Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hello in There (John Prine)

8 Simple Ways To Be Civilized And Kind That Could Make The World a Better Place
September 29th, 2008 by Danielle LaPorte

When asked what he thought of Western Civilization, Ghandi replied,“I think it would be a great idea.”

1. When you allow another driver or pedestrian to cut in front of you, isn’t it great to get The Wave? That simple hand gesture that says, thanks bud’, how cool of you to let me in.

2. When you take someone out or have them over for dinner, doesn’t it make you feel so appreciated when they give you a quick call or email the next day to acknowledge the treat?

3. A little “hello” or “g’day” when walking by someone on an otherwise empty sidewalk is so civil and sweet. (Ignoring each other in such close and fleeting proximity is dismally absurd.)

4. When a telemarketer calls, we try to resist the burning urge to be horribly rude (after all, they’re just trying to make a living.) Try this quickie: I appreciate that this is your job, but I’m not the right person for your questions, so I’m going to hang up now. Thank you anyway. Your simple kindness could renew their faith in humanity.

5. Personally, we like to receive voice mail messages that specify the reason that the person is calling. (When someone just says “Hi it’s So-and-So, can you give me a call back?” We wonder if we’re in trouble, or feel frustrated that we can’t move things forward in the mean time.)

6. How about just saying thanks when you leave the office, the gym, or class? It’s simple: See you tomorrow, thanks. There is always something to be thankful for.

7. Muster the love and courage to make eye contact with street peddlers—whether you’re giving them money or not. They feel invisible.

8. Spitting on the sidewalk is illegal in Switzerland. ‘Nuff said.

THIS WEEK: Adopt one new way of being civilized and kind. Be sure to notice how you feel in your moment of courteousness.

And even if the dignity is not reciprocated, know that the being classy is a lifestyle that has its own rewards. Manners are, as Ralph Waldo Emerson puts it, “the happy way of doing things; each one a stroke of genius and love.” So, maybe holding doors and sending thank you notes can change the world after all.

Everyday Graces: Child's Book Of Good Manners by Karen Santorum

POEM: I’m Making a List by Shel Silverstein

I’m making a list of the things I must say
For politeness,
And goodness and kindness and gentleness,
Sweetness and rightness:
Pardon me
How are you?
Excuse me
Bless you
May I?
Thank you
If you know some that I’ve forgot,
Please stick them in your eye!

QUOTE: "Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use." ~ Emily Post

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Country Comfort (Elton John)

My book club met last night, at my home - I had chosen Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, which I bought over a year ago with a gift certificate a friend gave me for my birthday... and still hadn't gotten around to reading...

It was substantially more detailed than I originally thought... making it a dense yet enjoyable read - I can truly say it was life-changing for me, as I continue my search for healthy living, mind body and spirit. I loved the balance of Kingsolver's lyrical text, her husband Steven's snippets of facts/figures/websites and her daughter Camille's youthfully-infused essays/recipes - daughter Lily couldn't be an official contributor (too young to sign the contract), but her innocent yet practical take on life is woven throughout (don't name animals you're going to eat... :-)

To quote the author: "This is the story of a year in which we made every attempt to feed ourselves animals and vegetables whose provenance we really knew . . . and of how our family was changed by our first year of deliberately eating food produced from the same place where we worked, went to school, loved our neighbors, drank the water, and breathed the air."

The Boston Globe says: "More so than even the best cookbooks, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes you want to go out and eat: to cook and garden and think, and to live a passionate and sensate life. My great fear in reviewing this book is that I might make it sound like the treatise of a hokey earth mother and do-gooder, rather than a profound, graceful, and literary work of philosophy and economics, well tempered for our times, and yet timeless."

More reviews here...

NPR interview here (thanks, FM!)...

Since we theme our menu around the monthly book choice, I had asked people to bring dishes of fruits and vegetables, organic or locally-grown, emphasis on fresh - the offerings were a virtual cornucopia of culinary delights: my zucchini casserole, No's pasta salad, S's confetti salad, E's chickpeas and spinach, Na's Green Jade Soup (with quinoa and asparagus), K's key lime pie and J's guacamole... and we feasted in that can't-believe-it's-so-delicious-yet-so-good-for-us kinda way... :-)

Thankfully, everyone else enjoyed the book as well, and our discussion was lively - we talked about ways we can be pro-active about our food choices: buying in-season, organic or locally-grown (within a 100 mile radius, preferably), either through local farmer's markets or food co-ops; planting Victory or container gardens of our own; cooking to maximize nutrients; canning and freezing for future use; buying fair-trade products (coffee, clothing, etc.); composting... and so many other ways to make a difference...

Wonderful evening on so many levels - so glad I finally made the time to read this amazing paean to the miracle of the Circle of Life!

[Added 9/26/08: Can't remember how I stumbled across
this blog, but I've been avidly following for close to a year - you don't have to be gluten-free to enjoy her recipes, her passion for fresh food and her melt-in-your-mouth poetic descriptions of living a succulent life...

Also clicked through to this from the newly-renovated Carrie and Danielle site this morning - good timing! ]

P.S. Okay... I got a little carried away with the quotes... :-)

The Grower of Trees, the gardener, the man born to farming,
whose hands reach into the ground and sprout
to him the soil is a divine drug. He enters into death
yearly, and comes back rejoicing. He has seen the light lie down
in the dung heap, and rise again in the corn.
His thought passes along the row ends like a mole.
What miraculous seed has he swallowed
That the unending sentence of his love flows out of his mouth
Like a vine clinging in the sunlight, and like water
Descending in the dark?

