Friday, March 30, 2007

Now this is narrow-end...

I promised you narrow-end-of-the-bell-shaped-curve, and I haven't really delivered much of that recently. I am now going to make up for that.

"Fresh Air," the interview program with Terry Gross, recently had dueling positions on the religion/science debate. Roughly, that goes like this: If there's a God-the-creator, why is science finding evidence that the universe has evolved without divine intervention, and if there isn't a God, why is stuff so cool and perfect (in places), thus suggesting a Higher Power at work? Terry interviewed Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion" and "The Selfish Gene," among other things. She then interviewed Francis Collins, an evangelical Christian scientist at the forefront of the Human Genome Project. I believe you can podcast both interviews.

I listened to the Dawkins interview but not to the Collins interview, for two reasons (well, three, really). First, I live with an atheist and former Oxford-educated scientist who, I knew, would enjoy (or at least agree with) Dawkins, an atheist who teaches science at Oxford. Second, I'm allergic to the word evangelical; I developed this allergy as a child and I haven't had shots yet to counteract it. And third, I was working on the computer yesterday when our local NPR station, WVIA, broadcast Terry's interview with Collins. (I call her Terry even though we've never been introduced. My sister and I passed her on a Philadelphia street, though, and I recognized her. In CelebriLand, that's enough to be on a first-name basis.)

And now for some disclosures. When the conversation comes up, I describe myself as "a mystic." I'm not sure what word connotes for anyone else, but what it means to me is that I haven't a clue what's really going on in the universe, that there are massive grey areas we (humans) haven't been able to illuminate let alone analyze and so anything could be at work. Astrology could be valid in some way we don't understand. There could be poltergeists. There could be some experience after death that doesn't rely on our corporeal beings. I don't know -- I'm truly agnostic about all that. I do believe there's magic in the universe, although I can't tell you anything more about what that magic might be or how it might work, and I don't believe I can summon it at will, even if I ask really nicely. I don't belong to, or believe in, any organized religion. I judge people by their actions not their stated beliefs, so an observant [fill in religion here] who behaves well and does good is better than a card-carrying [fill in religion here] who abuses animals, drives aggressively, demeans domestic partners, or is arrogant at work. Oh, and I believe atheism is a religion, or at least a faith. You have to believe there's no god because how can you know for sure?

Dawkins admits that last bit, that the evidence is overwhelming that there isn't a God-the-Creator, and certainly not a God-the-Tinkerer, i.e., someone who might listen to and act on our prayers for relief. But he says that all that means is that there is a very tiny probability that there is a God, not proof that there isn't. I can live with that. After all, I'm all about what we don't know. See, listening to Dawkins -- and I can only assume that Collins, the evangelical Christian, would have spouted even more of this -- I was struck by his focus on how awesome we, humans, were. That seems pretty endemic on both sides of the discussion: either it's how awesome we are as products of evolution capable of doing the things we do (science, technology, etc.), or it's how awesome we are because we're reflections of an omni-God.

I actually go in the other direction, with one exception. I like evolution as an explanation. I generally believe in the Big Bang, although I think it raises more questions than it answers. And I also believe we (humans) are not very evolved, not very special, not very "divine" and probably causing our own destruction down the road. (You can tell I don't have kids. I asked a friend with kids how she dealt with some of the depressing aspects of our current trajectory as a species and she said carefully that she figures her daughter will be able to help solve the problems when she grows up. I think you need to be that optimistic when you have kids. Now that's evolutionary sociobiology!) Most other species get it that they can't crap where they eat and vice versa. We literally don't have that basic fact of survival figured out, which you can know if you think about the e-coli scares involving produce grown in California. Whether its pollution, global warming, nuclear winter, or starving ourselves to death, I rather assume we won't wake up and act collectively in time to save the planet. And, in a purely human way, I don't care because a) the planet will survive long enough to support me, my friends & loved ones, their offspring, and even their offspring's offspring. Oh, sure, I recycle and do little things to be green, or rather green-tinged. But I am aware that mine is a pretty big carbon footprint. I have no excuse, and certainly no justification. If asked, my answer would be, "Hey, I'm human." In my view, humans are selfish, arrogant, presumptuous, and actually pretty stupid. Even the smart ones are stupid.

And that was precisely where I parted company with Dawkins on the subject of religion. He "blames" religion for things including violence and so forth, and seems to say that if we just settled on evolution as an explanation for things and eschewed divine explanations all would be well. I think he's got that backwards. Religion is a product of evolution. We believe in a divine entity, we appeal to a divine entity, we commit both good and bad acts in the name of a divine entity because we've evolved that way. I figure it's all tribal and competitive, another example of natural selection. Animals compete within their species as part of natural selection, and guess what, we do too. We seem hard-wired to define the world of humans in two groups: Us (our tribe, our group, our family, our neighborhood) and Others (everyone who isn't one of us, but particularly those we identify as a threat to Us. We're empathetic with those we identify with, and hostile to Others. Red States vs. Blue States, Christians vs. Muslims, Sunnis vs. Shiites, Jews vs. Arabs. Interestingly, it used to be Rich vs. Poor, only then I heard on the radio that one reason people voted in 2000 for politicians who actively promote the interests of the richest 1% in this country was because of "aspirational voting," meaning middle-class people voted for stuff that they assumed would benefit them when they got rich. Weird.

As humans, we actually can see ourselves in other's lives, or we can't. We can see ourselves in CelebriLand, even though we actually haven't a clue what that would be like. I think that explains reality TV: we're watching people like Us who are now actually Famous and Special, the way we want to be and think we could be and should be. Why else would hundreds of thousands of people audition for American Idol when they objectively can't sing well enough? Meanwhile, we can't see ourselves in the lives of criminals, or even those accused of crimes. Used to be we could. When I was a child in the 1960s enough people had enough experiences of deprivation that they could empathize with someone accused of a crime. Americans supported civil rights back then, including for those in the criminal justice system. Now, "perps" are Others. Lock `em up and throw away the key. And, most important: Protect Us from Them. If you thought the media was accurate, you'd think the ONLY child molesters are Strangers. Statistically, most child molestation is by someone your family knows, and a significant number by members of your family. The hated Other is a member of your Tribe, and when presented with evidence of that, you deny it and hum with your fingers in your ears. It's hard to demonize someone you already know and trust and even love. (Strangely, we don't seem to want to go in the other direction and understand the molester. I did; it's not so bad.)

I believe, therefore, that religion gets a bum rap: it's not the cause of violence and wars, it's merely the lie cultures tell themselves to justify what is actually very animalistic behavior. We refuse (REFUSE!) to accept that we are animals. Very wonderful animals capable of extraordinary things, but still animals. (Mammals, to be specific.) We kill each other in small and big ways, and we talk a lot about whether the big ways are justified, and whether the small ways are excused, and it's still killing within a species. Very evolutionary, very naturally selective, very animalistic. At least, that's what I think. And a belief in God is also very evolutionary, very naturally selective, and very animalistic because it's tribal. We don't just believe in a God, we believe in different Gods, and for some reason Our God wants us to beat up on the folks who believe in some Other God.

Here's another thing I believe. We're a poor excuse for higher intelligence. For instance, we don't understand large numbers. We just don't. We can grasp the smaller "large" numbers, like 100 or even 1,000. But more than that we can't really visualize. It helps us stay tribal: There aren't so many in our Tribe that it becomes meaningless. When we watch the Olympics, we root for Our Team, but that's really just all the Americans at the Olympic games plus everyone we've already identified as in our tribe. When we rally around after a disaster, we're still not really including the folks we don't like. Those folks are still Others.

