I try to pay attention. Truly, I do. Still, I’m constantly searching for my car keys. It slips my mind that I should stop at the grocery for milk, or swing by the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions. Occasionally, I neglect to feed the cat until she nudges at my foot, murmuring her complaint. Computer passwords dissolve into the ether, along with the names of former school chums, padlock combinations and the phone number of my favorite aunt.
People who understand such things tell me this everyday-forgetting is unremarkable. A little more age here, a few more-interesting things to ponder there, and the mind wanders off, unconcerned with milk, kitties or keys.
Over time, I’d even forgotten my promise to some blogging friends that I would tell them the story of the beginnings of The Task at Hand - specifically, how it received its title and tagline. Being a Janus-faced month, a time for pondering the past as well as looking toward the future, January seems as good a time as any to recount the story of those first, halting steps onto the path called “writing”. (more…)
The sky lowers and the land disappears. A turning wind blankets the moon with sea-born fog, shrouding the contours of its glittering face. Harsh and brilliant above the fog, riding high behind fast-scudding clouds, it lights the transition between old and new, between one year and the next.
As the hours pass toward midnight, a lingering few stand silent, shrouded in a fog of thought, tangled in life’s web, caught between the Land-of-No-Longer and the Land-of-Yet-to-Be. Perhaps they glimpse a moonlit shard of truth hidden to revelers in the street – this is the way of life. What has been passes away into forgetfulness, even as the yet-to-be stirs toward vitality. Armies rise. Nations fall. Children squall into existence, wailing for the grandparents who sigh away into death. Across the farthest reaches of the galaxies, even the least star explodes with pulsating light while on our own shy, spinning globe, rotting leaves and the stench of mud evoke a season’s final turn. (more…)
Woodworker and carver, sailor, musician, rememberer – Gordon Bok is an American treasure. You may know his work. Two years ago I’d not heard his name and might have missed his music forever, were it not for the graciousness of a reader.
The topic under discussion had been music, and in an emailed post-script he added, “I can’t think of a better song than Turning Towards the Morning.” Pointing me toward WAMC in Albany and their Saturday night broadcasts of the “Hudson River Sampler” he said, “I can almost guarantee you’ll hear something by Bok, if not this Saturday, then next Saturday for sure. And something by Stan Rogers as well. But you’ll also hear songs you’ve never heard before and will want to hear again.”
He was right. Since my introduction to Bok, to his fellow musicians Ed Trickett and Ann Mayo Muir and to their rich repertoire from an entirely different sea-faring culture, I’ve not stopped wanting to hear more. I’ve learned net-hauling songs and ballads of the Maine coast. I’ve marveled at Bok’s original work and delighted in his preservation of folk tales rooted in world-wide cultures. I’ve wondered at Bok’s pathway through life and been touched by his simplicity and kindness. I’ve even laughed at certain similarities between us. “I didn’t understand what my father did because he worked in an office,” Bok says, “and there was nothing that came out of it that I could feel – you couldn’t put a coat of varnish on it.” (more…)
The thought that whole days could be given over to mending seems remarkable now, as quaintly anachronistic as ragbags, or the inclination of entire neighborhoods of women to schedule their household chores as a group - laundry on Monday, ironing on Tuesday, weekend baking on Thursday. The predictable routines of my mother and her friends provided a certain degree of comfort during my childhood, but still there were projects – canning, window-washing, leaf-raking, planting – that were less predictable and hence more exciting.
In our household, mending fell into the category of an “occasional” chore, work occasioned not by the calendar but by the shape and seasons of our lives. Active and impulsive, occasionally inattentive, constrained by the demands and necessities of life, we were, as my mother liked to say, “hard on our clothes”. (more…)