QUOTE(S): "It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato." ~ Lewis Grizzard

"If organic farming is the natural way, shouldn't organic produce just be called "produce" and make the pesticide-laden stuff take the burden of an adjective?" ~ Ymber Delecto

"The greatest delight the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me and I to them." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Did you ever stop to taste a carrot? Not just eat it, but taste it? You can't taste the beauty and energy of the earth in a Twinkie." ~ Astrid Alauda

"Vegetables are the food of the earth; fruit seems more the food of the heavens." ~ Sepal Felicivant

"Tell me what you eat, I'll tell you who you are." ~ Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Joy or Sorrow (Terri Hendrix)

An update on Mom:

Thanks so much to all for the thoughts and prayers - I spoke with Mari last night about 7:30 p.m. and all seemed to be stabilizing. I had asked her to ask the doctor what percentage the lung collapse was (20 - 25% is manageable) - his reply was 5% (sheer relief at hearing that number). They continued to take X-rays to determine what the procedure would be to handle - in the meantime, Mom is on some serious pain medication, which is keeping her comfortable and immobilized to prevent more damage to her already-compromised lungs...

Mari called me this morning a bit before 9 and said the hospital was releasing Mom - they finally left about 11 a.m. (after waiting 2 hours for paperwork to be resolved). They should get the test results back in 3 to 5 days - thinking very positive...

P.S. Thanks to Melanie for the picture inspiration! - I couldn't make the one she sent work, but this one is similar... <3

It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on,
it shakes sleep from its eyes
and drops from mushroom gills,
it explodes in the starry heads
of dandelions turned sages,
it sticks to the wings of green angels
that sail from the tops of maples.

It sprouts in each occluded eye
of the many-eyed potato,
it lives in each earthworm segment
surviving cruelty,
it is the motion that runs the tail of a dog,
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs
of the child that has just been born.

It is the singular gift
we cannot destroy in ourselves,
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know of God.

It is the serum which makes us swear
not to betray one another;
it is in this poem, trying to speak.

QUOTE: "Hope is the feeling we have that the feeling we have is not permanent." ~ Mignon McLaughlin

Monday, September 22, 2008

Give a Little (Nicolette Larson)

Today's DailyOM

September 19, 2008
Recognizing Our Own Abundance
Planting The Seeds Of Generosity

The most difficult time to be generous is when we ourselves are feeling poor. While some of us have experienced actually being in the red financially, there are those of us who would feel broke even if we had a million dollars in the bank. Either way, as the old adage goes, it is always in giving that we receive. Meaning that when we are living in a state of lack, the very gesture we may least want to give is the very act that could help us create the abundance that we seek. One way to practice generosity is to give energy where it is needed. Giving money to a cause or person in need is one way to give energy. Giving attention, love, or a smile to another person are other acts of giving that we can offer. After all, there are people all over the world that are hungry for love.

Sometimes when we practice generosity, we practice it conditionally. We might be expecting to “receive back” from the person to whom we gave. We might even become angry or resentful if that person doesn’t reciprocate. However, trust in the natural flow of energy, and you will find yourself practicing generosity with no strings attached. This is the purest form of giving. Remember that what you send out will always come back you. Selflessly help a friend in need without expecting them to return the same favor in the same way, and know that you, too, will receive that support from the universe when you need it. Besides, while giving conditionally creates stress (because we are waiting with an invisible balance sheet to receive our due), giving unconditionally creates and generates abundance. We give freely, because we trust that there is always an unlimited supply.

Being aware of how much we are always supported by the universe is one of the keys to abundance and generosity. Consciously remember the times you’ve received support from expected and unexpected sources. Remember anyone who has helped you when you’ve needed it most, and bless all situations that come into your life for the lessons and gifts they bring you. Remember that all things given and received emanate from generosity. Giving is an act of gratitude. Plant the seeds of generosity through your acts of giving, and you will grow the fruits of abundance for yourself and those around you.

I've been working on this blog post since last Friday, trying to find the perfect mesh of themed selections, as well as processing what generosity means to me. It was mentioned in a Words for All Ages story at church the other day that sharing is easy when you already have more than you need - the point of giving is to sacrifice a bit as well.

This lesson was driven home yesterday, with Marti Forman, head of Broward County's Cooperative Feeding Program, during our UU Sunday service - I am proud to say I helped coordinate the event, taking the suggestion of having her speak for a few minutes on the Empty Bowls project and extrapolating it to a full program, with Marti giving the sermon.

The kids did a Stone Soup re-enactment... and we painted bowls after the service (to be baked later and used for the fundraiser) - the most impactful, though, was Marti's talk... as she told stories of various clients of all genders, ages and income levels, and the unfortunate decline in donations over the last year and the damaging effects of less food to spread to more people. The entire sanctuary was weeping (as was Marti during her delivery) - the good news is that we raised almost $500 among us for the CFP... and we've rededicated ourselves to making a major commitment to eradicate hunger in Broward County.

The concert series I coordinate has always asked patrons to bring a non-perishable food item in addition to regular admission, and we will emphasize that even more from now on - I would also like to volunteer with Marti at least once a month in some capacity.

Really... this hit so close to home - "there but for the grace of god" indeed...