Here's my thought experiment for our failure to understand large numbers: the Lottery. One-in-twelve-million-odds, but it only costs a dollar to play, and "you have to be in it to win it." Or, as people say to me, Yes, but someone wins, so why couldn't it be me? And that's accurate, assuming you actually bought a ticket. Your ticket has a chance of winning. Let's look at that large number, though. I assume Regis & Kelly still have a contest every day where someone in the audience wins a prize. So, imagine you're in the audience, and you're holding a ticket with a number on it, from 1 to 156 (roughly). You have people to your left, to your right, in front of you and behind you. The moment comes when someone is going to say a number from 1 to 156. There is a chance your number will be picked. Do you believe you'll win? No, because you can see all the other people holding their tickets. Frankly, if there were ten people in the audience you still wouldn't believe you'd win. With two people in the audience, you'd think you were going to win if you're optimistic, and you might think "I won't win; I don't win anything," if you're pessimistic. But 156 people? No way.

Okay, so now imagine you're at a concert in a stadium with 65,000 seats. Everyone got a ticket, your number is 14,588. A number is being drawn at random. Are you going to win? No way. You can see that. You can see the sea of faces on the other side of the stadium, around both sides, and you know you are but one face in a sea of faces on your side. But what if there were another 184 stadia, all with 65,000 people in them? Everyone got a ticket, numbered from 1 to 12,025,000. Are you going to win now? Well, duh, of course not. You didn't think you were going to win when it was just 155 other people, and certainly not when it was 64,999 other people, so why would you think you were going to win when it's 12,024,999? Because -- with the lottery ticket -- you can't see the other ticket holders. They don't exist. In the end, there are just two people: you and the person who does win. Each time you buy a ticket, you don't win, but it's like flipping a coin: eventually, you think, it has to come up heads.

If we, as humans, could comprehend large numbers, we'd have a lot easier time with stuff. Our tribes would be bigger (maybe even All Humans), our economic/environmental/political policies would be smarter. We'd act more with the future in mind. But we don't, and so we react to the world instead of protecting it.

I actually think we're pretty unevolved in a lot of ways -- oh, sure, we're massively evolved over other animals, but think of all things we could and should do better. We're aggressive, exploitative, selfish, and lack the planning gene. I know we've done great things in technology and science, but we've only been at that stuff for a few hundred years (leaving aside the Greeks and their accomplishments) which isn't a very big slice of the human existence. We're only just starting to work on quantum theory, psychology, cosmology, nanotechnology, and a bunch of other stuff I'm too stupid to name. Sure, Einstein was great, but so was Newton in his time, so who's to say we won't think of Einstein as basic and limited in another two hundred years or so.

I have one exception to all this: Art. Has there been a better painter since Michaelangelo? Can you really say Picasso was better? Different, and extraordinary in his own right, but evolutionarily better? And music: was Beethoven better than Bach, or Mahler better than Mozart? How is it that humans, who can't seem to manage some pretty basic stuff like world peace (uh, just stop shooting and learn to get along) can manage such extraordinary literature, music, art, architecture, and so forth. I can imagine worlds with more evolved higher intelligence, but I can't think they would have more evolved artistic expression.

If I had to posit a divine entity, it would explain that one, delightful anomaly. It would go like this: God is a high-school student preparing for the science fair. There are three Big Bangs, followed by billions of years' of evolution, and three different exemplars of higher intelligence (or three M planets in our own universe; it's big enough). Ours is the "art" planet. Maybe another is "technology." And the third is "human relations." Which civilizations thrive, survive, colonize? Now that would be a cool science fair exhibit, wouldn't it?

Oh, and one last thought. I believe I'm rare in my views. But I don't believe I'm singular or unique. I don't grasp large numbers any more than the next person, but I understand that I don't grasp them, so I try to compensate. Given that there are 6.5 billion people on the planet, odds are someone else believes what I do. And if I could find those people, I could start a religion...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ring Tones

Years ago, I had a secretary, Val, who was so beautiful it was impossible to keep that fact in focus. She reminded me of Princess Diana (who was alive back then), only with reddish hair. Most days Val just looked like Val until I would come back from a vacation and really see her again, and then she was breathtaking. Anyhow, Val dated some guy (John, as I recall) for four years until she finally announced that she'd dumped him because, and I quote, "He didn't come up with the ring."

