderer. I find it sloppy (I apologize to everyone this might might offend) to muddy the waters that way. I’d never noticed it until I re-read most of the book a couple days ago. I got to that section and thought, “Wait a second. Does he mean to invoke the possibility of Nietzsche here?” And I don’t think he did. Because the knife in question is NOT relative or subjective. It’s absolute. Do you see what I mean?

    And I know there’s no clear case for calling Nietzsche a moral relativist; his thinking wasn’t consistent enough to categorize him that way. But he certainly WAS subjective. All right, I welcome a counter-argument here, particularly if I’m wrong which I probably am. Where is my daughter?

  99. hello everyone. i feel a little guilty responding only just now, after all of you so kindly and graciously left those beautiful messages on my birthday blog (i know all of you can agree it was one of the most beautiful things anyone has ever written for anyone. ever.), but she summoned me the same way she summoned Tim.

    i don’t know nietzsche well enough to comment on his relativity. i don’t even know him well enough to remember what he says about the problem of evil, but i do know about the metaphor of the knife (which, I could be wrong but I believe comes from the Socratic dialogues and I think even Glaucon), and I agree–the point of the knife is the same as the ring in Lord of the Rings: in the hands of the Bad Guys, the ring is evil, and in the hand of anyone else, its just as powerful, but not disastrous. I think neither the knife nor the ring can be said to have any moral standing but that’s not true for agents, right? So where does Nietzsche come down on this line? I’m not smart enough for this mess.

  100. does anyone know how to get out grease stains from a satin tablecloth?

  101. jus kidding. i know that grease is an impossibility, like Morality (but noe Ethics,thanks to Kat, our reigning princess of Ethics and Debate and The Great Eyebrow Arch)

    ok SORRY but everyone here is just teeming with intellect, and i am just happy to watch and i feel as if i’m in this very hip, very exclusive alternative school assembly. naturally i’m sitting in the back with the hoodlums and tramps and riffraff.

    I love the knife/ring references. see Twist The Knife by Neko Case and Her Boyfriends. the whole cd is unparalleled.

  102. Whew, Thanks, Suzanne! I was spinning helplessly on the “post-Platonic philosophy to explain subjective morality” platform our Queen started!

  103. and thank you to George of the Former Indiana Stutevilles, who left the first comment on my website blog. George, you’ve done me proud….still waiting for the hecklers to arrive with blow darts,but i put a VERY STRONGLY WORDED bit of philosophy on my Comment form, so they DASN’T. anyone else wants to weigh in on my disastrously unfunny blog, just click on my name above this post, which Haven so thoughtfully called out, when i wasn’t brave enough to.

  104. Do you see how the Daughter just rose up and pointed out that the argument was PRE-Platonic? Except of course it was Plato who recorded it after that whole hemlock debacle. Thank you, Butterbean.

  105. Is this how Alzheimers feels? The people around you are talking and making sense to each other, and you’re smiling and nodding, recognizing the English language but knowing nothing of what they’re talking about? Then you think of Great-Aunt Cecile’s satin tablecloth, the one you spilled au jus on at Thanksgiving dinner in ’68, and as you’re wondering if she ever got those stains out, you realize everyone has turned to look at you: your eyes glazed, mouth slightly agap …

  106. Sorry, Jodi, sorry! In fact, I’m a complete idiot. No, seriously, ask anyone who really knows me.

  107. Jodi, you are so not alone in this…but that’s why I come here…I’m trying to soak it up…smarts by osmosis?

    I went to my favorite library today and it’s not my favorite anymore…every single book mentioned here that I tried to get my grubby mitts on was only available downtown. I’m going to have them sent over, however.

    And for grease and all manner of stains, I always bet my money on OXYCLEAN. Miraculous stuff. Also, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is what I reach for once a year when I clean something.

  108. I wonder if some Dawn or other “grease cutting” dish soap would work if you poured some directly on the spot and let it sit for a few minutes.

    I am so so so glad to see Kat here. You are a beautiful and talented young woman, Ms. Kat. I want my daughter to meet you. I have mentioned her here. She is a senior in high school – at the best public academic magnet high school in Nashville I might add – and she is also an awesome daughter. I told her she has to read Iodine with me when I do my second reading because she is much smarter than me. She is a Latin queen – she even trained as a docent at the Parthenon here in Nashville so if anyone comes to visit and wants a free tour from an expert just let me know.

    I wish I had a blog to link to but I am not that talented. I just have a Facebook page. And an email address. Ha. And a name everyone laughs at because it is the same as the actress who played Wonder Woman on t.v. in the 70s except I spell mine the old fashioned way – with an i, not a y.

