Friday, May 10, 2024

A dragon ate the sun

"A majestical experience!" "Awesome!" “Amazing!” Those are some of the reactions people expressed about the total solar eclipse April 8.

I had a different reaction.

We live in central Indiana, directly in the path of totality, and figured on getting some good shots (my husband John is a photographer). We debated setting up his equipment at an overlook at Eagle Creek reservoir or the huge empty parking lot at Lafayette Square Mall, both locations a few miles from our home, but eventually settled on our own house. The best viewing spot happened to be from our front walk—at three o’clock the sun would be above the tree in our front yard.

I brought out our camp chairs and settled in while John set up his cameras. The afternoon was bright and sunny. There was little traffic on our street, as is normal. It was very quiet. My neighbor came out to watch, and the neighbor next to her. They kept up a running conversation during the event that was eerily loud. Then the lighting started getting very strange as the moon passed in front of the sun, and at the moment of totality it was dark-but-not-dark, similar to how it is at sunset. But there was no blazing red sun to the west, or anywhere, so it was like I was on a different planet—all very strange and unsettling. I was also disoriented by the eclipse glasses not allowing any light in at all except for the sun—you couldn’t see anything but the yellow ball in the sky.

It was cool, but not cool. Suddenly everything in my world—my yard, my street, the very sky above me—was unfamiliar to me in the darkness. Even though I knew what was happening, I couldn’t help thinking, “This isn’t what 3:00 PM DST at 39°46′07″N 86°09′29″W is supposed to look like.” It was a disruption of “the way things should be.” My discomfort surprised me—instead of the awe and wonder I expected to feel witnessing this rare celestial event, I felt nervous and off-balance, to the extent I became dizzy and nauseated. I can absolutely understand why people regarded an eclipse as a harbinger of doom. I would have been one of those Vikings banging on drums and yelling my head off to frighten away Sköll, the sun-eating wolf—or worse, searching (probably in vain) for a virgin to sacrifice. “We must do something to bring back the sun!” then a few minutes later, relief: “I guess making a lot of noise worked, the sun is back!”

The dizziness and nausea abated after a few hours, and I realized if I’d stayed in the house during the whole affair, I wouldn’t have been bothered at all. But I would have missed an exciting event many people all over the world would envy encountering—one I had only to step out of my front door to experience.

“O dark, dark, dark, amid the blaze of noon, Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse Without all hope of day!”—John Milton

Click here for John's take on the eclipse and the really cool pictures he took!

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Word play

At the grocery store the other day, I finished my portion of the shopping early and waited a few minutes in the deli for John to finish his. I have no problem keeping myself entertained in a waiting situation--I'll people-watch and make up stories about them or pull a puzzle book out of my purse and solve a syllacrostic or cryptogram. That day I decided to make up my own game--the Meijer deli has the word "Market" in big script on the wall, so I thought I'd see how many words of three or more letters I could make out of the word "market." Here's what I came up with:

3-letter words:

are, ark, arm, art, ate

ear, eat, era

mar, mat, met

ram, rat

tar, tea

4-letter words:


make, maker

mare, mart

mate, mater






take, taker

tame, tamer


teak, team, tear



Later, I saw that I missed "mark" (somehow) and "trek."

Do you make up games to entertain yourself?

Friday, July 7, 2023

Double Troubles Part 4

A friend recently told me he’d been up to Carmel North Hospital and thought he’d seen me in the distance. “Was that you?” he asked. “Are you OK?” I assured him I was fine but that wasn’t me he’d seen—it was probably my double.

We’re all supposed to have at least one doppelgänger—a “double walker” who so closely resembles us even a close friend would have difficulty spotting the difference. Was the woman my friend saw a Flo from another timeline that intersected with ours for a moment? A long-lost twin the ‘rents neglected to tell me about for some reason? An alien who found my appearance appealing for a disguise? A clone from a secret laboratory under Carmel North?

