Tuesday, September 30, 2003


A friend wrote me about fairness: "Fair doesn't allow for grace. Fair doesn't allow for gifts or hope or serendipity." When I was growing up my family (when things were going smoothly) put too much emphasis on fairness. If there is one piece of cake left the older kid (me) cuts it in half and the younger child gets to choose which piece she wants. Everything was a zero sum game. I've tried to learn to believe in abundance instead.

It occurred to me that it is significant that my mother speaks of the hard things that have happened to her as tragedies. Tragedies don't get better. And the classical theory of tragedy says that the bad thing that happens is the result of the hero's tragic flaw, so in some sense it is the hero's fault.

I'm trying to learn that it is possible to accept that something bad happened and grieve it and go on instead of trying to find someone to blame. All radical new ideas for me, particularly when applied to my childhood.

Monday, September 29, 2003



I had wanted to walk Seed Orchard Road down to the lake over the weekend, but I hadn't made it a high enough priority. Today I didn't have anything on my calendar in the afternoon and I realized it was important to listen to that impulse. Balancing rocks is my symbol that it is all going to work.


I didn't vote for Jimmy Carter, I couldn't forgive him his comment that "Life is unfair." (I've learned from that experience to hold my nose and vote for the least worst candidate; there isn't much other choice in South Carolina).

But I'm thinking today not about politics but about fairness. As a child I believed I deserved the mistreatment I got. I've heard it said that children tend to believe that because that gives them some sense of control when it is too unbearable to feel powerless. At the moment, though, it seems to me that what is unbearable is not being powerless but injustice. If life is that unfair then how can we live it?

Saturday, September 27, 2003



I was afraid I had lost my touch--at first I was trying to stand up the rock that became the top rock and it wouldn't balance well. Then I had the idea of trying the other one, and balancing it on a single rock rather than between rocks. The thing that most felt like magic, though, was when I put the top rock on the standing rock and it balanced right where I first put it down, first try.

Friday, September 26, 2003


The New Yorker has a review of an autobiography by Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, which concludes with the unkind words "The fact that you’re the last one left doesn’t mean you have to turn out the light." I read that last night after a conversation in which I wanted to use the phrase "let a hundred flowers bloom" (I couldn't remember whether it was a hundred or a thousand). I knew it came from Chairman Mao and I associated it with the Cultural Revolution and felt it had turned out to mean the opposite of what I meant.

So I found myself being defensive about having been attracted to communism when I was a college student and graduate student (mid to late 1970s). Feminism ended up more important to me, but I did see myself as in the community of fellow-travelers. I remember defending sometimes the Soviet Union and China, and that leads to my current embarrassment about those views.

In principle... Is principle possible? In principle I am attracted to direct democracy--let the voters make the decisions. It is another way of valuing the people on the bottom. Living in the south I know the problems of that--around here voters are definitely pushing us in what I consider the wrong directions (the Southern Baptist Church is another example). I do believe that the government should provide more basic social services, starting with universal health care. I suppose the basis of my sense that I no longer hold the views I did when I was in college is that while I am a critic of big business, I do conclude that a centrally planned economy proved to be a bad idea.

Thursday, September 25, 2003


Today I tried big rocks:

Wednesday, September 24, 2003


Diver go down
Down into the green
Inverted dawn
To the dark unseen
To the never day
The under night
Starless and steep
Deep beneath deep
Diver fall
And falling fight
Your weed-dense way
Until you crawl
Until you touch
Weird water land
And stand.

Diver come up
Up through the green
Into the light
The sun the seen
But in the clutch
Of your dripping hand
Diver bring
Some uncouth thing
That we could swear
And would have sworn
Was never born
Or could ever be
Blaze on our sight
Make us see.

Robert Francis, Come Out Into the Sun: Poems New and Selected (Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1968). more poems by Robert Francis

Tuesday, September 23, 2003


I've been reading Nancy Tomes: The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women, and the Microbe in American Life. It focuses one of the dilemmas of women's history--new ideas about housecleaning seem to have been both a way to keep women down by setting impossible tasks for them and something women embraced as a way to achieve goals they valued. What intrigues me most is the remnant practices: my parents built a sleeping porch because my mother grew up with one, but I had no idea that the original reason for sleeping porches was to fight tuberculosis.

Monday, September 22, 2003


We had a wet summer and then the rain stopped. So heavy rain all this evening is a sound I am not used to. It is a winter sound, reminding me of the cold of winter rain even though it isn't cold yet.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

more rock balancing

This is what I did at Hagood Mill today:

Friday, September 19, 2003


I'm very proud of my first effort at rock balancing!

More pictures of rock balancing.

