Monday, October 12, 2020

The Pottery of native Mt. Sterling potter Rob Barnard.




The Cup in My Hand

CD Collins

In the Shenandoah valley, bobcats roam the forest outside Rob Barnard’s studio. When it storms, thunder echoes mightily along the valley between the mountains. The wheel is spinning in the studio, the kiln is being stoked, preparing to fire up clay.  Rob signs his ceramics with a small circle and a dot inside, the calm in eye of the hurricane. To my eye, Rob’s pots are a step away from mud, as though Geb, the god of earth, dipped his hand into clay, shaped a bowl, smoothed away the excess, and fired it in the earth’s core. You can see the artist’s hand at work— drips, scrapes, even fingerprints.

I have lived with Rob’s work in my home for many years, and the experience has been transformative. His pieces are made to be used, not merely beheld. It is this direct experience, the invitation to touch, that provides a pathway to understanding the work. When I open my cabinet for a cup or bowl, I invariably reach for one of Rob’s. But why?  While it’s true that I like the aesthetic—how my chai tea looks in a particular vessel, how it feels to hold it—it’s more than that. Over time the pieces themselves teach me, exert subtle influences.

I grew up in the same Kentucky town as Rob, my family knew his family, though by the time our families became friends, Rob was already away from home, studying to be a priest. From his sisters I learned that he spent twelve hours a day in silence, three of those in prayer. My teenaged mind could not fathom the value of that practice. He decided to leave seminary and finish high school back home. After high school, Rob enlisted in the Marine Corps, served in Vietnam, then enrolled in the University of Kentucky during the heady, counterculture 70’s. Rob was part of a hotbed of inspired ceramists, who were impressed by the ash glaze produced by wood firing they’d read about. They wanted to recreate the effect but were unable to achieve it with the methods they used.

While a student at UK, Rob came across Bernard Leach’s “A Potters Book,” and after reading it, decided that if he truly wanted to be a professional, that is to become completely knowledgeable, not only about making pottery but also about the aesthetic aspects, he had to study in Japan. So in 1974, he and his wife, Lynn Marshall Barnard, moved there. Rob studied under the distinguished Kazuo Yagi at Kyoto University of Fine Arts.

Rob’s distinguished career now spans 40 years. Over the decades, Robert and Joseline Wood have collected his work and have now donated 37 pieces to The Crocker Art Museum of Sacramento, California, a premier institution in the field of international ceramics. The works will be housed in the new wing, the whole collection for one year, then selected pieces for permanent display.  

I attended an opening of Rob’s work in a gallery in Boston’s SOWA art district. His pieces startled me. I wanted to reconnect with Rob and open a dialogue about his work. So, at his invitation, I visited him at his home and studio in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. I drove over rolling gold winter hills, past bare sycamores with graceful trunks and cream-and-taupe mottled bark, a ridge planted with twisted dormant apple trees. As I approached his house, the landscape opened and softened. In the distance, the afternoon sun illuminated a row of maples like wan fans along the horizon.

With his shock of silver white hair and ready smile, Rob greets me from the porch. The order, arrangement, and earth-tones of his décor are welcoming and I have a sensation of being drawn into myself, my senses focusing into a state of calm alertness as my mind clears. Wow! I think, Good Feng Shui. My traveling companion, a Himalayan cat, catches the spirit of the place, leaps onto a leather couch and commences purring.

Rob offers me tea, Japanese style, warming the pot, heating the cream, and pulls a tray of homemade blueberry scones from the oven. We have our tea on the hickory dining room table, next to a small pile of brass-jacketed .45 caliber bullets. Rob is complex man— tough-minded and intellectual, passionate about his work.

After tea, Rob shows me around his studio and energetically discusses the prospect of his upcoming firing. He built the studio from rough lumber and equipped it with deep shelves, three separate potter’s wheels and a woodstove. He points to a small, slightly out-of-round cup and talked about the importance of spontaneity. “I might plan to make a dozen goblets,” he says, “but could instead end up working all day on a little creamer that catches my curiosity.”

He holds up a teapot with a hollow, cone-shaped handle a narrow upturned spout. The sooty top half blends into the rusty bottom half. The pot is elegant, but not pretty, its shape and finish feel both conscious and unforced. Just as there is no clutter in Rob’s house, there is no clutter in his pots. Yet their simplicity is accomplished through a series of complex considerations.