    As Suzanne said, be nice. I know you all will. 🙂

  109. Weeellll… Ask yourself, who was Pirsig writing for?

    Back when I was teaching high-school English, 1974-77, somewhere in there — that’s when I first read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The guy who taught the junior honors English classes introduced me to it. John… John O’Breza. That was his name. Brilliant, scarily brilliant guy. After I’d read it, we talked about it briefly; his summary was to the effect Pirsig would like to be a philosopher, but he really isn’t.

    I had no reply to that. Still don’t. I’d had no more than one Intro to Philosophy course in college, so didn’t have the education grounding to reply. But (and?) I thought then — and think now — that he wasn’t speaking to philosophers. I think his tools, in building his argument, weren’t the formal tools which rigorous philosophers would use, not because he didn’t know better but because his true audience wouldn’t care.

    In this case: his metaphor of the knife may or may not have been a knowing reference to Herodotus, Hume, Nietszche, Spinoza, or, oh, heck, Jim Bowie. I think he simply needed a vehicle for the metaphor — something to carry the meaning of “sharp object which when wielded expertly produces a certain desirable result, which may be characterized in the following way…” Why not choose scalpel? Why not choose laser? Maybe he thought of those. But if I were writing ZATAOMM, I’d have rejected them on the grounds of their specificity; they raise the opposite question: why a scalpel/laser/whatever? why didn’t he choose the much simpler, more generic “knife”? Does he mean to call attention to the highly specific purposes those other cutting tools serve?

    Well, I dunno. Ignorance = bliss, all that. (And we ARE discussing bliss on this thread, aren’t we? Heh.) I was a naive reader of the book, naive in the sense of untrained in the things he was talking about — motorcycle maintenance as well as philosophy.

    And so maybe for that reason I was simply flatly dazzled by the skill (intuitive? intentional? who knows?) with which he sliced up and served to readers, in parallel, the philosophical underpinnings of the book, the split between his former and present selves, and the split between him and his son. When it all suddenly coalesced in that “It was his voice” moment, as I said earlier, well — it’s the kind of thrill which I read for, but am always afraid to hope for.

    (I’m so sorry for hijacking this lovely thread. On the other hand, I’m so thrilled to be able to talk about Pirsig again — with people who really know what they’re talking about!)

  110. Jodi-Thank you for being courageous enough to admit what I’ve been feeling too. I just found this blog two days ago, although I’ve been a fan of Haven’s for years. I’m now also a devout fan of George’s as well. While I’m smart enough to know that I need to keep reading this blog to strengthen and tone my flabby thought processes, I don’t think I have the intellectual or philsophical chops to play well with all of you. But my God, I haven’t thought as deeply or laughed as hard in a long time.

  111. Jodi just might be my second favorite. I would love to chime in here, but in my introduction to philosophy last night via an online course previously mentioned, I printed the first reading on the list, The Symposium of Plato: The Shelley Translation, and ran out of ink 20 pages into it. This higher learning might take me some time. Kate, I had to get everything these smart people recommend to read from Amazon, with the exception of Katherine Porter, Eudora Welty, and Joseph Mitchell. I haven’t been this smart in forever. I am going on Suzannes blog now.

  112. Stain removal for grease-place stains face side down on clean paper towels. Apply cleaning fluid to the back of stain. Replace towels frequently. Let air dry. Rinse. Launder in hottest water safe for that fabric.
    The question now is, what cleaning fluid?

  113. Oooo, be careful, Caryl. Suzanne’s blog today dives into a long discourse on … Death. Suzanne DID warn all of us –“still waiting for the hecklers to arrive with blow darts,but i put a VERY STRONGLY WORDED bit of philosophy on my Comment form, so they DASN’T.” And to all of you who might have been trying to honestly reply to her stained tablecloth … this woman would remove those stains with SCISSORS.

  114. This blog shall be renamed “Hints from Heloise.”

    Ok smarties…try and bring the discussion back around by using stains as a metaphor for…I don’t know…something.

  115. JES, I meant it when I said in the original post that I can’t really dispute a philosophical novel that was so successful. It really is one for the good guys.

    p.s. He uses a laser metaphor later.

  116. WE CAN NOW OFFICIALLY STOP TALKING PHILOSOPHY. I shall work on a new post.

  117. Somebody please tell me how to post a comment on Suzannes blog. Can you say wow!
    Who would care about a stain anyway if they can write like that. I will do her laundry for her.

  118. Jodi, this is what being a librarian is like. I know of a million books. I can recite Dewey Decimal numbers, WorldCat institution codes and digitize anthing you want to preservation-quality standards. But I don’t understand a single book. I leave that to my much smarter and more creative friends and blog buddies.

    In case you’re interested, the LC record for Iodine is at

  119. Thanks, Angie — especially for the LC record! =)

    Caryl, I can’t get on Suzanne’s blog, either.