Here is a fun “A Doppelgänger Field Guide” featuring possibilities I hadn’t thought of:

John has seen my doppelgänger a couple of times. It’s a few days before Christmas, 1979. I start wrapping presents and discover the Stretch Spider-Man we bought for three-year-old Eoin is leaking! This is something he really wants, so that means trekking to Children’s Palace and exchanging it without Eoin figuring out what we are doing. (This is a BIG present for him, a surprise.) John drops me off at the entrance to the store on West 38th St. and he and Eoin wait in the car not far from the front. That night I’m wearing a distinctive grey cape-coat my mom had given me the year before. I didn’t wear it often because, without sleeves, it was impractical for winter weather.

The store is crowded with holiday shoppers coming and going, and John is surprised to see me come out after only 10-15 minutes. Eoin sees me, too, and yells, “It’s Mommy!” They know it’s me because I am wearing the unusual cape-coat, besides being the right height and general size with long brown hair holding a shopping bag that contains a box the right size for the toy. John says, “Let’s go get Mommy!” and pulls up to the entrance, keeping an eye on me the whole time. But then the figure steps behind a pillar—and disappears. He parks the car, gets out, and starts looking around. Then he walks over to the front window and sees me at the Service desk—halfway through a line of forty customers! Why did I go back into the store? How did I get back in there so fast? The figure he’d seen looked exactly like me. Weird.

Fast forward to summer of 1993. I’m job-hunting, laid off from running a mainframe for AARP (the whole shebang shut down, leaving more than 100 people out of a job). I don’t relish the idea of working downtown but figure what the heck, I’ll apply at Merchants Bank for a job in MIS. This time, John sits alone in the food court on the third floor of Claypool Court on the NW corner of Washington and Illinois and waits for me to come up the escalators. After business was taken care of, we planned to get a coke and share fond memories of times spent there with Eoin--one of our favorite things to do as a family was to go downtown and shop at magazine stores that stocked periodicals we couldn’t get at your friendly neighborhood drugstore—computer magazines like Antic, Analog, ST Express and ST World, esoteric ones like Weird Tales and Magical Blend, etc.—not to mention Fangoria, Famous Monsters, and Cinefantastique! (And it was really exciting when the stores selling computer magazines stocked an issue with one of John’s articles in it!) Then we’d tromp over to the food court at Claypool Court for a coke and share our finds.

Anyhow, that day I’m looking very spiffy, wearing new dusky rose slacks and fuchsia suit jacket with a nice flowery blouse, good shoes, long brown-gray hair curled, leather purse over my shoulder and carrying a briefcase. I’d say my hair was my most distinguishing feature (besides the elan with which I carried myself). So, John is waiting for me, doesn’t know how long I’ll be because I might get an interview if they take one glance at my application and decide they must speak to such a qualified candidate immediately, and he sees me riding the first escalator. Same outfit, purse, briefcase, curled hair. Oh, good, he’s thinking, she’s done. He watches me come up the second escalator and get off on the third floor. Then I step behind a post—and promptly disappear! John is looking all around, wondering, What the heck? Did she go into a shop? If one of the stores there was currently stocking a magazine with one of his articles, we’d go in together. A few minutes later he looks down and sees me—same rose and fuchsia outfit, good shoes, leather purse, briefcase, curled hair—coming in the entrance on the ground floor heading for the escalator. There wasn’t time for me to go down two floors—by escalator, elevator, stairs, or bungee cord—and leave the building and come back in and why would I do that in the first place? Strange. (Hey, maybe my double got the job at Merchants, because they never called me in for an interview.)

I always wonder, if it was my double either time, how did she know exactly what I was going to wear when I didn’t even know myself until the last minute, going through clothes in the closet.

Traditionally, doppelgängers are bad omens but I’m not really bothered by the idea—as long as they don’t get too close! I wonder how difficult it would be to impersonate me and take over my life—scary thought!

And what would I do if I met my double face-to-face? What would she do? Would she share my philosophical take on the situation and start asking me a zillion questions or attack me as an impostor?

John has met several people who have encountered his doppelgänger and has written several blogs about it. One guy insisted he was that person, that they hung out all the time, and why was he lying! The guy almost got violent. Here are his blogs about his experiences:

Have you ever encountered your double or someone who has? Has anyone ever treated you strangely because they thought you were someone else? That would be a horror story…

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Wise words


Thoughts on writing from authors born May 23:

from American journalist, critic, and women's rights advocate Margaret Fuller (Woman in the Nineteenth Century) (1810-1850):

Art can only be truly art by presenting an adequate outward symbol of some fact in the interior life.