The finished works aren’t necessarily peaceful.  Rob isn’t churning out ceramics in order to make people happy and comfortable. In his words, a good pot “reflects our frailties and strengths and offers us a riddle (koan) about how contradictory elements might be resolved to create something powerfully human. Good pottery must therefore have opposing elements—just as human beings have their own make-up—and then seek a resolution of these contradictions. That’s what makes it compelling.”

When I take the teapot in my hands, testing its heft and touching its rough surface, I am reminded of the Native American slang term wonky. The concept is that if the artist is disciplined, spirit can work through the heart and hand, uniting divine energy with the imperfection of the human experience. The resulting creation vibrates with aliveness and authenticity.  I believe that quality is why I choose Rob’s bowl out of my cabinet, or his vase for my flowers.

But what, if anything, does this mean? Michael Cardew in his book Pioneer Pottery notes that if a potter is to work properly he or she must live on the frontiers of art as the scientist lives on the frontiers of knowledge. She is always taking risks because she does not know the outcome of her work prior to its creation. There is no formula, no map and, as far as she knows, no audience.

This approach requires, a willingness to accept outcomes we cannot predict. It demands attention both from the creator and the observer, not a passive experience of art, but an encounter. As Rob writes, “You may be in a museum looking at painting, sculpture, pottery, or photographs, when suddenly an object seizes you and creates a kind of mental confusion. You may be strongly drawn to it, for example, when, in fact, you thought you would or should detest it. This experience unexpectedly causes you to transcend your prejudices and taste and somehow makes the world a larger and more beautiful place to inhabit, a place where all things seem possible. Your fears and worries vanish and you leave feeling like you are walking on air...”

In America, many have come to view the artistic impulse as extraneous, not of vital to our well being. I believe that if we become disconnected from the objects in our hands, where they were made, and by whom, we become disconnected from meaningful contact with the world as well as those objects relationship to our inner lives. We become disempowered to influence our own stake in these questions. Yet I am also convinced that as a culture we are hungry for a route out of the simulacra, for relief from the overstatement of the millionth identical, factory-produced, aesthetically void mug for sale in Target.

From a shelf in Rob’s studio, I pick up a stoneware tea bowl, with white slip and a clear glaze. The slip contains crackles and drips, but the glazed surface is smooth. It feels right in my hand and I know I will take it home.  Nothing will ever be exactly like it. Is not an imitation. Not an advertisement. It is the thing itself.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Marc Zegans' The Underwater Typewriter by CD Collins