P.S. I've been distracted/worried all day, because my mom is in the hospital having an outpatient biopsy to check some enlarged lymph nodes in her lung area (thank goodness my sister and brother are there with her) - if it's inflammation, they'll treat with steroids... if it's infection, they'll treat with antibiotics... and we're not really dealing with the third possibility: cancer. I heard from my sister that Mom was being moved to the Recovery Room and they'd have test results in 3 to 5 days - Mari then called back, saying Mom has pneumothorax (a collapsed lung) and they were keeping her in the hospital. An Internet search says it could be a result of her COPD... or possibly a complication from today's surgical procedure - whatever the case, any thoughts/prayers/candles are much appreciated for Connie's swift and smooth recuperation.

SONG: Give a Little by Nicolette Larson

BOOK: The Giving Heart: Unlocking the Transformative Power of Generosity in Your Life by M. J. Ryan

POEM: The Gift by William Stafford

Time wants to show you a different country. It's the one
that your life conceals, the one waiting outside
when curtains are drawn, the one Grandmother hinted at
in her crochet design, the one almost found
over at the edge of the music, after the sermon.

It's the way life is, and you have it, a few years given.
You get killed now and then, violated
in various ways. (And sometimes it's turn about.)
You get tired of that. Long-suffering, you wait
and pray, and maybe good things come - maybe
the hurt slackens and you hardly feel it any more.
You have a breath without pain. It is called happiness.

It's a balance, the taking and passing along,
the composting of where you've been and how people
and weather treated you. It's a country where
you already are, bringing where you have been.
Time offers this gift in its millions of ways,
turning the world, moving the air, calling,
every morning, "Here, take it, it's yours."

QUOTE: "From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life." ~ Arthur Ashe

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Spinning (Donna Henschell of Still on the Hill)

Today is my 32nd wedding anniversary - im-f*cking-possible to believe!

Then again, it feels like just yesterday - I vividly recall our college meeting, our long-distance courtship and our simple wedding. I wholeheartedly cherish our ongoing flare-ups, passions, commitment, disconnects, conversations, silences. It has never been easy - it has always been worthwhile.

R loves me unconditionally, a status I am always trying to achieve but come up short - I love him no less, but my family history includes strings attached, a very difficult pattern to break.

He is the calm to my storm, the ground to my clouds, the 33 1/3 to my 45, the waltz to my polka, the reason to my emotion, the carousel to my rollercoaster, the string to my kite, the balance to my spinning - he supports but never suffocates, respects but never expects.

I am a very lucky woman - I need to remind myself of that on a regular basis...

Click here for the link to view last year's series of five blog posts on marriage - here's/cheers to another 30+... :-)

BOOK: The Dance of Intimacy by Harriet Lerner

POEM: When a Woman Loves a Man by David Lehman

When she says margarita she means daiquiri.
When she says quixotic she means mercurial.
And when she says, "I'll never speak to you again,"
she means, "Put your arms around me from behind
as I stand disconsolate at the window."

He's supposed to know that.

When a man loves a woman he is in New York and she is in Virginia
or he is in Boston, writing, and she is in New York, reading,
or she is wearing a sweater and sunglasses in Balboa Park and he
is raking leaves in Ithaca
or he is driving to East Hampton and she is standing disconsolate
at the window overlooking the bay
where a regatta of many-colored sails is going on
while he is stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.

When a woman loves a man it is one ten in the morning
she is asleep he is watching the ball scores and eating pretzels
drinking lemonade
and two hours later he wakes up and staggers into bed
where she remains asleep and very warm.

When she says tomorrow she means in three or four weeks.
When she says, "We're talking about me now,"
he stops talking. Her best friend comes over and says,
"Did somebody die?"

When a woman loves a man, they have gone
to swim naked in the stream
on a glorious July day
with the sound of the waterfall like a chuckle
of water rushing over smooth rocks,
and there is nothing alien in the universe.

Ripe apples fall about them.
What else can they do but eat?

When he says, "Ours is a transitional era,"
"that's very original of you," she replies,
dry as the martini he is sipping.

They fight all the time
It's fun
What do I owe you?
Let's start with an apology
Ok, I'm sorry, you dickhead.
A sign is held up saying "Laughter."
It's a silent picture.
"I've been fucked without a kiss," she says,
"and you can quote me on that,"
which sounds great in an English accent.

One year they broke up seven times and threatened to do it
another nine times.

When a woman loves a man, she wants him to meet her at the
airport in a foreign country with a jeep.
When a man loves a woman he's there. He doesn't complain that
she's two hours late
and there's nothing in the refrigerator.

When a woman loves a man, she wants to stay awake.
She's like a child crying
at nightfall because she didn't want the day to end.

When a man loves a woman, he watches her sleep, thinking:
as midnight to the moon is sleep to the beloved.
A thousand fireflies wink at him.
The frogs sound like the string section
of the orchestra warming up.
The stars dangle down like earrings the shape of grapes.

QUOTE: "A long marriage is two people trying to dance a duet and two solos at the same time." ~ Anne Taylor Fleming

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Don't Know Palin (David Ippolito, Lisa Regal)

Drill, Drill, Drill
by Eve Ensler, author of 'The Vagina Monologues'
September 8, 2008

I am having Sarah Palin nightmares. I dreamt last night that she was a member of a club where they rode snowmobiles and wore the claws of drowned and starved polar bears around their necks. I have a particular thing for Polar Bears. Maybe it's their snowy whiteness or their bigness or the fact that they live in the arctic or that I have never seen one in person or touched one. Maybe it is the fact that they live so comfortably on ice.--Whatever it is, I need the polar bears.

