Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Reflections (in a Crystal Wind)

Photograph by © 2006

If there's a way to say I'm sorry, perhaps I'll stay another evening, beside your door, and watch the moon rise, inside your window, where jewels are falling, and flowers weeping, and strangers laughing, because you're dreaming that I have gone.

They sang a mix of what was called “folk” and “old-timey” music. There was the Carter family’s “Gold Watch and Chain,” Gordon Lightfoot’s “That’s What You Get for Lovin’ Me,” Richard and Mimi Farina’s “Children of Darkness.” It’s hard to imagine now, but for a while they were even pretty keen on John Denver. “Follow Me,” was the one they did best, or maybe it was “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane.” There were a lot of songs about love lost, as I think about it.

And if I don't know why I'm going, perhaps I'll wait beside the pathway where no one's coming, and count the questions I turned away from, or closed my eyes to, or had no time for, or passed right over because the answers would shame my pride.

It happened more than once; in fact, they could almost depend on it happening. The song would be progressing along and then they’d both accidentally skip a verse - the same verse - or rearrange the lines - the same lines in the same way. Or they’d wind the tempo down impromptu and end a cappella. They never practiced enough to work those things out.

I've heard them say the word "forever", but I don't know if words have meaning, when they are promised in fear of losing what can't be borrowed, or lent in blindness, or blessed by pageantry, or sold by preachers, while you're still walking your separate ways.

During that time they were musical soul-mates. They might have been more, but in her heart of hearts she knew that music was only one piece of her, a piece that would be important but would not define her. He thought he knew her, but he didn’t really; he saw her through rose-colored glasses. She was self-centered and not altogether honest, sharing her musical soul with one man while her heart was shared with another.

Sometimes we bind ourselves together, and seldom know the harm in binding the only feeling that cries for freedom and needs unfolding, and understanding, and time for holding a simple mirror with one reflection to call your own.

The morning she left Norfolk, they kissed. It had been a late night and a long weekend, and in her exhaustion she momentarily confused which was heart and which was soul, where she was and who she was with. It was a kiss so hot and deep she still remembers it clearly, so hot and deep that it made her wonder if perhaps she could make music her life’s work, so hot and deep that she snapped from her foggy presence and drew away, knowing that not to do so quickly would lead her where it would be a mistake to go.

If there's an end to all our dreaming, perhaps I'll go while you're still standing beside your door, and I'll remember your hands encircling a bowl of moonstones, a lamp of childhood, a robe of roses, because your sorrows were still unborn.*

Old guitar strings and young hearts break, but life goes on. They went their separate ways and they each made their own music, and as she knew, it would be more a part of him than it ever was a part of her.

* “Reflections In A Crystal Wind” written by Richard Farina

"Down on the Pond" photograph by

Brokeback Pond

There’s a pond behind our house. It’s a hang-out for red-winged blackbirds, an occasional blue heron, a million frogs, a muskrat we call “Frances,” and the usual assortment of water-loving or water-dependent flora and fauna.

Over the years, my husband and I have watched the mating rituals and nesting of ducks and geese, and – if they are lucky – the rearing of ducklings and goslings. We've also noted that there are often pairs of male mallards or wood ducks. They are peaceable, seem to mind their own business of survival, and don’t appear to cause any problems for the other pond residents.

Recently I’ve noticed another kind of duck. It’s difficult to tell the male from the female of this species, but both appear to lean to their right side. Unlike the mallards and woodies, this duck rails at our male pairs, quacking something indistinguishable that can best be described as a shrill “que-er, que-er, que-er.” I don’t understand their behavior or what the problem is, but I wish these unbalanced birds would behave better towards our same-sex neighborhood couples. Their noise is annoying, their behavior foolish, and they are upsetting what has always been natural on our pond.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Lies and Eyes

Trust is a precious thing that - if destroyed - is gone forever.

Have you ever been betrayed? Cheated on, lied to, stolen from by someone you cared about? I guess most of us have had a two-faced friend or lover at some time in our lives. The hurt of their betrayal takes a long time to forget.

My kids lied to me at times, sometimes to spare themselves and sometimes to spare me, but I like to think that’s intelligence, not betrayal. For awhile I had a husband who liked to fuck other women and deny it; one of them was a friend of mine. It wasn’t a big surprise or even a big hurt because our marriage had drifted out of the realm of precious things, and the "friend" wasn’t someone I was ever very fond of.

My particular Big-Hurt betrayal involved a trusted employee and many thousands of dollars. So fond was I of this particular person, that as proof of her wrong-doing was uncovered, I would go to bed at night saying, “She did it. It was Her.” And then I’d awake in the morning thinking, “No, there must be another explanation. She just couldn’t – wouldn’t – have done it.” Months passed as I learned forensic accounting, retrieved data from out-dated computer files and recreated missing bank statements. The evidence became irrefutable, and finally I went to the police. They confronted her, but for a number of complex reasons, no charges were ever filed.

