Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's Not My Fault

Interesting day.  I read an article about the woes of the US Postal Service.  They're blaming their financial difficulties on the increased use of email and decreased use of conventional (i. e., snail) mail.  Then I went to the Post Office and found in my box a purple card reading "Excess mail; please come to the counter."  When I approached the counter, there was a long line and only one clerk on duty.  They've evidently reduced staff just in time for the Christmas rush.  "Tis the season for irony."
So, what's this commentary doing in a Natural History blog?  Here's the tie-in:
I had just been talking with my daughter about an important biological and sociological concept: adaptation.  She's taking high school biology, but hasn't got to that part of the book yet.  I told her that a particular set of social skills that might be a successful adaptation to one high school environment might be especially maladaptive in another.  My examples from biology were a.) kangaroo rats specifically adapted to a desert environment would not likely do well in a rain forest, and b.) polar bears don't do well in temperate environments, like zoos in Florida, unless great care is taken to keep them cool.  I suggested that the path to social success at our local high school might not be the same in, say, an urban magnet school focused on math and science skills.
So, will the Postal Service adapt to the increased use of email?  Does it care?  Will a critical mass of people maintain a preference for letters and cards they can hold in their hands, or will they adapt to cyberspace?  The larger question is - will adapting to life in cyberspace prove to be maladaptive for our species in the long run?  Sure wish I had a crystal ball - metaphorically speaking, of course.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Will this post work? First time I've gotten this far, so here goes... Below is a new poem I've revised after getting email comments from Margaret & Mike. It's still in process so I welcome more comments. Revising process was fun. Took Margaret's advice to change the beginning and then realized the poem is also about my writing so decided to be more open about that aspect, sort of, drag it up from the subconscious... Mike suggested more repetition of "hands". When I started fooling with words, changing "think" to "conjure" I discovered another meaning for "conjure" is "to practice legerdemain" i.e."skill in feats of magic or other arts involving a dexterous manipulation of the hands". Voila!

LOSING MY GRIP [rev. 12/11/11]

Vain about my hands,
My graceful penmanship---
A microcosm of what I might be
Without the awkward bulk of me
Trailing all the mess of life
By deft gestures---
I dug deep the remedy.

Sunk my nimble hands
Up to my elbows
And shaped myself,
Without the discipline of art,
Dug deeply into the chambers of my heart.
Burrowed down too far,
Past my deftness,
To a toughness,
A grasp of things
I'd not expected.

My fingers, now retracting into knobby, aching joints,
I've lost my touch,
Not as much
For grasping, holding tight,
But, for deftly handling life.

I've lost the generous ease
Of an ability to please,
Yet found a strength
To grab what I can
With gnarled, ancient fingers,
Yet firm enough to turn a page,
To read more quickly
The plot turn, the dialectic leap
Of knowing the conflict resolution,
And in the flick of the next page
The change of all that follows.

I can still make those changes,
Still write what's left,
With hands and heart stiffened,
But with a mind, still supple to conjure
Arabesques of grace.
---M-L Ruth 12/11/11

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Entry by Stephen Boyer

The OWS Poetry Anthology has again been updated... It's massive! It's a marathon of poetry!


THIS WEEK'S WRITING PROMPT: Watch OWS video's on youtube that show police brutality. Spend a half hour in silent reflection. As you reflect, calmly send radiant energy to people the world over that have been victims of police brutality. Then write a poem to a police officer! Dedicate poems to Robert Hass.

Here is a poem in this spirit from WEEK 7:

when you beat me
By, Richard Vargas

does your arm tire
as you swing your
baton into the thud
of my flesh and bone
and you hear me
scream out in pain
when you crack
my ribs and jab
my soft belly
do you feel like a
job well done when
you pin me on the
ground and harness
my wrists like a
rodeo cowboy
hogties cattle

no matter that
we are both looked
down upon by those
on their balconies
of glass and steel
who laugh and joke
as they spread caviar
on fancy crackers
that will never pass
our lips

while you choke me
knock me down
look at how they
raise their flutes
of exquisite champagne
sparkling in the sun

blinding you with
their cold brilliance
and empty nods
of approval

All Mixed Up

The times, they are a changin’, slowly, in straw-and-stick house ways.

And the wolf? He’s still at the door. Breathing down our necks.

The privileged will cling to their mighty height and eat pork whenever they can.

And should they fall, one or all, down and out and cracked irrepairably,

others already eagerly prepare for the scramble

to the top, to the top, to the towering top in a race

up the bean stock, in the great cloud

the better to count you with

oh, my precious.

Where is Jack? We need Jack!

And the clever, pink, unionized piggies!

Who are those golden-egg laying hens the giants keep?

By Trish Welsh Taylor - 11/29/11


There stands a stately statue on our shore

That holds the burning torch of liberty

And boasts to all it has an open door,

Inviting huddled masses to be free.

It was a gift from France across the sea

To laud America's experiment

Of representative democracy

And pure humanitarian intent.

And though its structure is maintained and cleaned

For way too long its meaning has been lost,

Its symbols quite forgotten and demeaned

And sheds huge tears at all the human cost.

But now I see the statue dry its tearful eyes

As Occupiers in the nation rise in size.

-- By Sam Catalano 11/30/2011

The House of Anonymous in Session

The Confessor's House

is 872 feet

along the river

guarded by the Lionhearted horseman.

Common and Lordly,

from Thorney, Saxon and on to MPs,

offer their stories

and remember the 5th of November.

Jesuit Season

In the Year of Our Lord 1605;

successful failure

of the Catholic cannon of Guy Fawkes.

You're an atheist

872 feet away

along the sidewalk

guarding your identity in a mask;

Common against lords,

like Gandhi or King or Egyptian kids

whose battle stories

have now, in Treason, long since been forgot.

Anonymous Fawkes,

I'd like to ask if you are Catholic

in that grim, fake face.

Do you know the reason for Bonfires?

-- by Hannah Hill 11/29/11

Four Thoughts in November, 2011

* What does hope look like when the public square smells of pepper and tears?

* Arms woven, elbow to elbow, a thin fabric of humanity make, a line of flesh in the sand, no wave can wash away.

*A cheek turned the other way, an act of faith, an offer of redemption, a chance for the video camera to focus.

*The public park, a safe and happy playground for the commoners, where we gather, where we assemble and speak, where big brother demonstrates down upon the children of the homeland.

-- Trish Welsh Taylor 11/2011

From My Archives; Symmetry...

Always unpacking, I opened a box that's been closed since I moved to Quincy in 2006.  I uncovered an essay I wrote in 1993 in response to n assignment in a graduate course in writing.  I was writing about an experience that had taken place 18 years earlier.  Ironically, I am now writing about that essay 18 year later!  It has been interesting to compare my present state of mind and habits to this window into my 18-years-ago mind.  On the topics of loitering and coffee, I'm pretty much in agreement with my former self.  I share this essay today because most of my close friends and colleagues in Quincy usually find me at one of our local coffee shops.  If I'm not writing, I'm thinking about writing or discussing writing with other writers.  I have a feeling writing is addictive.  Click on each photo if you need a closer view - or get out a magnifying glass.  In what might be an example of Jung's concept of 'synchronicity,' I recently read in the NY Times an article about someone's hypothesis that the Enlightenment was largely launched by the switch of salon gatherings from alcohol to coffee as the primary fuel for thought.  I'll drink to that.