I don't like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life trying to build community, help empower women and stop violence against them. It is hard to write about Sarah Palin. This is why the Sarah Palin choice was all the more insidious and cynical. The people who made this choice count on the goodness and solidarity of Feminists.

But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism, which for me is part of one story -- connected to saving the earth,ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war.

I believe that the McCain/Palin ticket is one of the most dangerous choices of my lifetime, and should this country choose those candidates, the fall-out may be so great, the destruction so vast in so many areas that America may never recover. But what is equally disturbing is the impact that duo would have on the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, this is not a joke. In my lifetime I have seen the clownish, the inept, the bizarre be elected to the presidency with regularity.

Sarah Palin does not believe in evolution. I take this as a metaphor. In her world and the world of Fundamentalists, nothing changes or gets better or evolves. She does not believe in global warming. The melting of the arctic, the storms that are destroying our cities, the pollution and rise of cancers, are all part of God's plan. She is fighting to take the polar bears off the endangered species list. The earth, in Palin's view, is here to be taken and plundered. The wolves and the bears are here to be shot and plundered. The oil is here to be taken and plundered. Iraq is here to be taken and plundered.

As she said herself of the Iraqi war, 'It was a task from God.'

Sarah Palin does not believe in abortion. She does not believe women who are raped and incested and ripped open against their will should have a right to determine whether they have their rapist's baby or not.

She obviously does not believe in sex education or birth control. I imagine her daughter was practicing abstinence and we know how many babies that makes.

Sarah Palin does not much believe in thinking. From what I gather she has tried to ban books from the library, has a tendency to dispense with people who think independently. She cannot tolerate an environment of ambiguity and difference. This is a woman who could and might very well be the next president of the United States . She would govern one of the most diverse populations on the earth.

Sarah believes in guns. She has her own custom Austrian hunting rifle. She has been known to kill 40 caribou at a clip. She has shot hundreds of wolves from the air.

Sarah believes in God. That is of course her right, her private right. But when God and Guns come together in the public sector, when war is declared in God's name, when the rights of women are denied in his name, that is the end of separation of church and state and the undoing of everything America has ever tried to be.

I write to my sisters. I write because I believe we hold this election in our hands. This vote is a vote that will determine the future not just of the U.S. , but of the planet. It will determine whether we create policies to save the earth or make it forever uninhabitable for humans. It will determine whether we move towards dialogue and diplomacy in the world or whether we escalate violence through invasion, undermining and attack. It will determine whether we go for oil, strip mining, coal burning--or invest our money in alternatives that will free us from dependency and destruction. It will determine if money gets spent on education and healthcare or whether we build more and more methods of killing. It will determine whether America is a free open tolerant society or a closed place of fear, fundamentalism and aggression.

If the Polar Bears don't move you to go and do everything in your power to get Obama elected then consider the chant that filled the hall after Palin spoke at the RNC, 'Drill Drill DRILL.' I think of teeth when I think of drills. I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination. I think of military exercises that force mindless repetition, emptying the brain of analysis, doubt, ambiguity or dissent. I think of pain.

Do we want a future of drilling? More holes in the ozone, in the floor of the sea, more holes in our thinking, in the trust between nations and peoples, more holes in the fabric of this precious thing we call life?

SONG: Don't Know Palin by David Ippolito, Lisa Regal (
scroll about 1/3 of the way down)

One Heartbeat Away From Presidency: Hope vs. Fear - A collection of contradictory thoughts on Sarah Palin by Susan A. Jones

POEM: Exquisite Candidate by Denise Duhamel and Maureen Seaton

I can promise you this: food in the White House
will change! No more granola, only fried eggs
flipped the way we like them. And ham ham ham!
Americans need ham! Nothing airy like debate for me!
Pigs will become the new symbol of glee,
displacing smiley faces and "Have A Nice Day."
Car bumpers are my billboards, billboards my movie screens.
Nothing I can say can be used against me.
My life flashes in front of my face daily.
Here's a snapshot of me as a baby. Then
marrying. My kids drink all their milk which helps the dairy industry.
A vote for me is not only a pat on the back for America!
A vote for me, my fellow Americans, is a vote for everyone like me!
If I were the type who made promises
I'd probably begin by saying: America,
relax! Buy big cars and tease your hair
as high as the Empire State Building.
Inch by inch, we're buying the world's sorrow.
Yeah, the world's sorrow, that's it!
The other side will have a lot to say about pork
but don't believe it! Their graphs are sloppy coloring books.
We're just fine—look at the way
everyone wants to speak English and live here!
Whatever you think of borders,
I am the only candidate to canoe over Niagara Falls
and live to photograph the Canadian side.
I'm the only Julliard graduate—
I will exhale beauty all across this great land
of pork rinds and gas stations and scientists working for cures,
of satellite dishes over Sparky's Bar & Grill, the ease
of breakfast in the mornings, quiet peace of sleep at night.

QUOTE: "We have now sunk to the point where the restatement of the obvious is the duty of intelligent [wo]men." ~ George Orwell

Sunday, September 14, 2008

It's Alright (Dar Williams)

On the occasion of the release of Dar Williams' new CD, Promised Land, this past Tuesday, I posted the following to the Dar-list the next day:

Hello, All -

Michael in Chicago/South Bend wrote:

Unfortunately for me, I won't be able to get it today because my pre-order was severely interrupted by a back order issue with that free DVD--Music Space held up the whole order. And it took me forever to get around to calling them. HOPEFULLY the Cd's are shipped out today. The Customer Service rep was very helpful (so thank you!). But still annoying. I've had issues with other promotional pre-order deals from other companies as well. Not enjoyable. Anyone else sharing my misery???