Essays, entitled critical, are epistles addressed to the public, through which the mind of the recluse relieves itself of its impressions.


from American children’s book author Margaret Wise Brown (Noisy Book series, The Runaway Bunny, Goodnight Moon, The Color Kittens) (1910-1952):

In this modern world where activity is stressed almost to the point of mania, quietness as a childhood need is too often overlooked. Yet a child's need for quietness is the same today as it has always been—it may even be greater—for quietness is an essential part of all awareness. In quiet times and sleepy times a child can dwell in thoughts of his own, and in songs and stories of his own.

A good picture book can almost be whistled. ... All have their own melodies behind the storytelling.

There is a loving way with words and an unloving way. And it is only with the loving way that the simplicity of language becomes beautiful.

A child's own story is a dream, but a good story is a dream that is true for more than one child.

We speak naturally but spend all our lives trying to write naturally.

I don't think I'm essentially interested in children's books. I'm interested in writing, and in pictures. I'm interested in people and in children because they are people.

I wish I didn't have ever to sign my long name on the cover of a book, and I wish I could write a story that would seem absolutely true to the child who hears it and to myself.


from English children's book author Susan Cooper (The Dark is Rising series, The Boggart, King of Shadows) (b. 1935):

The truth is that every book we read, like every person we meet, has the capacity to change our lives. And though we can be sure our children will meet people, we must, must create, these days, their chance to meet books.

Poets find truth by writing about what they love.

Any great gift of power or talent is a burden ... But there is nothing to be done. If you were born with the gift, then you must serve it, and nothing in this world or out of it may stand in the way of that service, because that is why you were born and that is the Law.


from German-born American writer Ursula Hegi (Floating in My Mother's Palm, Stones from the River) (b. 1946):

I don't write for an audience. I write for myself. And if I imagine an audience at all, it's the characters, but I know that I would keep writing even if no one ever published me again, even if no one ever read me again.

"Now the purpose of her stories had changed. She spun them to discover their meaning. In the telling, she found, you reached a point where you could not go back, where-as the stories changed—it transformed you, too.”


from American poet, translator, and essayist Jane Kenyon (From Room to Room, Constance, The Boat of Quiet Hours, Let Evening Come, Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova, A Hundred White Daffodils) (1947-1995):

A poet's job is to find a name for everything; to be a fearless finder of the names of things.

The poet's job is to put into words those feelings we all have that are so deep, so important, and yet so difficult to name, to tell the truth in such a beautiful way, that people cannot live without it.

Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.

My ear is not working, my poetry ear. I can't write a line that doesn't sound like pots and pans falling out of the cupboard.


from Israeli religious author Yehuda Berg (The 72 Names of God: Technology for the Soul, The Power of Kabbalah) (b. 1972):

Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.

Good ideas are a dime a dozen. What counts is completion. Look at your life and all the half-finished projects sitting on your shelf. Commit to taking on one of these ideas and finishing what you started.


from American non-fiction writer Nicolas Cole (Confessions of a Teenage Gamer, The Art and Business of Online Writing) (b. 1990):

Give away 99% of your best writing for free. Monetize the last 1%.

In the game of Online Writing, volume wins.

The Golden Intersection of great writing is: Answering The Reader’s Question by Telling Them An Entertaining Story

You are not the main character in your story. The reader is.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Wise words

Thoughts on reading and writing from authors born May 16:

from English novelist and short-story writer H. E. Bates CBE (Love for Lydia, The Darling Buds of May, My Uncle Silas) (1905-1974):

The basis of almost every argument or conclusion I can make is the axiom that the short story can be anything the author decides it shall be;...In that infinite flexibility, indeed lies the reason why the short story has never been adequately defined.


from American Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Studs Terkel ("The Good War": An Oral History of World War II) (1912-2008):

People are hungry for stories. It's part of our very being. Storytelling is a form of history, of immortality too. It goes from one generation to another.


from American poet, essayist, and feminist Adrienne Rich (A Change of World, The Diamond Cutters, and Other Poems, Diving into the Wreck, On Lies, Secrets and Silence, Atlas of the Difficult World) (1929-2012):

The moment of change is the only poem.