Marc Zegans’ The Underwater Typewriter
By CD Collins

With open arms let us welcome Marc Zegans’ Underwater Typewriter into the literary world. Zegans’ poems both anchor and elevate as they remind us of the rewards of fully observing what is before us—a jacket, a memory, a key, complex emotions, a moment in time.  He engages our senses, intellect and heart as he constructs an intricate bridge from two-dimensional language and delivers us to the fathomless reaches of four dimensional experience.   As Zegans’ reports and interprets, he allows us deeply into his narrators’ inner life and reveals a mature, raw, and piercing vision.
Stylistically, Zegans’ verse is varied. Some poems are three lines long, others take time to breathe and unfold. Some assume shapes on the page as concrete poems.  Punctuation is spare. In many poems he uses only lowercase letters, which has the effect of lending equal heft and importance to the subject at hand, whether  “chopin’s nocturnes” or “an illegitimate cousin.”
 One of my favorite poems in the collection contemplates a ring of “Old Keys.” They open nothing in his current life, but formerly “opened doors/To rooms once familiar.” The poet longs for the keys to remind him of those forgotten chapters “But old keys are orphans/who cannot speak of grief.”
One of poetry’s primary pursuits is to ask questions. In “Catch” the poet goes fishing on a concrete pier with homeless anglers. He catches a rough-skinned gray fish and returns his catch to the salt. He does these things but does not to presume to know precisely what motivates him.
“I guess I went to lean against the rusting rails...”
“I guess I went to feel the fog wet my face...”
“I guess I went in summer to breathe deep cold air...”
“I guess I went for hope...”
I admire the honesty of this level of inquiry, which admits that our inner drives are a mystery even to ourselves.
The inner life is reflected in the outer world in some poems, including “Trimming,” where an unseen ice storm weighs limbs “beyond what can be borne.” The poet acknowledges that there is nothing do be done “except watch...and wonder at the speed...” of these losses.
Zegans deals in big themes—death, love, loss—rendering them against a backdrop of oceans, the body, cityscapes and the underground. He notes not only what we lose, but what we gain. In these poems, the beloved takes on many forms. She mystifies, leaves the poet bereft and is herself forsaken; she engages with the poet in a life and death struggle to find the shore.
In “San Diego” the poet starkly confesses:   “I’m dying inside/Nothing will stop the bleeding/except for your kiss.” In “By Which,” he comments on the nature of real love: “I love you/I forgo the violent urge to have you/other than you are.”
“What is Hers” is an exquisite chronicle of what the beloved leaves behind, “Grey lace... thong left... as a scent marker, a trace memory, so I will not forget... Also “Tiny cut glass, black beads on a crumpled black necklace, set deliberately...” The poet wonders, if she will come to claim these objects, and perhaps, by implication, to claim him.
“Somerville” describes an unforgettable a kiss under a streetlight, the “double dissolve/ into the preternaturally warm November New England night,” illuminating how a kiss has the power to outweigh all considerations, which will have to wait until morning.
“The Outgoing”  details the drowning of a college boy who drowns in the breakers while the girl he came to kiss bobs
                                                      “in the green
space between
                                                        life and death.”
The lines are spaced on the page to evoke the ebb and flow of tides, the mortal distance between the lovers, the overwhelming vastness of the forces they have encountered.
Zegans’ verse is full of surprises and economy of phrase, “the drying ache of salt,” the a “squiggle Formica dinette.” In “almost,” a “danger body” resides inside the poet, “You cannot see my danger body/gristle sagging beneath my eyes/meat-hooked from my cheek.” In this place, the “me” is “a tiny voice lost in this chasm/of bone and skin and failing parts.”
In “Only Safety” the poet sits in his car contemplating the safety glass that has been shattered by a thrown rock into “crackle patterns/defining many principalities/in a space, once a clear union.” For the person who threw the rock, he feels “curiosity and sorrow” for someone who tries to make themselves himself safe through an act of violence. The poet sees beyond fear and and grief to the sense of shared loss that we all feel in a world that isn’t safe and can’t be made safe. Only “the dead are truly invulnerable....” (Out).
“Only Safety” as well as many of the poems in this collections help us to consider as the poet does, courageously and with a clear eye, the only thing we do possess, the experience we are in right now.
 (from Finding)
“It takes good ears to hear the sound of light
a stillness in the heart to sound your eyes
dropping line below the receding whisper
into the quiet layer, finding ground.”
These poems call us to see, to listen and deeply feel whatever it is. The title poem of the collection is a journey with a mysterious female sea creature who meets him on the ocean floor where she presents him with a “round-keyed Royal typewriter” and bids him begin. Zegans fine tunes our ears to the sound of light, to take us into that quiet layer and anchor us there.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

What I Can Do

My favorite church is Keas tabernacle, the African Methodist Episcopal church on the east end of my home town.  I am moved by the warmth of the congregation, the cadence and metaphor of the preacher, the swaying choir.  I have learned some of my best lessons in that sanctuary.  One Sunday morning, we congregants filed down the red-carpeted aisles to kneel around the chancel for private prayers. As we knelt, the choir sang a hymn with the chorus “You are worthy, you are worthy.”

I know something about the lives of the African Americans in that congregation.  I know that some businesses don’t close on Martin Luther King day, that inside the hearts of some townsfolk, the rebel flag still flies.  The choir’s voices resonated inside me “you are worthy.” I believed them. And I understood how necessary it is to believe. That Sunday, the preacher ended his sermon with the directive to “do what you can.”

“You don’t have to do everything,” he said, “but you must do something. Do what you can.”

Yesterday,  I worked with a graphic designer on the jacket design for my forthcoming album Clean Coal/Big Lie. The title song describes how giant machines are knocking off the mountaintops of Appalachia. Most of us are aware that coal-fired plants are polluting the air worldwide, but not everyone knows about the environmental devastation in the communities where this coal is being extracted.