I too took advantage of the MusicSpace offer a while back... and received an e-mail yesterday informing my Visa had just been charged and they were processing my order - realizing that, from End of the Summer on, I'd *always* purchased a new Dar CD on the release date, I knew I had a streak to uphold... and stopped at Barnes & Noble on the way home!

Not sure if they had more copies elsewhere, but I got the only one in the Pop/Rock section under W - haven't yet had a chance to listen to the whole thing, but so far it's wonderful. It's really a different experience since, other than the few Dar performed at Falcon Ridge, they're all new to me - I know the lyrics are in the liner booklet (although I may have to spring for a higher magnification pair of reading glasses)... but does anyone know if they're available online?

Loving the artwork as well - looking forward to the daily/weekly/monthly process of new discovery, note by note, word by word, layer by layer... :-)


First of all, don't worry, Nance - one of the new Dar CDs in the delayed order is for you, and I'll arrange a time to deliver as soon as it arrives!

In the meantime, each rotation on my car stereo (I'm on 6 or 7 by now) brings new insight and revelation - Dar's ability to capture intangible emotions as well as vivid stories never fails to amaze. Her voice is absolutely gorgeous on this album, very Green World-ish ethereal and dreamy - loving the two covers as well as her original material. I remain in perpetual awe of Buzzer - to quote Dar from her Out There Live commentary: brilliant, brilliant...

Since Dar only gets to South Florida every two or three years (although I'm going to do my best to get her here in the next year), I've decided I need a fix - while on vacation, I found out she'll be performing at Eddie's Attic in Atlanta Saturday, November 1... so I spoke to my sister about me flying up for the weekend. I've already reserved a table for 4 (me, Mom, Mari and her daughter Julia) for the early All Ages show - I've found a round-trip plan for $158 (unheard of) and, with the $100 voucher from Delta awarded after my cancelled flight debacle on the way up to Falcon Ridge, this trip is beyond affordable (not to mention the time with family - priceless!).

To get a bit of my history with Dar, click here for a link to the 25 blog posts which reference her (most titled with her songs) - in looking over them, I realized I don't really have a comprehensive Why I Love Dar post (how much cyberspace do we have?!?... :-) Will have to remedy that soon - my heart/brain are hopelessly/joyfully entwined with her equally challenging and uplifting songs... and I can honestly say my life changed from the moment I first heard You're Aging Well in 1995.

To be continued...


“With every album, I’m trying to figure out what I don’t have to say, while still giving each song its due,” Dar Williams says. Of her new album, Promised Land, Williams commented, “On this one, I was paring the stories down to their core. I wanted the songs to sound simple and down to what they were meant to be, which is hard to do. It takes a lot of knowledge to get to the point where you can say what you need to say — no more, no less.”

To peel her insightful, melodic story-songs down to their essence, as well as inject them with the energy and momentum they clearly called for, Williams enlisted Brad Wood, a Grammy-nominated producer and musician known for his work with rock singer-songwriters Liz Phair, Pete Yorn, and Ben Lee. “Dar was looking to try something different and get out of her comfort zone,” Wood says. “She had made a number of records and it seemed like a good time, career-wise, for her to make a change. I was flattered that she thought to ask me to help. Her voice is so great that you can do just about anything behind her and it’s going to sound cool!”

Personally inspired by the spindly live feel of late ’70s/early ’80s albums by the Police, Elvis Costello, and the Pretenders, Wood manages to make Williams’ elegant, worldly songs sound visceral and urgent, while preserving the integrity and emotion that have been hallmarks of her sound (along with a beautifully intimate, bell-clear voice) since Williams began playing out on the Northeast singer-songwriter circuit in the early ’90s.

“Brad understood the songs and gave them the space they needed,” Williams says. “I love that clean, straightforward sound he gets.” And so Promised Land includes several immediately engaging toe-tappers, such as “It’s Alright,” “The Easy Way,” “Buzzer,” and “Go to the Woods,” as well as Williams’ trademark thoughtful balladry, including the keenly felt “Book of Love,” “The Tide Falls Away,” and “You Are Everyone.”

There are also two covers, Fountains of Wayne’s “Troubled Times” (“I’m a sucker for a tragic protagonist conveyed through what seems like a really pleasant pop song,” Williams says) and “Midnight Radio” from the stage musical and film Hedwig and the Angry Inch, whose soundtrack Wood produced, though Williams says he had nothing to do with her choosing to record the song. “Midnight Radio” was written by composer Stephen Trask, an old friend of Williams’ from her college years. “Stephen and I go way back. He wrote a song for a student film I was in where I played a dancing potato,” she recalls with a laugh. “But we also go way back in that spiritual sense, so I always wanted to do that song.”

Throughout, Promised Land brims with the renewed vigor that Williams clearly felt working with a new producer and group of musicians, including Better Than Ezra drummer Travis McNabb, who adds a welcome bounce and spring to the proceedings, and noted multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz, who has played with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Wilco, and Sheryl Crow. Other guest musicians include Williams’ pals Marshall Crenshaw (guitars on “It’s Alright”), Suzanne Vega (backing vocals on “Go to the Woods”) and Gary Louris from The Jayhawks (“The Tide Falls Away”).