Thursday, September 18, 2003


I've been thinking about resolution in the sense of finding resolution for issues I struggle with. I attach great importance to finding a sense of resolution in the short term, feeling I have gotten somewhere, and I usually am able to have that. That results, though, in a pattern that has its own frustrations. On a month by month basis I feel like I am making a lot of progress, but on a year by year basis it is less clear. I'm certainly still going deeper into the onion, not working my way out again. Is it an infinite onion?

Wednesday, September 17, 2003


I've been feeling ungrounded. I think a lot of it is the added complication in our lives of our son going to a new school 20 miles away. I've got more than I can juggle, though I've made a good transition to an earlier morning routine and my husband is doing most of the afternoon driving. I realized recently that my tendency when I feel some imbalance in my life is to add something, and that just adds to having too much to cope with. I don't see any way that I am willing to take anything away. So what I've realized is that I need to work within the pieces I have and find ways to feel more balance.

Update: Thanks to Burningbird, inspiring images of balance.

Sunday, September 14, 2003


I was looking for references for a student interested in the history of automobile aerodynamics and I did a search on streamlining history. Almost the first thing to come up was an abstract for an article: "Streamlining breasts. The exaltation of form and disguise of function in 1930s' ideals," Journal of Design History Volume 14, Issue 4, 2001: pp. 327-342.

Friday, September 12, 2003


I try to avoid the memory controversies. Someone on a discussion board once wrote that she started worrying about whether something she remembered was true and her therapist said: "Ah, the truth committee. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for offering your services but we aren't ready for you yet. Go do something else for a while; we will call you when we need you."

A therapist told me recently that if he answers yes to a question about whether he does memory work, his malpractice insurance will triple. I feel like we are heading all they way back to Freud not believing his patients who reported childhood sexual abuse. I did a google search on Freud memory sexual abuse and what came up was mostly false memory stuff. How many people who are bravely beginning to face memories of sexual abuse are being shoved back in the closet by society's refusal to believe them or help them?

Thursday, September 11, 2003

a good night's sleep

makes it a lot easier to cope. Finally the heat has broken here.

I was reading email from a listserv and a member is collecting information on policy decisions about allowing dogs (leashed) on national park trails to give some context to a local issue. She write that the larger context "will give a frame for the mud to stick to if nothing else." I'm very taken by that concept of a frame for the mud to stick to. I tried to give my students that the other day and they didn't get it at all--they wanted to know what issues are going to be on the test, not have a larger context of where the issues lead.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003


How does the child still inside come to terms with having been manipulated and compelled to do bad things to herself?

Monday, September 08, 2003

results of my survey

Arnold Schwarzenegger is planning to retrofit his Hummer to run on hydrogen. What do you think of this idea?

82 students picked a. This is a good technological fix--Americans aren't going to give up SUVs so we should make them more environmentally friendly.
13 students picked b. This is a foolish technogical fix--the Hummer is an example of the excess that harms our environment. We need to change our values and behavior, not think we can have it all.

Did I go too far in trying to phrase my answers so as not to slant the results? Or is it simply that student do think they can have it all?


On Friday I talked to my classes about the technological fix , the idea that technology can solve all our problems. And today I ran across (thanks to Alex) an example of a bad technological fix that to me is as clear as the old one I have been using about giving free airconditioners to ghetto residents to prevent riots. Arnold Schwarzenegger is planning to retrofit his Hummer to run on hydrogen. What I wish I knew was how many of my students see the irony in that and how many think it a good idea. I'm doing an in-class survey today anyway (one of my teaching techniques in laptop classes)--I will ask them. Results later.

Friday, September 05, 2003


LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Thursday, September 04, 2003


I was feeling the child's fear of being abandoned today and someone who cares about me gave me more than I expected. Then this rainbow followed me as I drove for more than 20 minutes.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003


I was feeling like I was settling into the semester and things were calming down, but now I've fallen into feeling overwhelmed by my responsibilities again. There are research-related projects I need somehow to get done this fall, and I don't know how to put that on top of kids, household, marriage, teaching, and my own journey. Particularly when that journey is both back into intense memories and moving forward in my training to be a spiritual director at the same time. I have a feeling I need to not further organize myself but let go some control and trust God to lead me. But I'm scared whether anything will get done; I don't have a great record.

Monday, September 01, 2003


Akma speaks of his faith and points to a post by Kurt about suspicion of organized religion. I personally feel very torn on just the divide that lies between their two perspectives. I know I fall into cafeteria faith, picking and choosing the pieces that work for me (though mostly, like the labyrinth, from my own Christian tradition). I understand why it is desirable for individuals to give authority to their faith community, but I am not comfortable doing so. I'm perhaps reading in things Akma has said other times to make authority the issue, but I do see that as the key question about community--do I let the community tell me what is right? I let the community provide the story that makes sense of my experience, but in the end I won't let the community tell me anything is right that feels wrong in important ways to me. I know that the community truly lives only if we are willing to do that, but I don't have that much trust.