I kind of understood -- the engagement ring becomes the abstraction of the concept of commitment and marriage while still being a hefty enough commitment, financially and otherwise, on its own. But when pressed, Val really seriously meant the ring. Not the "concept" of a ring, not the stuff that the ring symbolized, but the actual rock itself. Oh-kay. So she dumped John, started dating a lawyer who ponied up for a rock, and they got married. (They may have gotten unmarried, recently. If so, I can only hope their divorce is/was as happy as my own!)

It was around this time that I began to notice that engagement rings are tofu items: they take on the flavor of the stuff around them. Val's ring was a threshold without which there was no point going further. My mother lost hers years before I was even aware of its existence, and probably around the time her marriage stopped being much more than a shell. My paternal grandmother's engagement ring -- a classic Tiffany setting with a nice but not extraordinary 1/2 carat stone -- came to our family when my uncle Dan died. It was offered to my brothers in turn for any eventual nuptials, and for a while I wore it as a hoot, but as far as I know, it's just kicking around my sister-in-law's jewelry box.

I've watched as couples have negotiated the Ring thing, and each couple somehow expressed themselves in that process. One guy I know researched the very best diamond he could get for $10,000; his would-be fiancee was tiny, so there was no need to go bigger than 1 carat, but he wanted it to be as flawless as possible. He found one on the Internet and one in a local bricks & mortar jewelers, and used the price quote from the Internet to get the local jeweler to come way down on his quote. By the time Jim was done, the engagement ring was a triumph of both commercial and financial, as well as romantic, devotion.

Stobex and I had very different criteria when we went shopping in London for the perfect ring. We held hands a lot, and he didn't want a prong setting that might be scratchy and uncomfortable, so we window-shopped throughout Hatton Gardens (the jewelry district in the City of London), looking at diamond rings with rub-over settings. Unfortunately, a solitaire with that setting just looks like a headlamp on a car, and in the end we didn't find anything we liked. The next day, we were walking to a Westminster library for some reason having to do with the Listener Crossword puzzle, and I saw a jewelers on Regent Street. On a whim, I made Stobex cross the street just to see. Our ring -- a charming three-stone ring in a rub-over setting -- was right there in the window. I still like that ring aesthetically, and I like the story of how we found it; I've asked Starman if I might wear it on my right hand, eventually, and he's cool with that. I'm just waiting for a couple years, as the symbolism on that ring fades a bit.

I'd explained to Starman that every proposal results in a story, and his was certainly more than I could have hoped for. (see 2/11/07 for details) And he wanted to get me a ring, which was lovely. I can't say I felt strongly about what such a ring should look like, but we did agree that we liked the idea of one designed by a jewelry designer. (I'd looked at rings on pretty high-end websites and not fallen in love with anything there, so I was feeling open-minded.) We had to ask where to shop in Binghamton, but it turns out there is an amazing store run by a designer and stocked with gorgeous stuff by other designers as well. [Goldsmith's -- worth a trip from nearly anywhere.] Meanwhile, Starman got a book out of the library and read all about buying a diamond. He reported that basically it should sparkle. A lot. Sounded good to me.

A funny thing happened while we were looking at rings: I stopped thinking. Normally, I'm a pretty decisive shopper. If I see something, I can calculate in short order whether I like it, whether I want it, where I'll put it/wear it/use it, and what it'll go with. Not in Goldsmith's, I couldn't. Nothing "spoke" to me, to quote my mother. In the end, one ring seemed to stay on my finger longer than the others. We went off to have lunch, came back, tried it on again, it seemed okay, and we bought it. We then picked out a stone to go in the setting. It arrived three days later, just in time for the family to descend on the house. I fell in love with it some time after that.

This delayed reaction isn't a first for me. When Stobex and I first looked at Harmony (the house, and land, where Starman and I now live), we hated it. We'd both had bad experiences with really old houses with lots of bare wood. But we talked about how it was basically ready-t0-use, and how we'd be able to find land with the perfect view and build the perfect house on the perfect land later, and we put a bid in. A couple months after we started to use it, I fell in love with Harmony. I wouldn't move now no matter how perfect the view was somewhere else.

And so it was with this ring, which I now think the most beautiful piece of jewelry I've ever seen. (Particularly after it's been cleaned!) Somehow that's fitting -- as I also feel that way about Starman. (Although he doesn't need the cleaning to be beautiful...) And while I don't believe size matters, I do think my ring is a very pretty size -- not too big (as in, "Wouldja look at that rock on her finger?!") or too small.

But I absolutely have to get out of constant Ring Mode vigilence. This is not something I should be actively noticing or thinking about. I love my friends, obviously, or we wouldn't be friends. I treasure them for tons of reasons -- their intelligence, humor, kindness, generosity, good taste, and so forth. And I've known them for years, and never before even noticed their engagement rings. I shouldn't start looking now! But there I was, meeting some yummy mummies at a friend's house as their play date wound down, and noticing all these magnificent (read: large) diamond rings. All bigger than my ring, which is fine, of course. But later I saw a different friend, whose ring is somewhat smaller, and I was embarrassed for even noticing. The fault is mine, of course, as I know full well that such things don't matter. What matters is the quality of the relationship that ring symbolizes.

I'm hoping that writing about all this will act as a cathartic agent, purging me of all this swirling, loopy stuff about rings. Better I should obsess about something really important. Like fabric!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


A few random bits & pieces; leftovers, if you will. I'm pretty good at finishing leftovers. Last night's supper used up seven leftovers and generated only one for a net gain of 6! But I digress.

First of all, we've managed to catch three rabbits (but of course we saw two more this morning) and two possums. All have been relocated to new & happier homes. Still no sign of Harmony Hal, the groundhog. We'll keep trying, though.

Next, we went on Saturday to see the Barber of Seville at the local multiplex. For opera lovers, this is a huge treat: the Metropolitan Opera Company picks a few performances to broadcast via high-definition simulcast to selected movie theatres. Tickets are so popular locally that they run them in two adjacent theatres, each with "stadium seating." That's especially lovely because the seats are nice & generous, so for those boring bits (you know what I'm talking about), one just leans back and closes one's eyes and lets the music drift by. Then one wakes up for the exciting bits! In a rare double-bill, we headed off west after the opera and attended a concert by the Cassatt String Quartet, which played an early Beethoven quartet, one by Ravel, and two pieces for quartet and voice. The first was by Libby Larsen, setting a Native American blessing to music; quite lovely. The second was "Daybreak" for soprano and quartet, written by my great-aunt, Rebecca Clarke, using a text by John Donne. Quite short, but it gave Starman the notion to look up her other choral works. I think -- although I can't be sure -- that might have been the first ever piece of hers I heard performed live, or performed period.

I've been meaning to mention this for a while. There's an interesting trend locally of houses with front doors and no steps to them. I think I know what's going on, but it does look odd. These appear to be manufactured homes, which is to say, houses constructed off-site and then transported to the site in pieces and put together. A step up from mobile homes, to be sure, but they tend to be fairly standard in their architectural aspirations: center door and vaguely Colonial in style. In our neck of the Endless Mountains, everyone drives. I mean everyone, and everywhere! So every house -- regardless of construction method -- has a driveway. That might mean a garage, or it might just be a back- or side-door entrance from the driveway to the house. In some cases, there's a deck on the side or back, and the owner accesses the house from there. The front door is thus ignored. So I have a theory about all this, namely that the construction of poured-concrete steps would cost extra, over and above the cost of the house itself. So when you buy one you think, Of course I'll get steps leading to the front door . . . eventually . . . But then moving in is expensive, and you want new furniture, and one thing after another, etc., etc. At least one of these houses has been front-step-less for as long as I've been driving past it, which means at least 7 years. I'll try to take a couple photos . . .