In the past, Williams’ songwriting has located the personal in such universal topics as politics, religion, sexuality, and family. This time, rather than tie the songs together around any particular theme, Williams presents a collection of disparate stories and characters. She writes about trying to be open to major life change on “It’s Alright,” trying to take the high road in past relationships on “The Easy Way,” the perspective that comes with age on “The Tide Falls Away,” and the
Milgram obedience experiment that took place at Yale University in the ’60s on “Buzzer” (“a subject I have been obsessed with since reading about it when I was 18”). However, Williams, a wife and mother of a four-year-old son, did find what she calls “the high seas of parenthood” influencing several of the songs, which she began writing after she finished her second children’s book Lights, Camera, Amalee (published by Scholastic in July 2006).

“I’ll go through a day where the only people I’ll talk to are my husband, my son, and the person behind the counter at CVS,” she says, “but being a parent has pushed me out into my town too. It connects me to all the stuff that I care about, but on a local level, like politics, the environment, one’s town, and all the interesting personalities in it. I’m interested in those stories. I see them connecting to the big picture of how people approach life. I think that’s in the songs.”

Williams’ passion for the big picture has led to a long-held connection to social and environmental issues, which she nurtures by getting involved with various projects, including community gardening and lobbying for renewable energy in the upstate New York town where she lives. “I’m as green as you get for what I do for a living, which require, you know, things like flying,” she says. “I think about the environment all the time. The biggest deal to me right now is trying to get my town’s elementary and middle schools to look at geothermal as an option,” she says. Williams’ other passions include local-food movements and arts outreach with kids. She will often perform at benefits in small towns that are struggling to save a local theater, bookstore, or farmer’s market. “I love to get into these places and learn about their battles,” she says. “In my mind, this country is like a patchwork of towns filled with people hanging out, growing gardens, listening to music, and talking about important stuff. In a way, that’s what the album title is about. I found myself making a distinction between the Promised Land we claim and the actual promise of the land that we try to live up to. ”

Williams’ growth as a person over her 15-year career has gone hand-in-hand with her evolution as an artist. Raised in Chappaqua, NY, and educated at Wesleyan University, Williams spent 10 years living in the thriving artistic community of Northampton, MA, where she began to make the rounds on the coffeehouse circuit. An early fan of her music was Joan Baez, who took Williams out on the road and recorded several of her songs. Williams self-released her debut album, The Honesty Room in 1993, then signed with Razor & Tie Entertainment in 1995, which has been her label home ever since. She has released one live album — Out There Live (2001); six studio albums — The Honesty Room (1993), Mortal City (1996), End of the Summer (1997), The Green World (2000), The Beauty of the Rain (2003), and My Better Self (2005); and one live DVD — Live at Bearsville Theater (2007).

Through it all, Williams’ motivation as an artist is to “experience meaning without fooling myself,” she says. “There are these moments where everything feels connected, and I think my art is about trying to find the stories that make us feel connected. That’s the verve of my life. It’s what keeps things interesting.”

It's Alright by Dar Williams

The Tofu Tollbooth by Elizabeth Zipern, Dar Williams

POEM: September by Joanne Kyger

The grasses are light brown
and ocean comes in
long shimmering lines
under the fleet from last night
which dozes now in the early morning

Here and there horses graze
On somebody's acreage

Strangely, it was not my desire

that bade me speak in church to be released
but memory of the way it used to be in
careless and exotic play

when characters were promises
then recognitions. The world of transformation
is real and not real but trusting.

Enough of the lessons? I mean
didactic phrases to take you in and out of
love's mysterious bonds?

Well I myself am not myself

and which power of survival I speak
for is not made of houses.

It is inner luxury, of golden figures
that breathe like mountains do
and whose skin is made dusky by stars.

O fresh day in February
Come along
with me under pine whose new cones
make flowers. In a mellow mood
let's take anything
and you're better
in the peaceful flowing
in the beach
in the bird who flys up
out of coyote bush,
bob cat who crosses the road.

For who could think I could see
the grace of other souls born, and reborn
before in crab shells
snail shells, the head of a grebe
molesin, new onions up. Drawn by
your clever sleigh of tortoise
I listen for the melody
to sing along.

QUOTE: "The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light." ~ Joseph Campbell

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Follow the Light (John McCutcheon)

On the 7th (impossible to believe) anniversary of 9/11 and the impending landfall of Hurricane Ike on the Texas coast - prayers, blessings and love to everyone involved (that would be all of us...)

[ Added 9/15/08: Watched 102 Minutes That Changed America last night - what an impactful documentary, especially because there is no narration or commentary... ]

After Horace, Odes, I, 34

Anything can happen. You know how Jupiter
Will mostly wait for clouds to gather head
Before he hurls the lightning? Well just now
He galloped his thunder cart and his horses

Across a clear blue sky.. It shook the earth
and the clogged underearth, the River Styx,
the winding streams, the Atlantic shore itself.
Anything can happen, the tallest towers

Be overturned, those in high places daunted,
Those overlooked regarded. Stropped-beak Fortune
Swoops, making the air gasp, tearing the crest off one,
Setting it down bleeding on the next.

Ground gives. The heaven’s weight
Lifts up off Atlas like a kettle lid.
Capstones shift. Nothing resettles right.
Telluric ash and fire-spores boil away.

