Drowning sorrows

Ophelia Festival 2007All this rain has me thinking, there are two camps of people, those who are annoyed by rain and those who revel in it. Around here the earth has submersed herself to drink deeply. There are puddles everywhere and the toads are singing. Water is a miracle liquid for so many things. We don’t just bathe in it but we come from it. We spiritualize it by baptizing our babies in it, we fight over it, and use it for torture, and we have agencies to forecast for it. I had a roommate I shared a running joke with. Whenever anything would go wrong, a bad date, a bad haircut, a bad day at work, or we’d just wake up feeling sad the first thing we’d tell the other is, “take a bath.”

Water obviously displaces your weight and your blood pressure drops, but in many cultures bathing is also something more than that. When I was in Japan the idea of a communal bath is a ritual and part of their culture and one they credit as resulting in a well-socialized public. If you ever get to San Francisco you I highly recommend a visit to this place. It will give you a good idea of what I’m talking about. It’s a spiritual experience that will have you appreciating water in a whole new way.

(Image from the Italian 2007 Ophelia Fesitval)


Lupe, from Jessica JoslinMost people I know understand how attached I am to my cat. Jimmy Stewart had his Pooka, I have my Sphynx. It’s simple and complex at the same time. So this issue of wanting to be buried with your companion pet is not all that unreasonable or hard to understand. At least to me. Of course the Catholic Church has issues. They always have issues. But the simple fact that I have spent so much time with this animal who has been my constant companion for, well years now, means that I’ve actually thought a great deal about what is going to happen if he should predecease me. Which is likely. He is a cat after all. So I have hired artists to paint his portrait (his image will even be part of an art show in Sacramento in May to my surprise). And even besides burial I’ve considered other options. Ultimately it would be sweet to know that where I go he goes, as it has always been. If there is a heaven, it must include pets, or in my opinion it wouldn’t be much of a paradise at all.

(Photo from website of artist Jessica Joslin)

But what if a bear ate her?

Edward GoreyIt’s because I’m in a silly mood. Or maybe it’s just her picture. But I’m not sure I’d want her tossing my ashes. White is just not the color I think of when I think wilderness trek. (Now that I think of it, maybe a handsome MacGyver/Survivorman type to take my ashes to the tiptop of Mt. Rainier or skydive with them out of an airplane…now that I might go for. Heh.)

I actually like cemeteries as parks and believe they serve a useful societal function. I don’t have issues with cremation but you have to admit, burial also supports other pursuits like taphophilia, genealogy and archeology. Yes, we all turn to dust eventually, but sometimes we also leave signs of our existence behind.

Lastly, this is a complete non-sequitar, but I found it while Stumbling around on the internets and remembered how much Edward Gorey’s drawings make me laugh. Happy Monday. (Thanks Triviaqueen!)

Useful habits

cellphonejpg.jpgEven though my cellphone makes me uncomfortable and frustrated at times, I do like one of its features and that’s the ability to carry around my voice mail messages with me. I love the voices of others as much as I love listening to the radio. I suspect I will save the last voice mail message my mother left for me for as long as the technology will let me since I play it to myself when I miss her.

Which brings me to a connection with today’s Oscars (believe it or not) and the fact that ordinary people are using their cell phones to record personal memories. Like the winner of the 2006 CellFlix Fesitval. A thirty second love story shot entirely with a cell phone. Now its this kind of thing I think more people are doing than we know. And these are things that you’d put in your digital shoebox and save because they capture the fleeting moment so well.

Someday it would be fun to make a collage of all the “hi tori” voices saved on my cell phone. Now if only I had the technology to do that! Like a Flickr for messages. Until then, if you leave me an endearing message it is very likely that I’ll be keeping it. And I bet I’m not the only one.

Update: I called it! (ugh, bad pun.) Apparently with my last wish and this post I was channeling Apple’s latest iphone commercial officially revealed at tonight’s Oscars (see, you must believe). I love it when my imagination sometimes makes sense.


mandala(What would the Dali Lama Do?)

For the last week there have been six Tibetan monks visiting Sacramento (and who are on a peace tour of California) and demonstrations to local school children of their sand mandalas have been on the news. I’ve always loved the intricacies of mandalas and admired such devotion required for something so temporal. Like Andy Goldsworthy who makes his art from found objects in nature, both artforms embody the beauty of creation for its own sake.

Even though it has been around for a while I thought I’d post a reminder from the Dali Lama called Instructions for Life. I especially am fond of the quiet humor in #19. In fact, isn’t love like cooking and vice versa?


1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
3. Follow the three R’s:

Respect for self
Respect for others and
Responsibility for all your actions.

4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
8. Spend some time alone every day.
9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
13. In disagreements with loved ones deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
14. Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.
15. Be gentle with the earth.
16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
19. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.

(Image from Namgyal Monastary Institute of Buddhist Studies)

The art of the obit

raven02.jpgYesterday I had a little free time and naturally gravitated to the local small town bookstore. I noticed The Dead Beat, (or Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries) by Marilyn Johnson. It was billed as a “survey both humorous and poignant of the wonders enfolded in the pages of an ordinary newspaper” with many other accolades and so I couldn’t resist, especially with such an interesting Appendix in the back that included other obituary resources on the web. For instance, did you know there was an International Association of Obituarists? I didn’t. Or that some of the most interesting tributes in the author’s view come from, of all places, The Economist? And I think I found a new link for my sidebar, The Blog of Death which sounds completely out of wack until you visit. They even have a very touching obit on the famous racehorse Barbaro, the 3 year old winner of the 2006 Kentucky Derby. His owners received literally thousands of sympathy cards.

I know if you’re over a certain age reading the obit page becomes a kind of habit. On the other hand, if you’ve ever had to write an obituary you know how difficult it can be. Just saying “nevermore” is not an option. Even starting the first sentence summing up a great deal of that person’s life is not only painful but seemingly impossible. Plus you are usually doing it under duress. As “the writer” in the family I was delegated to do it for my parents. Legacy.com still has them for me to read for a price. I just wish I’d done a better job in hindsight.

Think about it. Having the deceased thoughtfully leave you one they’ve written for themselves happens so rarely it’s worth mentioning. What would you say about yourself? Do you fancy yourself a writer of any sort? Save your left behind friends and family some heartache. Here are the steps: write it down! Put it in an envelope with your insurance papers. Or if you’re interested in hearing how the pros would like to see a new business model for obits, and the research of one news writer in particular, here’s an article from the Poynter Institute, Let’s Breathe Some New Life Into Obituaries.

(p.s. I couldn’t resist. Here is a rendition of Christopher Walken reading the Edgar Allan Poe poem, The Raven, with many incongruous background noises (including some very strange electric guitar) off an equally strange CD. I’m a big fan of Walken. He does so many cool weird things.)

Day of Ashes

Mom used to take us to church on Ash Wednesday so we could get little thumb prints of ash on our foreheads. We were told not to wash them off. I wore mine proudly even though I had no clue what it meant. I think I just liked the temporary tattoo. Now I know its deeper meaning and although I don’t go to church, I think having a tradition that reminds us of our mortality is a good thing.

So, for today’s memento mori an intense, weird, artistic, morbid, but interesting video where a talking MGM lion (almost gleefully) gives a soliloqy on dying and reminds us to value the time when we’re alive.

(Directed by Dennis Palazzolo. Narrated by Vito Acconci. From the book “You’re going to die”, written by Timothy Furstnau. Via Backwards City)