I didn’t want to put a picture of a destroyed mountain on the album cover. I didn’t want an image of a slurry pond. I wanted bluebirds. Many years ago, my mother had painted a watercolor of bluebirds taking flight.  I wanted to use that image because it corresponded to a line in the song “the bluebird flies up, but where does she go?”

I’ve been working on this album for three years. There have been many frustrations, set backs and delays. I’ll spare you the chronicle.  The jacket lists two songs that haven’t been recorded yet. But, with a lot of help from generous and talented people, I am determined that the album will be completed and released.

My old Kentucky home consists of a house and 56 acres. That might sound big to a city dweller, but it’s considered a baby farm.  My house was the first one built on the road, a Victorian cottage constructed in the 1890s. When I put the down payment on the farm in the 1960s, the whole area was farmsteads.  Now, it’s all subdivisions. My farm is the only one left.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years, renting my house out unknowingly to meth producers, letting my pond go to ruin. But the past several years, I’ve been getting an education. For one, I had the pond dipped out.  The only thing alive in what had become a swamp overrun with cattails, was a snapping turtle and a granddaddy catfish bleached white from chlorine. My neighbors had been surreptitiously draining their pool’s backwash into the pond for years.

All those beautiful bushes that enclosed my house in a green cocoon? Well, they were invasive bush honeysuckle, not a good home for wildlife as I had naively assumed. Bush honeysuckle sends out a chemical that turns the soil acidic and discourages growth of anything but more invasive honeysuckle. There’s another invasive that has taken over much of the pastureland in Kentucky: fescue, a grass that was sown because it could withstand drought and poor soil. Someone even named the invasive seed Kentucky 31. When cattle graze on fescue, it overheats them, especially their feet. That’s why you see cows standing in the water during Kentucky summers.  Invasives have no natural competitors, so they are hard to kill.

This past fall, I arranged for a chemical burn of four of my fields, a total of 9.6 acres.  They were burned again last week. Herbicides are toxic chemicals, but they tell me that glysophate breaks down the fastest. I hope that’s right.   And the sound of the chainsaw is my buddy Ray, cutting down bush honeysuckle and ailanthus trees. I will plant native hardwoods in their place.

Today, spent $1,100 on one hundred pounds of seed — of tiny, fragile, native grass seed.  If the stars align, these seeds will be planted in the burned fields.  After three years, they tell me, those fields will be thick with Virginia Wild Rye, Side Oats Gamma and Little Blue Stem. Dispersed among the grasses I hope to see native flowers — Partridge pea, Indiana Bundleflower, Black-eyed Susan and Purple Coneflower.

These are high protein grasses, good for cattle, and for nesting birds and wildlife. I am trying to create a bit of habitat to contrast with its massive loss, locally and worldwide. I know how lucky I am. To own a farm, to have a chance to contribute in this way.  I cannot change the unfair history of this farmland, where I have found flint stone arrows from the Wyandot and Cherokee. I cannot burn my fields with a controlled natural fire because I’m too close to houses. I cannot even assure that these grasses will survive.

But yesterday, when my graphic designer send me a mock up of my album-to-be, I was struck by sinister quality in the deep hues of the blue cover, the birds taking wing in alarm from their exploded mountain home.  They fly up, and where will they go? I hope they fly west a few counties. I hope I am in path of their flyway. I am putting up bluebird houses. I am planting the fragile seed.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Dear Rand Paul

Dear Mr. Paul,

You are an ophthalmologist, a sight specialist. I must reveal that I question yours — sight, insight, point of view. You say, for instance, that mountaintop removal improves the land. Can you not see that this method of coal retrieval has lay to ruin a million acres of Appalachia, and buried 2,000 miles of streams? Would you not recommend that the eyes of eastern Kentuckians close at night to rest? Yet, our eyes do not rest because of harsh lights that intrude around the clock so that machines can obliterate our mountains ever faster. Do you not hear the thunder of the dynamite, the incessant noise of chain saws and bulldozers clear-cutting our forests? Have you not tasted the fouled water, polluted with coal slurry, that sicken our children? Have you not been touched by the sorrow of the people of this state who have lost their property, their jobs, their culture, their health and even their lives due to this practice?

When we refer to mountaintop removal as the rape of Appalachia, the metaphor is apt. When you say, Mr. Paul, that mountaintop removal is good for the land, your comment sounds very like the pimp who rapes and beats women into submission so they make better prostitutes. Compliant and defenseless. Nobody is going to miss a hill or two, you say.