I learned a few things from the experience, but one that sticks in my mind is something a police sergeant told me – and it has nothing to do with assuaging the pain of betrayal, because I think only time and forgetfulness can do that. He said, “When you ask a person a question, if their eyes look to the right (your right) as they answer, they are telling the truth; if they look left, they are lying.” Okay, it's not an exact science, but as a generalization, it’s accurate.

Several years have passed since the whole painful episode, but I’m often reminded of it by a circumstance or the action of a friend or acquaintance. Now and then I cross paths with the former employee; we nod but don’t speak. Even though “Why?” burns in my heart, I do not want to get close enough to watch her eyes when I ask the question.

Monday, June 12, 2006


You are viewing a copyright infringement. Go ahead: upload it, view it, enjoy it as I have. Posting it is my personal little rebellion.

For about eight months now, I have been a volunteer transcriptionist of early Canadian Quaker documents. I am one of perhaps twenty people (scattered from Arizona to Alberta to Toronto to New York) who became involved with this time-consuming, eye-straining work.

The early settlers of Ontario were refugees from the U.S., driven north because of their loyalty to King George during the American Revolution. It was estimated (by Ben Franklin, I believe) that in 1775 approximately 1/3 of the population of the colonies favored independence from England. Another 1/3 would have checked the “no opinion” box, and the rest remained loyal to The Crown. Quakers, being strongly opposed to war of any kind and being folks who generally did not rock boats, were seen as loyal by the hawks (some of whom were all too eager to confiscate Loyalists' farms). The accusation was Bush-like: If you’re not with us, you’re with the Loyalists. By the late 1700s, these displaced Quakers were arriving on the north shore of Lake Ontario, clearing land, building homes and meeting houses, and writing “minutes” which recorded their Quaker lives.

They wrote in the elegant (though sometimes palsied) script of the day, using capital letters willy-nilly and completely omitting punctuation. They wasted no paper. Spelling was phonetic: the word “quota” appears as five or six variations ranging from cota to quoto, for example. But they wrote about some of my ancestors, and so with eyes straining at my computer screen split between Word and Jasc Paint Shop Pro I pecked away. It was a labor of love.

I transcribed for selfish reasons, certainly, but I also did it for others. I loved to refer “cousins” to the website where the transcribed work was being posted. People thousands of miles from Ontario were thrilled with the glimpses of their ancestry we were providing, and as time passes, future generations will also be thankful for the preservation of these records.

This weekend we transcribers learned that the Canadian Yearly Meeting (CYM), the owners of the original documents, stepped back from their originally stated position of complete willingness to share our work. Born of paranoia (someone once used information provided by CYM for personal gain, without crediting CYM...), CYM announced that complete, unfettered access to the online transcriptions would NOT be the case. Yes, they will be posted, but not in a format that is user-friendly for the average genealogy researcher. Copyright concerns were the expressed justification for this change of heart. Ironically, Quakers do not use the court system and would presumably not mount any legal challenge to a perceived copyright infringement.

One person, writing for CYM, explained that we are not dealing with HISTORICAL documents, but rather with RELIGIOUS documents. How convenient to wave religion as justification for one's point of view. Sure, your original documents may be considered a part of your religion, but as I see it, my transcriptions of them are historical documents. If I had thought I was simply doing the work of a religion, I would never have volunteered.

No one “owns” history. The family information in the transcriptions created by this small band of volunteers belongs in the public domain. Most of us who have labored to preserve these two-hundred-year-old documents are not Friends (though we have become friends). There are varying degrees of discontent or acceptance of CYM's new stance. I personally hope CYM comes to its senses.

I really don’t want to quit this project.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Look What Fell Out of the Family Tree...

When you shake the family tree, you are sometimes surprised by what falls out of it. Shake mine, and you get the usual assortment of fruits and nuts, a Magyar or two and some Quakers. One descendant of the latter, 12th Cousin Fern twice removed (or maybe that's 2nd Cousin Fern twelve times removed?) turns out to be the famous "Fern Andra." (Go ahead, Google her...) I'm not bragging; I was just somewhat surprised. Considering her Quaker heritage, she seems to have gone a bit far out of "plainness."

A love of performing seems to be part of my family. My cousin Don is a telegraph operator who does Civil War reenactments. He knows that the North always wins, but he goes back time after time to be shot in the line of duty. Another cousin, Margaret, is "Marvolet the Clown," entertaining children and invalids. Me? Well, until I definitely outgrew the part, I was cast as the dumb young ingenue in any play or musical that would have me. One of my memorable on-stage lines was, "Men are WONDERFUL! They're practically all I ever think about!!!" (Just shoot me, please).

Is the love of playing a part genetic? Nah. Is it fun? Uh-huh. So Fern, shake your booty; Don, bang out those telegraph messages; Marvolet, make those kids giggle; Judy... maybe you should take up knitting?