“The Witch’s Life” by Anne Sexton


When I was a child
there was an old woman in our neighborhood whom we called The Witch.
All day she peered from her second story
from behind the wrinkled curtains
and sometimes she would open the window
and yell: Get out of my life!
She had hair like kelp
and a voice like a boulder.

I think of her sometimes now
and wonder if I am becoming her.
My shoes turn up like a jester’s.
Clumps of my hair, as I write this,
curl up individually like toes.
I am shoveling the children out,
scoop after scoop.
Only my books anoint me,
and a few friends,
those who reach into my veins.
Maybe I am becoming a hermit,
opening the door for only
a few special animals?
Maybe my skull is too crowded
and it has no opening through which
to feed it soup?
Maybe I have plugged up my sockets
to keep the gods in?
Maybe, although my heart
is a kitten of butter,
I am blowing it up like a zeppelin.
Yes. It is the witch’s life,
climbing the primordial climb,
a dream within a dream,
then sitting here
holding a basket of fire.

xxxxxxxx—Anne Sexton

Posted in aging, poetry | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The first selfie


This is a photo of five photographers holding a very heavy analog camera at arm’s length. Joseph Byron, founder of the Byron Company (a commercial photography studio founded in 1892 in Mnahattan), is holding the camera at the left, his colleague Ben Falk on the right. Pirie MacDonald, Colonel Marceau, and Pop Core are the photographers in between. This studio is still operating with the 7th generation of Byrons, Thomas Byron, and his son Mark running the business.

It’s clear in the photo below that one of the photographers stepped out of the picture to take a photo of how this first selfie was made. My guess it is the Colonel.


Posted in photography | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Confluence of rhythm, color, and improvisation


Saturday night, JB, IB, and I went to Andy’s Jazz Club to hear Greg Spero, a jazz and fusion pianist that IB went to school with at the U of I. In fact both of them lived in Allen Hall, the artsy dorm on campus. Two years ago we had attended another concert of his at the Fine Arts Building in Chicago where JB had taken photographic images which he later used in a painting dedicated to Spero. JB tried over these past few years to get the painting to Greg who had since moved to LA. To make a long story short, Greg had texted IB to tell him to bring the painting to Andy’s.

Spero played a remarkable set of his latest compositions, mostly from his newest album “Electric” which was recently nominated for a 2015 Grammy for Best Jazz Album. Watching, listening to him play, filled me with a poignancy of the precious and fleeting gift of music so passionately and generously given. Art performed live is so intimate and honest, connected, filled with risk and presence. Spero’s skills at the keyboard are fluid, inventive, versatile, and complex—absolutely engaging. He even played his “key-tar” for one composition (see photo at the end of post). After this first set, the painting was delivered.

JB had rendered a portrait of Spero and a close-up of his hands on the keyboard based on when Spero had played his composition “Hills” back in 2012. Spero knew exactly where in the song those exact notes were played (He is explaining this to us in the photo below). JB painted an image of a lotus and a buddha bridging the images of Spero. (Spero is a Buddhist.)

This is all to say that Spero was delighted, surprised, touched by JB’s kind gift. The two compositions intersecting and in tune. A confluence of rhythm, color, and improvisation.


Posted in art, music | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gam Cho is in the house

IMG_7520I spent four hours at King Spa yesterday with a good friend. In the hot whirlpool, a staff member told us to use our “spa voices.” We were having way too much fun catching up, telling stories. Way too loudly apparently.

From the moment we walked in, there was something wonderfully pleasant in the air. A scent. Very herbal and woody. It followed us all afternoon. Finally, before we left, I asked one of the staff, who shared that it was the bags of herbs that were hanging throughout the spa and were for sale–all different kinds. Her favorite was Gam Cho (甘草) or licorice, actually used very often in oriental medicine to harmonize the mixtures of other herbal remedies. According to Chinese medicine, Gam Cho is a qi invigorating herb, which helps reduce inflammation, promote balance and general healing.

I bought a bag and brought it home. And now Gam Cho is in the house. Without a whirlpool or salt saunas or lazy boy chairs to distract it. Without needing to use its spa voice, it can focus solely and patiently on working to balance the energies in this house. It can ubiquitously and quietly infuse itself into the air we breathe to get our qi flowing without obstruction. It can turn on its anti-inflammatory properties to support shalom bayit.

Posted in health, taking care of self | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments



Created by Jack Ohman for the Sacramento Bee.

Posted in death, editorial cartoon, health | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Oh no I got distracted by drawing lines on my hand.”

IMG_7282A student has been sharing with me the peripheral entries in her journal/notebook after class on most days. Today, and with great pride, she showed me her entry in her journal and then the actual hand it was based on (see photo below for the recording of this distraction). I’m not entirely clear why she is determined to show me these random entries as opposed to her detailed Constitution notes or reflections on some deep and meaningful quote I have given the students (well, I do have a few theories…). She also finds it personally exciting to be the first person in the class and the last to leave the room.

In class she is mostly on task and regularly shares her very honest comments about the material we are exploring. She always asks pretty meaningful and thoughtful questions always framed with a healthy skepticism. There is something so very dry and droll, sophisticated and witty, delightfully quirky about this student’s humor, intelligence, and point of view. She is very engaged in class activities, but I don’t think that even if I were to make my classroom activities yet more engaging that she would stop this recording of a stray and random doodle or thought, or stop its sharing with me at the end of class.

I really, really, really find this student absolutely fascinating. I don’t know exactly what trajectory she will take this year, but I am enthusiastically there for the ride.


Posted in education, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sonnet 73: “That time of year thou mayst in me behold” by William Shakespeare

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
Posted in aging, autumn, poetry, Shakespeare | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment