Saturday, March 24, 2012

Me, wonderful me, fabulous me

Yet another award. I don't know what I'll do with all the damned things. They just clutter up the place. Oh well, the price of grate-ness weighs heavy on my head and heart. I grate on so many people. It's a gift, and a curse. It's a cursed gift. Or a gifted curse. No, that one doesn't make any sense. Let's settle on a cursed gift. And let's pronounce it old-school, not "curs'd," but "curs'ed." Ok? Excellent. Let's continue. Here are the rules for this award.

#1 is a nonstarter. I don't call out other people.
#2 is the first thing in this post, so this one is done.
#3 is the prolific Shan Jeniah Burton.
#4 follows this list.
#5 is done.
#6 is inapplicable because I didn't comply with #1.

So, here's the response to #4.

1. I don't drink water. I don't drink coffee. I don't drink beer. I don't eat cereal in milk. I'm not fond of salad but I will eat it. Reluctantly. I like lemonade-tea. I like Ovaltine. I like Coke (the carbonated beverage not the drug). I've been known to put gummi bears (actually, Crystal Gummi Savers) in red wine. I'm not proud of it but I'm not completely ashamed. It was pretty tasty as a varietal alcoholic beverage on the fifth (or so) day of an alcohol-fuelled Caribbean sail with my old college buddy Bob.

2. My favorite poem is The Aeneid in Latin. I am poet, a self-conscious, infrequent, odd poet; but a poet nonetheless.
3. I prefer fruit-flavored sugar treats to chocolate and I distinctly prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate, which is inedible.
4. I'm a SCUBA Divemaster, a sailor, and a pilot (PP-ASEL). I can piss money away underwater, on the sea, or in the sky! I desperately want to go into space, preferably in a Burt Rutan-designed craft, so I can add "space" or "vacuum" to my list of places where I can waste money.
5. When I was growing up in New Orleans, I started doing European fencing with a French master at about age ten. I continued with him and also had other coaches at school. My college coach had been an Olympic gold medalist in saber. When I moved to Seattle, there was only one master in the entire metro area. I continued fencing off and on but I was attracted to kendo and iaido because there are a lot of kendo/iaido dojos in the Seattle area, and it had always interested me. So, nowadays I have experience with Western fencing and Japanese kendo and iaido. If swordplay ever comes back into vogue, I'm gonna be a BAD motherfucker.
6. For the vast majority of my life, I had one friend. Now, I have many. Unschoolers rock! And they roll, too.
7. Ronnie made me a not-insane person. Believe me, that was quite a feat. MJ and Chloe made me that dad. Thank you all. I love you all so very much.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

When I'm 64

April 27 marks my 64th birthday. It is a significant milestone, to be sure. My life has been interesting much of the time. I think that's a wonderful thing to reflect on, rather than having lived a life of quiet desperation, a la Thoreau. So many aphorism apply. Here are a couple to set the tone:

No one ever said on his deathbed, "Gee, I wish I'd spent more time at work."
You don't want to go quietly into that good night, ya wanna skid into your grave with your hair on fire, yelling, "Yeee-ha! What a rush!"

I've often said that Death is an old friend. I know Him well and do not fear Him but neither do I welcome Him nor submit to Him. When He comes, I will not contest with Him over a gentlemanly chessboard like Bergman's Death in The Seventh Seal. Nor will I casually engage with Him in a sprightly game of badminton like Death in De Duva. And I certainly won't give Him multiple bites at the apple which is my life/death like Bill and Ted.

B&T, "Best of seven?"

Death, "Damned right!"

Um, no. Hell no! One merciless, no-holds-barred single combat the likes of which has not been seen since Jacob fought Peniel to a standstill and earned the name Israel, the translation of which I choose as "strong against the divine." When Death comes for me, I will acknowledge Him and accept His presence but I will not meekly bend my knee or my neck to Him like a lamb to the slaughter.

(Jake, ol' buddy, he's a preternatural being. I don't think kneeing him in the groin is gonna be effective. Word to the wise, eh?)

I want my resistance to Him make Jacob's fight with Peniel look like a girls' pillow fight in a '60s beach-party movie. I want it to rival the scope of Lucifer's rebellion against YHWH. I want Death to know He's been in the toughest fight of His career and I hope the bastard needs to take a week off to recuperate when our battle is done.