QUOTE: "There are things that we don't want to happen but have to accept, things we don't want to know but have to learn, and people we can't live without but have to let go." ~ Author Unknown

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

She Don't Like Roses (Christine Kane)

Just because... I love purple and lavender (the color, the flower, the scent, the mood it conveys) and the songs of Christine Kane, oh my... :-)

From Wikipedia:

Lavenders are widely grown in gardens. Flower spikes are used for dried flower arrangements. The fragrant, pale purple flowers and flower buds are used in potpourris. Dried and sealed in pouches, they are placed among stored items of clothing to give a fresh fragrance and as a deterrent to moths. The plant is also grown commercially for extraction of lavender oil from the flowers. This oil is used as an antiseptic and for aromatherapy.

More here...

POEM: I Planned To Have a Border of Lavender by Paul Goodman

I planned to have a border of lavender
but planted the bank too of lavender
and now my whole crazy garden
is grown in lavender

it smells so sharp heady and musky
of lavender, and the hue of only
lavender is all my garden up
into the gray rocks.

When forth I go from here the heedless lust
I squander—and in vain for I am stupid
and miss the moment—it has blest me silly
when forth I go

and when, sitting as gray as these gray rocks
among the lavender, I breathe the lavender's
tireless squandering, I liken it
to my silly lusting,

I liken my silly indefatigable
lusting to the lavender which has grown over
all my garden, banks and borders, up
into the gray rocks

QUOTE: "I judge that the flowers of lavender quilted in a cap and worne are good for all diseases of the head that come from a cold cause and that they comfort the braine very well." ~ William Turner, 1551

Friday, September 5, 2008

All That Matters (Todd Snider)

"These are the times that try [wo]men's souls" ~ Thomas Paine

Lots going on these days, both locally and globally, such that we are challenged to think realistically as well as wax optimistically - I have always been a firm believer in the Power of Positive Thinking (no duh, Susan!) and I am intentioning my patootie off right now... :-)

First of all, let's talk about this hurricane season - we've been unbelievably lucky the last few years... and it's natural to give in to the mindset of "oh well, they had to catch up with us sometime". I beg to differ - I have wished strongly for Fay, Gustav and Hanna to present as near-misses... and they have. Upcoming
Ike may be more of a challenge... but I'm not giving up (my money's on the southernmost track on the computer model) - obviously, we are taking this day by day... and there is a fine line between anxiety and preparation.

We're fairly well-stocked with canned goods, water and non-perishables (cereal bars, granola bars, crackers, etc.) - I'll stop on the way home and fill up the car with gas and get cash from the ATM. The next few days will determine whether or not we put up the hurricane shutters and take down the windchimes (ugh) - in the meantime, thoughts/prayers/purple candles are much appreciated... <3

And then... there's the election coming up in November - I'm an Obama woman (another no duh). This deserves a whole other post but, scratching the surface, I am trying not to be annoyed that McCain's VP choice is just so *insulting* to women - how dare he think he can play the gender trump card... and females all over the country will fall for the bait and switch and ignore the fact Palin is so staunchly conservative. My friend Judi sent me this YouTube link - love it!

Storms on the horizon indeed - as my dear Todd Snider sings:

"Out in the rain, lost as I was
I said "You think it'll ever stop"
You said "It always does"

Once in a while
joy throws little stones at my window
it wants to let me know that it's waiting for me
but today I'm calm
I'd almost say even-tempered
I'm going to keep anxiety locked up
and then lie flat on my back
which is an elegant and comfortable position
for receiving and believing news

who knows where I'll be next
or when my story will be taken into account
who knows what advice I still might come up with
and what easy way out I'll take not to follow it

don't worry, I won't gamble with an eviction
I won't tattoo remembering with forgetting
there are many things left to say and suppress
and many grapes left to fill our mouths

don't worry, I'm convinced
joy doesn't need to throw any more little stones
I'm coming
I'm coming.

QUOTE: "The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half-inch eraser - in case you thought optimism was dead." ~ Robert Brault

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Right Now (Van Halen)

Daily Om

September 2, 2008
Right Where We Are
Enlightenment At Home

Many spiritual seekers feel called to far-flung places across the globe in the interest of pursuing the path of their enlightenment. This may indeed be the right course of action for certain people, but it is by no means necessary to attaining an enlightened consciousness. Enlightenment can take root anywhere on earth, as long as the seeker is an open and ready vessel for higher consciousness. All we need is a powerful intention, and a willingness to do the work necessary to moving forward on our path.

In terms of spiritual practice, at this moment, there are more tools available to more people than at any other time in history. We have access to so much wisdom through the vehicles of books, magazines, the Internet, television, and film. In addition, the time-honored practice of meditation is free, and sitting quietly everyday, listening to the universe, is a great way to start the journey within. There is further inspiration in the fact that the greatest teachers we have are our own life experiences, and they come to us every day with new lessons and new opportunities to learn. If we look at the people around us, we may realize that we have a spiritual community already intact, and if we don’t, we can find one, if not in our own neighborhood, then on-line.

Meanwhile, if we feel called to travel in search of teachers and experiences, then by all means, we should. But if we can’t go to India, or Burma, or Indonesia, or if we don’t have the desire, this is not an obstacle in terms of our spiritual development. In fact, we may simply be aware that our time and energy is best spent in our own homes, with our meditation practice and all the complications and joys of our own lives. We can confidently stay in one place, knowing that everything that we need to attain enlightenment is always available right where we are.

A few months ago, I stumbled across the Carrie & Danielle website and have very much enjoyed: the Daily Q & A, their blog, the profiles - each reading gives me a better sense of their priorities, which helps me better connect to who I am. As Dar sings, "sometimes I see myself fine, sometimes I just need a witness" - nothing like a cyber-soundingboard (even if they don't know it) upon which to bounce ideas and feelings.