Dear Mr. Paul, you say that Oxycontin abuse is not a pressing problem in our state. Are you not aware in Kentucky we have a generation of young people now struggling with a tenacious addiction to a pill that was promoted as non-addictive by a corporation that knew better? Do you not notice the drug-related crime statistics in the paper? Have you not read their obituaries?

Dear Rand Paul, do you believe the things you say about the need to repeal parts of the Civil Rights Act, or the lack of need for legislation to protect those who face discrimination?

Or are you, Mr. Paul, just the latest beneficiary of the sadly effective Southern Strategy implemented by Richard Nixon, which plays to our worst instincts, our prejudices and our fears? Are you just the libertarian version of the politician who snows us with lies proffered as facts by repeating them ad infinitum in their “news” programs? It goes like this: Fox News quotes Rush Limbaugh, who got his information from Sharron Angle, who’d had a conversation with Sarah Palin, who’d heard it on Fox News — a self-affirming circle of fact-free constructed realities. You are familiar with this method in your own life, Mr. Paul, certifying yourself as a qualified ophthalmologist by a board that you established yourself and populated with your family members.

Nevertheless, you have been elected to represent my state in the US Senate. Your job is to open your eyes to the reality of our beautiful and beleaguered state. Your job is to stop the destruction of our mountains, not to turn a blind eye their devastation. Your job is to help our youth struggling with bleak job prospects and pill habits, to have the vision to help them, instead of denying their existence. Your job is to represent the people, all of us.

Dear Rand Paul, Now is the time to come to your senses.

CD Collins
Native Kentuckian

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Has the Cream Candy Creamed?

It’s true what they say about insecure people and downtrodden cultures. Because we feel inferior, we have a tendency to brag. When news comes from Appalachia onto the national scene, it usually involves grandmothers peddling oxycontin out of their pocketbooks or finding a philandering husband in a deep freeze with his face on backwards.

Good Lord, I think. Do they have to show that?

As an antidote, I play a game called Name That Kentuckian.

Abraham Lincoln? Diane Sawyer? George Clooney? Johnny Depp? They’re from Kentucky!!! Jeremy Sumpter, the quarterback J.D. McCoy on Friday Night Lights was raised in my hometown.

Want a Kentucky writer? Wendell Berry, bell hooks, Robert Penn Warren, Barbara Kingsolver, Frank X. Walker, just for starters.

Shall I put on some music? How about Loretta Lynn, Joan Osborne, The Judds, Patty Loveless or Bill Munroe? Kentucky born, of course.

We invent stuff, too: the mobile phone, the steamboat, gas masks, cheeseburgers, and Preparation H & BOURBON...there when you really need them.

But this piece is about a little-known and practically secret Kentucky creation: the divine confection known as cream candy.

As with many inventions, I imagine cream candy as an accident, born from creative necessity. It’s Christmas Eve, say. We live in a log cabin and there are four of us kids. Our family has spent all our money on shoes. What’s in the cupboard? Hmmm... butter, sugar, cream, oh just pour it all in the iron pot.

Let’s stir the concoction over the woodstove... but then the stove catches fire and we flee out into the snow, carrying the sweet boiling liquid. Momma trips and the contents of the pot fly into the frigid air landing on Granddad’s marble tombstone. We kids grab it up and begin a tug of war, as we pull and pull, the compound magically turns into taffy. Fascinated, we pull hand over hand until Dad hollers that the fire is out. “It was just the creosote burning inside the stove pipe!”

Inside, we notice a second transformation of our creation. It has a lighter, lustrous color. The candy rope seems to glow. Momma tells us to set it down on the kitchen table. She whips out the scissors and cuts the rope into small pieces. We pop bits of the amazing confection into our mouths and let it melt there, staggering around the warm kitchen, our ecstatic faces lifted heavenward.

The next morning, we dash into the kitchen where dad is frying bacon and discover that the candy has done its final magic trick. It has changed from chewy and dense, to a soft, artfully-textured morsel.

“It creamed!” the youngest child says and we all eat a piece and stagger mmmmmming around the kitchen once more.