  120. Caryl, I will say WOW! Commenting on Suzanne’s lovely blog with its slammin’ discourse on Death requires a Google/Blogger (or other) account — choose an onscreen name and a password, and I think the button to hit is “subscribe.”

  121. oh well eff me! i need to fix the comment thingee on my blog, so everyone can comment. i am GOING INTO THE BLOG. I’M GOING IN, PEOPLE….

  122. okay haven? who are you kissing in your avatar? izzat you? why is it so small? it looks lke you kissing a man of distinction. but who? i fdont eve require reading glaases, but i cant make him out. DUDE. HELP US HELP OURSELVES.

  123. Suzanne, just guessing here, but that might be son number one.

  124. Sandra and Jodi, I’m there with you. I joined because one Haven Kimmel summoned me – in the way that she can across time and miles. I’m no philosopher – I’m just a caveman.

    I’ve known Haven since she was 13 – all wide-eyed and smart beyond her years. There was a gap there for a while, but she summoned me then as now. There is a very special place in my heart for her. Always.

    It was my good fortune then to answer the most important question right, with Melinda’s coaching. Bob asked “What are your intentions toward my daughter?”

    “Strictly honorable, sir.” I didn’t miss a beat.

    And so I was allowed to walk the streets of Mooreland with her hand in mine. It was cold and the streets were covered with snow and ice. She didn’t want to wear mittens because she wanted our hands to touch.

    She found me almost 30 years later. Found me and welcomed me back into her life. She’s just that way.

    So here I am. Summoned again.

  125. Tim, go to the new post and look at my avatar! Wait, it will show up here too. You may remain seated.

  126. Haven, your fan club just got a little bit bigger. My nine year old Jack just finished Kaline Klattermaster’s Tree House and declared it “so good”. Someday you will sign his first edition, yes?

  127. tim, what was bob jarvis like? he fascinates me.

    and has anyone noticed how alive Bob Jarvis still is? SHOCKING. a most potent spirit. most potent.

  128. […] my oh my she likes to ask The Big Questions on a regular basis—she asks this week, how are we to live? She shares “the walls of the house” she lives in and then asks her dedicated readers, […]

  129. hey- great blog. thanks for calling out. i personally was “laid off” from my day job at the ad agency and the first thing i said was “oh thank god.” i’m free falling and scrambling for financial buoys,but i’ve honestly never been happier. i was able to slow down – perhaps to turn around.

    and yes, the stafford poem is a miracle.

  130. NOTE TO JODI ABOUT THE “WICKED” HAT: well hats like that, baseball caps, make my face look like a rhomboid, but i have to say i truly do appreciate the sentiment,thank you kindly! AND that gregory maguire is one of my most favorite authors working today in america. anyone who hasn’t read WICKED and SON OF A WITCH and so on? i envy you. a feast, a gorgeous, amazing and thrilling ride does the man provide…a genius. magnificent. i can jut FEEL myself revving up for a re-read of Wicked, even thoough it’s much too soon. i know i i go, up the stairs to my massive bookacse, to fetch me some maguire.

  131. NOTE TO SUZANNE: You probably already know the next Maguire book is due out October 14:

    You sometimes work at an ad agency? I did that in Manhattan, on 23rd Street, long ago but still … In fact, the agency in the movie “Big”? That was where I worked, same time the movie was made. Enjoy your “free fall” without the encumbrance of The Daily Grind!

    Tim — I’d love to hear the stories you could tell of Mooreland and Miss Zippy. Especially if you have b&w snapshots to illustrate.

    Haven, is your mom a pastor in Pennville? Because my best friend (that was her, the red-head who asked for your time and snapped our photo together at Earlham last October) lives only a few miles from there and we both said OMIGOSH!

  132. I’m out in the barnhole, the owl outside is hooting, and I don’t know which blog thread this is. For some reason I can’t figure it out. It’s going to be all right — I just took some Excedrin. I’m using my emergency backup laptop, Wilhelmina, A PC, and it’s awful and wrong, but I’ve been working on my Mac desktop in the house and my e-mail either doesn’t arrive or it arrives hours late. I wonder if I’m magnetized, like the late Bob Jarvis? He used to stop every watch he touched.

    Yes, my mom is the pastor at Pennville. Amazing you know someone from there!

  133. Jodeeze, I wish I could supply you with more of those early years, but my memory is not nearly as sharp as She Who Remembers Everything. She can regale you with stories of sectional basketball games and, well, everything else. She’s that brilliant.

    And sadly, I have not a single photo of that time. The photographer in me spins dizzy at the thought of that. Now I document trips to Wal-Mart. Then…not so much.

    I can only say that she was as enchanting then as now; as smart and as near perfect as they come.

  134. jodeeze! thank you. oh what wondrous riches await. AND john updike has a novel coming out in November. TERRORIST was miraculous, just another hole in one by the master. SHOCKING.

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