I finally broke down and went to a fabric store. Okay, two fabric stores. And a website. At Sew Many Quilts, in Johnson City, NY (a lovely store, by the way), I fell in love with the two quilt tops they had up on the wall, both using a wonderful pattern called "One-Block Wonder." Really stunning -- you make hexagonal blocks using kaleidoscopic techniques, then piece them together so that the colors and patterns flow into each other. It uses all the stuff I love: low contrast, floral & foliage designs, watercolor techniques, etc. I had to buy fabric to do this (and the book, and the 60-degree ruler!). Now, all I need is to finish the final organization of my craft room/office and get cutting. Yum! Fabric... (I'll include a link to a one-block wonder quilt that someone else did; it's almost certainly a time-sensitive link, though, so I'll work hard to sew one myself and include that photo!)

I have saved the best for last: I'm almost finished with an entire New Yorker magazine. March 19, the "Style" issue. Just have the movie review to read, and then it joins the recyling pile. (Actually, it goes on to Coffee Jones, as there are some wonderful articles in there, but that's recycling of a sort.) Mind you, three more have arrived while I've been reading it, and I have another hundred in the wings, but it's a start, right? Right?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I Need a Punch Line - - STAT!

I'm living in some odd set up for a stand-up comedian. We have a groundhog; we've dubbed him "Harmony Hal" in honor of Pennsylvania's much more famous rodent, Punxsutawny Phil. Hal needs to find another home, and being a full-service kind of homestead, we're prepared to drive him there. All we need is to catch him. We've researched the appropriate bait for a groundhog trap: apples, carrots & broccoli. We've set the trap thrice, and twice caught rabbits. We expect a third bunny any minute now. And based on the amount of bunny tracks around the place, we'll continue to relocate the rabbit population for a while before the groundhog even bothers to check out our trap.

We nicknamed the first rabbit "Vincent van Go" because he had only one ear. I made a bad joke to Stobex (normally a connoisseur of bad jokes nhimself) about Vincent being a one-earred jack rabbit (you know, like a one-eyed jack in a pack of cards? Hey, I admitted it was bad!). I was going to call the second bunny Secundus, but Stobex's idea was to call him Deuce, as in "Deuce is wild." Actually, like Vincent, Secundus was quite placid in the trap/cage until he was let out and then he bounded up a slope into the woods. I'm planning on calling rabbit No. 3 "Treo" after Stobex's e-mail/calendar device. I can call No. 4 "Cassatt" because we're going this weekend to hear the Cassatt String Quartet play various pieces, including one by my great-aunt, Rebecca Clarke. I can call No. 5 Chanel . . . and on, and on, and on.

But what's the punch line? All I can think of is a cartoon payoff: a final panel showing Hal, winding up the mechanical bunny rabbits one by one and sending them out of his burrow toward the trap, chuckling maniacally with an army of rabbit dolls behind him. So, how does my joke end? I'm dying to know.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Spring Has Sprung (My Groundhog Tells Me So!)

There is still snow on the ground, and it was still below freezing when we got up this morning, but I know spring is here because my own personal Punxatawny Phil ("Harmony Hal"?) scampered across our lawn yesterday. He will be seeking new accommodation later in the week. Don't worry; we may not be trained professionals, but we have a humane trap, lots of yummy stuff for him to eat, and an entire massive county (outside a 5-mile radius from here) for him to live in.

Starman and I are still knocking down to-dominos (you know -- those things on your to-do list?), one by one, in an effect to get clear of the clutter of our lives and get on to the fun stuff. Or, get to the point where we can identify fun stuff to do and then do it. So, we've hosted people, visited people, had dinner after the opera with one of the French horn players (my brother, the millionaire musician -- not to be confused with my other brother, the millionaire occasional world traveler). We think we've checked off the social items on the list. Next up: immigration matters, house-organizing, and budgeting. And in April, some concerts, some travel, and a quicky marriage.