This scenario is fantasy. To my knowledge, the sparse history of the sweet does not include a description of the how the first batch came about. We do know that Ruth Hunt, the founder of Hunt’s Candy Company began making this candy for her friends and, as the demand rose, began her own company in 1921. Legend has it that Ruth Hunt expanded the original recipe in an effort to cheer up her daughter by dipping slabs of it into dark chocolate. She named the candy bar, Blue Monday.

I currently divide my life between my beloved farm in Mt. Sterling and my artistic community in Greater Boston, a settlement known as Somerville, or affectionately, Slummerville, and where Marshmallow Fluff was invented.

The cultural gap between the towns is interplanetary. When I arrived back in the Boston area after the holidays, I parked my car a half a mile from my house, and draggle-tailed my feline children, over a Salvador Dalí-like melted, refrozen moonscape of grey, pocked snowdrifts. I was about to topple into well of depression.

But then...

My best friend, who’d been staying in my apartment since surviving a house fire, my traveling companion and myself, all of us born at some point along that stretch of Kentucky U.S. 60 where cream candy is still made, opened my red tin, packed full by a friend.

The three of us gathered in my Somerville kitchen, partook of the sweetness that unfurled into our senses with an almost genetic pleasure. We staggered around the kitchen our chins lifted, eyes closed.

But back for a moment, to my opening statement about culture, insecurity and pride of place. I took a friend of mine from the Northeast to Kentucky and she became enamored of our cream pies. My friend asked the chef for the recipe. She came out from the kitchen, with a smile and declined to share.

“Momma would have a fit,” she said, wiping her hands on her apron. My friend produced a $20 and asked if the crust made from hot water or cold. The woman shook her head again, smiling. “Sorry,” she said. She no doubt could have used that twenty and my friend would have loved that recipe. Boston has a cream pie, but it isn’t a pie at all. It’s a cake with layers of custard. But the message was clear: Don’t come swaggering down here and think you can skim off our cream. Our recipes are not for sale.

But I’m going to contribute to the bridging of the cultural divide and I’m going to do it right now. Yes.

I am going to give you the recipe for cream candy.

Hunt’s Candy company is thriving in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky and my friends Jimmy and Debby Robinson still make tinful after tinful in the winter. It is my honor to share the recipe they use.

Uncle Hurshel's Kentucky Cream Candy Recipe

Best to Choose a Low Humidity, Cold Day in Kentucky
(Best if it is below 32 degrees with less than 50% humidity and as close to Kentucky as you can get!)
~ Chill a large piece of marble slab by placing outdoors
~ Using a medium to large cooking pot, mix 3 Cups of sugar with one cup of water
~ Cook on Medium Heat stirring with a wooden spoon
~ When mixture threads from the spoon (Forms a thread when spoon is tilted), Pour in one cup heavy whipping cream (1/2 Pint) laced with a pinch of baking soda
~ Do Not Stir
~ Using a candy thermometer, Remove mixture from heat when temperature is at 260 degrees
~ Pour directly onto the cold marble slab (after spreading a small amount of butter over the slab)
~ Work the mixture with hands until cool enough to pick up
~ Continue to "Pull" the candy hand over hand until no longer sticky and the mixture has turned white
~ Immediately pull it out into a roll and cut with scissors into bite-size pieces
~ Wait for about an hour and place in tin containers
~ Candy should "cream" overnight

Special note to the uninitiated:

This candy is meant to be nibbled and savored. Please do not place a whole piece, or even two, as I have seen done, or your stagger will be more along the lines of insulin shock than culinary joy. If the recipe overwhelms, then just come on over to my house.

By CD Collins & Billy Marshmallow

What Your Valentine Really Wants

I’m beginning to see a pattern: couples in trouble because one partner wants a verbal intimacy that the other is not interested, capable of, or ... able to fathom.

Last night, I spoke with a close male friend, who yakked on like an interesting, articulate magpie about the nuances of his troubled relationship with his girlfriend.
Her complaint: he doesn’t talk to her.
His complaint: she goes nuts on him.

“I don’t even remember what I said,” he tells me over hot chocolate, “but I guess it was the wrong thing.”
Get your head on, boy! The least you can do is pay attention.

In frustration, his girlfriend sometimes:
Kicks him out of the apartment, and seethes for days.
Yells at him in an escalating fashion.