Art, whose honesty must work through artifice, cannot avoid cheating truth.

Lying is done with words, and also with silence.

[Poetry] is the liquid voice that can wear through stone.

When a woman tells the truth she is creating the possibility for more truth around her.

To write as if your life depended on it; to write across the chalkboard, putting up there in public the words you have dredged; sieved up in dreams, from behind screen memories, out of silence—words you have dreaded and needed in order to know you exist.

Poetry can open locked chambers of possibility, restore numbed zones to feeling, recharge desire.

Poetry is above all a concentration of the power of language, which is the power of our ultimate relationship to everything in the universe.

The words are purposes./The words are maps./I came to see the damage that was done/and the treasures that prevail.

I believe that words can help us move or keep us paralyzed, and that our choices of language and verbal tone have something—a great deal—to do with how we live our lives.


from American young adult fiction author Bruce Coville (The Magic Shop series, My Teacher Is an Alien series, I Was a Sixth Grade Alien series, The Unicorn Chronicles, Shakespeare Retellings) (b. 1950):

But, really, why does anyone create? You feel a...a restlessness inside, a need to make something new, something no one has ever seen before. You want to add to the beauty and the richness of the world with a gift, an offering that is uniquely yours. It's an act of selfishness and generosity, all rolled into one.

Every book is like starting over again. I've written books every way possible—from using tight outlines to writing from the seat of my pants. Both ways work.


from American self-help author Richard Carlson (Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff... and it’s all Small Stuff series) (1961-2006):

Reading is a gift. It's something you can do almost anytime and anywhere. It can be a tremendous way to learn, relax, and even escape. So, enough about the virtues of reading. Time to read on.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Wise words


Thoughts on Art from creative people born May 9:

from Spanish philosopher and essayist José Ortega y Gasset (“I am I, and my circumstance”) (España invertebrada, La rebelión de las masas) (1883-1955):

The metaphor is perhaps the most fruitful power of man. Its efficacy verges on magic, and it seems a tool for creation which God forgot inside one of His creatures when He made him.

Poetry is adolescence fermented, and thus preserved.

The poet begins where the man ends. / The man's lot is to live his human life, / the poet's to invent what is nonexistent.


from American author and illustrator of children’s books William Pène du Bois (The Twenty-One Balloons, Bear Party, Lion); co-founded The Paris Review (1916-1993):

Half of this story is true and the other half might very well have happened.


from English Tony-winning dramatist Alan Bennett (Beyond the Fringe, The History Boys); also noted for A Private Function, Prick Up Your Ears, Single Spies, The Madness of George III, Talking Heads, The Lady in the Van (b. 1934):

Books are not about passing time. They're about other lives. Other worlds.

Definition of a classic: a book everyone is assumed to have read and often thinks they have.

The best moments in reading are when you come across something—a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things—which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.

The appeal of reading, she thought, lay in its indifference: there was something undeferring about literature. Books did not care who was reading them or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included. Literature, she thought, is a commonwealth; letters a republic.

Authors, she soon decided, were probably best met within the pages of their novels, and were as much creatures of the reader's imagination as the characters in their books. Nor did they seem to think one had done them a kindness by reading their writings. Rather they had done one the kindness by writing them.

I write plays about things that I can't resolve in my mind. I try to root things out.

I'm all in favour of free expression provided it's kept rigidly under control.

You don't put your life into your books, you find it there.


from Serbian American Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet Laureate Charles Simic (The World Doesn't End); also noted for Selected Poems 1963-1983, Unending Blues (b. 1938):

The secret wish of poetry is to stop time.

Poetry is an orphan of silence. The words never quite equal the experience behind them.

Poetry: three mismatched shoes at the entrance of a dark alley.

The highest levels of consciousness are wordless.

One writes because one has been touched by the yearning for and the despair of ever touching the Other.

Poems are other people's snapshots in which we see our own lives.

At least since Emerson and Whitman, there's a cult of experience in American poetry. Our poets, when one comes right down to it, are always saying: This is what happened to me. This is what I saw and felt. Truth, they never get tired of reiterating, is not something that already exists in the world, but something that needs to be rediscovered almost daily.