The recent inspiration was motivated by something Danielle wrote last week (in italics below) - I continue to struggle with weight issues (written previously about here over a year ago), but I feel as if something clicked this time.

We’ve all heard it before.

You. Are. What. You. Eat.

It is so simply profound that we’d like to call your attention to it today and ask you this: are you trans-fat soaked chips in a plastic bag? Or are you a juicy mango mama grown with love?

What we put into our bodies doesn’t only show up on our gut and our butt, it radiates through our tone of voice, our complexion, our clarity of mind, our relationships, and our creative expression. Garbage in. Garbage out. Healthy in. Healthy out.

Your genuine self is unprocessed, Grade A, four-star nutritious.

THIS WEEK: It may seem cheesy (pun intended), but imagine yourself as a meal. Are you French cuisine or lentils and creamed butter served in a pottery bowl? Are you a bushel of apples, dark cocoa, or a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings? This week, before you bite it, bake it, or get it to go, ask yourself, “Is this me?”

You are what you eat.

Feed your soul.

As I just wrote this morning in a book to deliver to a dear friend tomorrow:

Dear _____,

Day/Week/Month 1 again... sigh... - well, at least that's been our mindset up until now...

I suggest we recalibrate our thought processes... and embrace the struggle/journey/challenge - just because we'll never be perfect (speaking for myself only!), doesn't mean we shouldn't stop trying. Being mindful of meeting our needs (physical/emotional/spiritual) keeps us tapped into tangible ways to move forward, positively, along our path - feed the soul indeed... <3

To paraphrase Danielle's delivery: Feed. My. Soul. - that's my new tattoo... as well as my new mantra... :-)

SONG: Right Now by Van Halen

BOOK: Fifty Ways to Feed Your Soul by
Rosemary Cunningham

POEM: Alive Together by Lisel Mueller

Speaking of marvels, I am alive
together with you, when I might have been
alive with anyone under the sun,
when I might have been Abelard's woman
or the whore of a Renaissance pope
or a peasant wife with not enough food
and not enough love, with my children
dead of the plague. I might have slept
in an alcove next to the man
with the golden nose, who poked it
into the business of stars,
or sewn a starry flag
for a general with wooden teeth.
I might have been the exemplary Pocahontas
or a woman without a name
weeping in Master's bed
for my husband, exchanged for a mule,
my daughter, lost in a drunken bet.
I might have been stretched on a totem pole
to appease a vindictive god
or left, a useless girl-child,
to die on a cliff. I like to think
I might have been Mary Shelley
in love with a wrong-headed angel,
or Mary's friend. I might have been you.
This poem is endless, the odds against us are endless,
our chances of being alive together
statistically nonexistent;
still we have made it, alive in a time
when rationalists in square hats
and hatless Jehovah's Witnesses
agree it is almost over,
alive with our lively children
who--but for endless ifs--
might have missed out on being alive
together with marvels and follies
and longings and lies and wishes
and error and humor and mercy
and journeys and voices and faces
and colors and summers and mornings
and knowledge and tears and chance.

QUOTE: "We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are." ~ Adelle Davis

Monday, September 1, 2008

It's My Job (Mac McAnally)

What a great loooooong Labor Day weekend - I loved having the extra day off, and found the balance all three days between productivity and puttering. Focused on lots of paperwork and e-mail catch-up - my husband was out of town on soccer stuff and my son worked late one night and then up early the next... so I had a good bit of alone time around here (that never happens!).

I slept late this morning (that never happens either) - I've also been vigilant with my eating habits, starting up a food journal again (more on that another post).

The main accomplishment was putting together 4 new chairs for the patio (although I paid about half that price for each set), complete with cushions (so comfy!) - 4 more remain but, given that they were very easy to assemble, it won't take long. I love Overstock.com - I thought about ordering the matching table, but it's out of stock (back in soon, I hope).

Watched No Country for Old Men on OnDemand cable, a big mistake with both of my guys out of the house - I've been a fan of the Cohen brothers ever since Blood Simple, but their movies do tend to be on the suspenseful, creepy side. Every once in a while I'd still/pause and look out the windows, making sure all was safe and sound - it took me a while to fall asleep...

Returning to work tomorrow (oh well) - it was nice while it lasted.. :-)

SONG: It's My Job by Mac McAnally

BOOK: The Language of Life by Bill Moyers

POEM: Miracle Fair by Wislawa Szymborska

The commonplace miracle:
that so many common miracles take place.

The usual miracles:
invisible dogs barking
in the dead of night.

One of many miracles:
a small and airy cloud
is able to upstage the massive moon.

Several miracles in one:
an alder is reflected in the water
and is reversed from left to right
and grows from crown to root
and never hits bottom
though the water isn't deep.

A run-of-the-mill miracle:
winds mild to moderate
turning gusty in storms.

A miracle in the first place:
cows will be cows.

Next but not least:
just this cherry orchard
from just this cherry pit.

A miracle minus top hat and tails:
fluttering white doves.

A miracle (what else can you call it):
the sun rose today at three fourteen a.m.
and will set tonight at one past eight.

A miracle that's lost on us:
the hand actually has fewer than six fingers
but still it's got more than four.

A miracle, just take a look around:
the inescapable earth.

An extra miracle, extra and ordinary:
the unthinkable
can be thought.

QUOTE: “Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.” ~ Susan Sontag