To be fair, he really doesn’t know what she’s talking about, or he forgets, especially in those moments of crises. In relating the situation to me, he seemed surprised by her reaction:
“Suddenly, she started yelling at me.”
He was not able to draw a line from his behavior to her response. He did not see the connection. His concept of the big picture is all a-fuzz.
Listening further, he revealed the root of the problem,
as common as it is profound: he is afraid.....

....that she will leave him.
Honey Jock! This is the very definition of neurosis:
to create through your actions the very thing you fear.

I don’t think communication walls are just a man thing.
This impasse is not sexed.
I know men who complain about women for the same reason.

A few days ago, I was speaking to a female friend. Let’s call her Charlotte Bronte. Well, Charlotte was tormented with this issue concerning her wife. Yes, her wife. Relax. This is Massachusetts. Her wife would not or could not provide the deeply intimate, imaginative communication that Charlotte craved. Her wife wanted to talk about laundry.

You know, metaphorical laundry without the metaphors. The practical stuff, not the soul stuff. The couple had tried therapy for years and Charlotte told me that she had ended up sounding like an unhinged looney tunes. No one, not even the therapist, could get a grip of what Charlotte was freaking out about.
And poor Charlotte Bronte was starving...

Charlotte and I agreed that this deep communication, talking not just talking, is, to us, like manna, the miraculous food supplied to the Israelites in the wilderness.

I brought this subject up with another couple over dinner.
“Does he listen and remember what you say?” I asked.
“Remember?” She laughed heartily. “He doesn’t even hear it.”
“Be fair,” her husband warned.
“Okay,” she replied, “He listens....when I’m talking about sex.”

So, this Valentine’s Day, why not surprise your Valentine with what that girl or guy really wants. And your Valentine will be grateful, and eager to please. I’m telling ya.

Dr. John Gottman speaks of the four horseman of the apocalypse when predicting marriage failure and success.
The four horsemen that predict failure are as follows:
Criticism, Defensiveness, Stonewalling and Contempt.

If any of these horse are affecting your relationship, could a lack of manna could be involved?
If so,
show courage, open your ears, open your mouth, open your heart,
and see what little bit of Heaven may follow.

CD Collins

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Himalayan Cabinet Appointments

My sisters have been appointed to important cabinet positions in the Obama administration. Savannah May is a PETA consultant, ASPCA liaison. Lily is helping to end Mountaintop Removal in her ancestral home of Appalachia.

Terminator Cracks W.’s Head Open, Revealing Contents

Post-election, I watched a softball interview with George W. Bush inside an airport. I studied the outgoing president, curious and open-minded, hoping to see the charming, warm person I’ve heard about for so long coming into public view. I held the same hope viewing a television spot featuring Sarah Palin.

Watching and listening, I felt a hungry frustration for something to latch on to, some indication that they had thought through the issues and had reflected upon them in a meaningful way. What I heard, instead, were two ideologues reviewing the same talking points, and not even rendering them well. Not chasing popularity, Bush said, did what I believed was right . . . honoring the fallen . . . etc. etc. ad infinitum.

Watching him reminded me of seeing bad actors on screen. I have my list .. Madonna, Keanu Reeves ... you have yours. When I enter that movie house, I want to be moved, to be convinced. I want to believe. But I end up with that junk food feeling: I ate, I swallowed, but there was little nutrition, and I’ve consumed ingredients that aren’t good for me, that sometimes aren’t even really food.

And so it is with talking points. Words are coming out, but what of substance is being said? It’s a question that’s haunted our country for almost eight years: Is he serious? And now, with Sarah Palin: Is she for real? Or is it just more bad acting?

If The Terminator, say, cracked these two open, would the ideologue hush up and a real person step out, thoughtful, articulate, complex, able to listen? Or, if, using special effects, of course, they were cut up into dozens of tiny pieces, would each of those pieces spout the same bit-byte rhetoric? According to the results of my informal poll, I am afraid the conclusion is the latter. They’re not acting. They believe it. That’s what being an ideologue means, whatever the stripe.

As a listener, the moment of anguish in the Bush interview came when he said, I just want to go home . . . write my book. He wants to go home, to Texas, to his ranch. He spoke this wistfully, confidently, as though he had a perfect right to this comfort and security. Hearing this, I felt the familiar visceral repulsion at this man’s blind entitlement.