The religion of the short poem, in every age and in every literature, has a single commandment: Less is always more. The short poem rejects preamble and summary. It's about all and everything, the metaphysics of a few words surrounded by much silence. …The short poem is a match flaring up in a dark universe.

There's no preparation for poetry.

A poem is an instant of lucidity in which / the entire organism participates.

Only poetry can measure the distance between ourselves and the Other.

Wanted: a needle swift enough to sew this poem into a blanket.

Words make love on the page like flies in the summer heat and the poet is only the bemused spectator.

The world is beautiful but not sayable. That's why we need art.

The poem I want to write is impossible. A stone that floats.


from American Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jorie Graham (The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994); also noted for The End of Beauty, Sea Change, P L A C E, From the New World: Selected Poems 1976-2014, Fast, Runaway (b. 1950):

What poetry can, must, and always will do for us: it complicates us, it doesn't soothe.

The primary function of the creative use of language—in our age—is to try to constantly restore words to their meanings, to keep the living tissue of responsibility alive.

A poem is a private story, after all, no matter how apparently public. The reader is always overhearing a confession.

If there is anything I love most, in the poems I love, it is the audible braiding of that bravery, that essential empty-handedness, and that willingness to be taken by surprise, all in one voice.

I think I am probably in love with silence, that other world. And that I write, in some way, to negotiate seriously with it. Because there is, of course, always the desire, the hope, that they are not two separate worlds, sound and silence, but that they become each other, that only our hearing fails.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Wise words


Thoughts on Art from creative people born May 2:

from German poet Novalis (Hymns to the Night, Spiritual Songs) (1772-1801):

Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.

To romanticize the world is to make us aware of the magic, mystery and wonder of the world; it is to educate the senses to see the ordinary as extraordinary, the familiar as strange, the mundane as sacred, the finite as infinite.

In a work of art, chaos must shimmer through the veil of order.

Novels arise out of the shortcomings of history.

Genius in general is poetic. Where genius has been active it has been poetically active. The truly moral person is a poet.


from American detective fiction writer Martha Grimes (Richard Jury series, Emma Graham series) (b. 1931):

You can't be blocked if you just keep on writing words. Any words. People who get “blocked” make the mistake of thinking they have to write good words.

“Polly was a writer of many deadlines. There were the ignorable deadlines, the not-to-be-taken-too-seriously deadlines: the deadlines-before-the-deadlines deadlines, and finally, the no-kidding-around deadlines. She set these various dates, she'd told him, to fool herself." (Rainbow's End)

I read somewhere that we never completely forget a thing, that there are the imprints of everything we’ve ever seen or done, all of these tiny details at the bottoms of our minds, like pebbles and weeds that never surface from a river bottom.

I love stories. I just enjoy telling stories and watching what these characters do—although writing continues to be just as hard as it always was.

There are people who read Tolstoy or Dostoevski who do not insist that their endings be happy or pleasant or, at least, not be depressing. But if you're writing mysteries—oh, no, you can't have an ending like that. It must be tidy.

I'm constantly battling writer's block; it usually takes me two hours to write anything.

Writing is an antisocial act.


from American romance novelist Anne Stuart (Ice series, The House of Rohan series, Banish Misfortune, Falling Angel, Winter's Edge, 100 + more); received Romance Writers of American Lifetime Achievement Award (b. 1948):

The beginning of a story can come from absolutely anywhere. A line in a song. A dog food commercial. A painting. A bad movie (bad movies are quite often good inspiration – you watch them and start thinking about how they could do it right).

I day dream. I scribble notes and ideas in a notebook, so that I have a general form for what I’m going to be writing. And then I jump into it, feet first. Definitely no details, no outlines, just vague scenes. Scenes do come into my head like a movie, but the weird thing is, I’m such a writer I tend to fantasize in words. I’m not kidding.

Characters always take on a life of their own, god bless them. Since I don’t plan too much ahead I’d be royally screwed if they didn’t. Sometimes they go in the wrong direction, and then I have to rein them in, but usually they go places that are fascinating and unexpected and move the story along in exciting ways.

... in order to survive that childhood, I took refuge in fantasy – in reading, and in telling myself stories. And not for a moment would I trade it in for a peaceful, serene life.

If we don't risk it all, we may as well not write at all.