(In case you can't tell, this is the pillow fight.)

(This is Lucifer getting a beat-down from Michael and the boyz.)

Ultimately, He will win, of course; there's no doubt about that. Just as Peniel broke Jacob's hip after naming him Israel to remind him who was really the boss, Death will inevitably best me. That's ok, as long as He knows that I resisted with my last breath and my last erg and He had to take me rather than just crooking His gnarled digit and having me submit willingly to His embrace. You see, when I anthropomorphize Death, I apprehend Him as the ultimate bully; and for me, the most important thing in the world, after loving your family, is standing up to bullies.

I once wrote a post in which I called Time the ur-predator. Time and Death are equivalent if not congruent in that context. I summarized:

Time is a Great White shark, striking quietly from below. Time is a pack of Compsognathids, striking multiply and endlessly. Time is the Spanish Lady, striking from within your own body. Time is motherfucking Dick Butkus jamming you in the A-hole.

But I'm not planning on having my fight with Death for a long time yet. Sixty-four is not as old nowadays as it was even half a century ago when speaking in terms of mortality; and I started doing the family thing kinda late in life, so I gotta last a good while on my back end to have a full dad-daughter relationship with my girls since MJ is only 19 and Chloe's only 18. Ronnie also certainly deserves as much of my time as I can keep before succumbing to Him but at least she was an adult when she chose to be with me and she understood from the get-go that the difference in our ages would begin to become significant in this time which is the Summer of her life but the Autumn of my own.

Autumn, of course, has its own charms. One of Keats' best-known poems, To Autumn, contains the lovely lines

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,

Autumn's song is not Spring's song. Of course. Why would it be? That does not mean it's inferior; it's simply different. Like Ecclesiastes says, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven." (Yes, I agree, I like the Byrds' version best. Let's don't tell King James. He gets so jealous.) And Spring has its detractors. T. S. Eliot opens his poem The Wasteland with the indictment

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land,

Ouch! Old T.S. may have been a self-important twit but he was an insightful guy and he certainly had it in for Spring, specifically in the personification of April. Naturally, I disagree. Being an April baby I have an historic affection for April. I've had many a delightful birthday party in that lovely, lovely month and I've had many a memorable adventure with my sweet family in the Spring.

(Pirate party!)

One strong unschooling memory of Spring for me is the wonderful LIFE is Good Unschooling Conference. The first LiG conference was our very first conference ever. [Brief aside: We almost went to the Live and Learn conference in St. Louis in '05 but we wound up not going because our boat didn't sink in Katrina. That's an interesting story but it's for another time.] I was pretty comfortable within our family with our decision(s) regarding unschooling but I'm a private, introverted person and the idea of going to a conference with a hotel full of strangers... Shudder! That was not an attractive concept. Ultimately, I told Ronnie that I'd go but I might just stay in the room the entire time. Ok. We have a plan; let's do it.

Well, my fears evaporated about five steps inside the entry when the conference organizer herself, Mary Gold, greeted us so warmly, so genuinely, that I could do naught but feel like family. My nonbiological family, my home away from home, a hotel full of strangers who, in the course of a long weekend, drew me into their embrace like the prodigal son being welcomed back home with a fatted calf. Me, the introvert, the loner, the curmudgeon, now the happy member of a large group, who waits with desperate expectation for each Spring to bring him the next LIFE is Good!

(Look for Chloe at 0:40, Ronnie at 1:40 and 3:38, me at 2:10, and MJ at 2:45 and 4:50)

MAY is the unschooliest month, breeding
Friends out of the disparate lands

Take that, T.S.!

Another wonderful Spring event for us is Chloe's birthday in March. Just as I reached a milestone this year, Chole did too. This was her 18th birthday! What a lovely thing to celebrate. She's delighted to be able to vote, among other things. (wink)

(from this)

(to this)

Spring also brings us Ronnie's birthday. She celebrates her 47th lap around the sun this year in May. We need to do something exciting. We'll think about it. We'll think hard about it.

(Ronnie as a Hot Backup Chick with the Greybeards)

So, Spring has a number of wonderful associations for me and I love it dearly. I must confess, however, that my favorite thing about Spring is that is the harbinger of Summer. Ah, don't get me started talking about Summer...