My mind was flooded with a rush of images of American soldiers secreted back home in coffins, or with Traumatic Brain Injury, or redeployed for another round of service; images of the residents of the Ninth Ward who lost their homes; Iraqi civilians whose homes are now rubble; people whose homes were built in the mountains of Appalachia. Those homes are torn down and the mountains along with them. A near infinite number of perished and poisoned wildlife whose habitat has disappeared. I thought of all those families displaced because their homes have been foreclosed. I thought of the homeless on the streets of our cities.

George W. Bush and his cabinet had an active hand in all of this. Their policies and decisions separated people from their homes, caused their home lives to be forever changed. And now this man, who despite his Ivy-League education, has trouble putting a sentence together, just wants to go home and write his book.

He just wants to go home.

Yeah, George W., we know you feel.

Friday, February 24, 2006


I was recently talking to a friend about the list of unfortunate actions taken by the current Bush Administration. My friend remarked that surely Bush would not mess with a particular freedom, because everyone would be up in arms.

Every week, this administration fails us in some way, yet we are not up in arms. Our privacies and liberties are invaded, our earth damaged irreparably, our illegal war fought and paid for by the poor. Our right to choose an abortion is back in question, our right to choose a leader in serious Diebold doubt.

Still, we go on about our lives.
We do not take it to the streets.
What might constitute the final straw that would get us out from in front our televisions and computers and movie screens and form a public outcry that must me heard?

Will we respond as the good citizens of Nazi Germany, and allow the unthinkable because it happened in degrees?
Are we too complacent, lazy, busy, comfortable, blind?
Is protest inconvenient?
Or do we just feel helpless?

A few months ago, I stood with dozens of people at a vigil in Somerville’s Davis Square, holding a candle and sending my silent thoughts to Cindy Sheehan. On Wednesday, a similar vigil was held in protest of unwarranted wiretapping.
It was a moving occasion, but what was its practical purpose?

Consider the work of the Raja Yogas who have conducted several experiments over the years to test the effects of meditation.
In June 1999, the Social Indicators Research journal reported one of the most dramatic sociological experiments ever undertaken.
Intense group meditation was done over an eight-week period in Washington, DC, during the summer of 1993. Researchers, before the experiment, had predicted a reduction in crime of at least 20 per cent.
Findings later showed that violent crime--including rapes, murders and assaults--had decreased by 23 per cent during the June 7 to July 30 experimental period.

The odds of this result are two in one billion.

The demonstration had involved nearly 4,000 practitioners of Transcendental Meditation from 81 countries.

Hagelin stated: "Previous research had shown that these meditation techniques create a state of deep relaxation and coherence in the individual and simultaneously appear to produce an effect that spreads into the environment, influencing people who are not practicing the techniques and who have no knowledge of the experiments themselves."

Hagelin, an eminent physicist, drew terminology from quantum field theories to refer to the results of meditation as "a field effect of consciousness."

"It's analogous to the way that a magnet creates an invisible field that causes iron filings to organize themselves into an orderly pattern," Hagelin said.

He also said that meditation has been shown to create high levels of coherence and orderliness in individual practitioners.

This "orderliness" appears to spill over into society and can be measured directly through the positive changes that occur.

Dr. Ann Hughes, a professor of Sociology and Government at the University of the District of Columbia, later said of the experiment: "What we are looking at here is a new paradigm of viewing crime and violence. Hughes was part of a 27-member project review board composed of independent scientists and civic leaders who approved the research protocol and monitored and the process."

Sr. Jasmine, co-ordinator of the center, said that the most powerful instrument known to man is the power of thought.

"Crime begins as a thought," Sr. Jasmine said.

I love it. Hard science and the New Age together at last.

Because the problems appear overwhelming, many of us default into despair, believing that what we do does not count,
that one person cannot effect change.
But what we do does count, and you know it.
And one person can effect change.
Cindy Sheehan proved that once again.

As a proponent of peaceable solutions,
I don’t believe that up in arms is the best way to go.
Up in arms is the bully route. Up in arms ain’t working, just take a look around.
I believe we should continue to sign petitions, call and write our representatives, make sure our voting machines work, and hang onto our democracy however we can.

Take it to the streets? Yes, more ande more of us. March on Washington? I'm ready.

Imagine a public outcry transformed to peaceful silence.
Imagine those up in arms, laying them down.

What do you think?