I know it's crazy to be stressed here. We don't have kids and we don't have jobs. Hell, we don't even have a mortgage! But I've been here before, and the things you long for when you have a job and a mortgage (don't know about the having kids thing, except what I observe -- and what I observe is that I don't know anything about the having kids thing!), namely that you didn't have to have a job and a mortgage, are oddly hollow when you get there. To be truly stress-free, you need to be leading a very light life. I have achieved that precisely once: when the only thing I had to do was work on my mental health (my true vocation) and I had the work week free in which to do that. I won't lie to you; it was nice. Nice and healing. Then the natural and predictable consequence of healing kicked in, and I wanted more things in my life, and rearranged life to accomplish more, and got more stress in the process.

I have this theory -- well, okay, so I have more than one theory! -- that what most people need to do is be willing and able to crawl out of the limitations they built for themselves. Trouble is, those limitations are frequently really comfortable, like the post-college apartment that has all your favorite bits and pieces and no expectation of matching furniture, let alone perfection. Fine for our twentysomething years, but then we hit our thirties (or older) and it chafes a bit that everything is shabby without the chic. And that's just housing! Transfer that to all the other areas of life: job, relationship, personal appearance (ooh, a palable hit, albeit self-inflicted: I'm in food jail and have committed to my 2.6 mile, hourlong walk today), and the like. Imagine self-limitations everywhere you look, and you can see what you'll be doing for a while! Which leads to more to-dominos, which leads to less "fun" time, which leads to my realizing I really do need to go get dressed.

Ah, spring! Rebirth, muddy feet, work to be done in the garden. A season rife with symbolism! My inner groundhog tells me so...

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Still here after all these {boxes/guests/colds/trips}

Sorry for the silence; it's been pretty crazy even in my narrow-end world. We had 11 welcome house guests two weekends ago, one unwelcome house guest (a rhinovirus with attitude!) last weekend, and two new house guests this weekend. In the meantime, Starman's boxes and furniture arrived from the UK, and I'm still bringing stuff up from Philadelphia. Several pieces are piled up -- literally! -- in the morning room because they are heading for the basement and can only get there by an outside door still blocked by the Valentine's Day snowstorm. The dining room table is covered with kitchen equipment I want (truly, I do) but haven't got a place for just yet. Yet another mystery of storage control to be solved!

So, all things considered, I long for several (four, to be precise) days where I can do things like unpack boxes but I don't have to. Next weekend, we get to be the guests of someone else, which will be nice. At the same time, there are so many things to be thankful for. I'll list a couple. First, of course: Starman -- he has been awesome (our personal favorite word to overuse) when I was sick, helping with the tasks at hand here and in Philadelphia, helping me with familial drama (virtually a redundancy in my family) while not losing his own identity. What can I say? A loving man, gorgeous and gentle and completely great. Next, the room I'm sitting in right at this minute. While other parts of the house are sadly cluttered and nearly unusable, my office is cozy and happy. Sure it has boxes piled up, but they're my boxes and they don't bother me. It's pretty and functional; an optimal combination! I can curl up on the daybed, watch TV, knit (I found a lace tablecloth I last worked on nearly 8 years ago and thought I'd finish it!), and know that I'm separate from the house while still in the house. I lurve this room! And, just to round out the list with more people, I'm thankful for Coffee J., who is a continual joy in my life. Like a kaleidoscope, she provides me a different viewpoint, a new image, another look at a problem or a solution. Do I even need to say out loud that I lurve kaleidoscopes? And Stobex, who's working extra hard this weekend to get the house we own ready for sale. He isn't quite a tireless worker, which is why his endless efforts are greatly appreciated. I honestly don't know how people manage a divorce when they aren't good friends -- it's tons of work, and that's so much easier when you like the person sharing the laboring oar!

In the face of such lasting pleasures and supports, the inconveniences and frustrations of the last three weeks slip away. The house party two weekends ago was, I think, a success and well worth repeating if the guests ever wish to. The cold, although vicious, is now gone and best forgotten. Our current guests have completely endeared themselves to me by being willing to play bridge. And, anyway, who am I to complain? I get it that I got it good.