Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ship in a Bottle

Our ship is somewhat late today, having been delayed - storms, sea-monsters, pirates, the usual - but has finally made it to Theme Thursday.

The bottle-glass "M" in this picture, between the monster-ship and the little white lamb, is from an old homestead dump a short walk from home where John and I sometimes walk to see if frost heaves, run-off, or ground squirrels have turned up any new treasures.

The things we find aren't antique or remarkable in any particular way - except that they're time-travel machines, a way of taking a gentle sail into the past that was peopled by those who lived before us in this neighborhood. Below is a photo of a time-travel machine in situ.

For a number of years I was a reporter for the local newspaper and came

to be fascinated by the role of the newspaper in a rural town of 800 people - where the mayor is also the vet, and you can just go downtown across the street from the bar and the barber's into

his animal clinic and complain to him all you want if you think your water bill is too high, or have

an idea for putting a tank with a turret gun in the city park for kids to play on.

I became involved in a collaborative project to write a play based on Letters to the Editor from 1903 to the present, which was staged to the delight of the populace in the recently abandoned courthouse. This led to a collection of letters I put together that is being posted on Robert Frost's Banjo, John Jack Poetry's blog where a number of writers are graciously hosted and there's always blog-adventures afoot. Check it out! Here's the last paragraph of the introduction to the book:

"Sorting the Adams County newspaper material has been, for me, archeology of a very amateur kind. I have enjoyed it in the same way that I like to poke around in an old homestead dump near my house—where tin cans and broken bits of china spark my imagination, not because of their rarity or exoticism, but because of the opposite. Their everydayness and their proximity to where I live are what intrigue me. This book comes from my curiosity about what is near instead of what is far—from seeking for the mystery in what is close to home, the beauty and value of what is close at hand."

The bottle-glass "M" is part of this cigar-box shrine I put together to take with me before spending 4 years in Brazil and Bolivia. I brought a rock I found in the driveway when I was 11, a strange little owl-bottle I bought at a flea market when I was 13, fossilized bits of a giant ancient fish that used to swim in what is now the Idaho desert. The figure is St. Dymphna. Many things have been added - bits of pre-Incan pottery from Bolivia and fossilized claw from the giant ancient sloth that used to roam those hills and valleys. This is also where Pirate Goat's sword is kept when he isn't in battle!

One last photo: another bottle John and I found at the little homestead dump along with a piece of "Wonder Stone" I got from an extraordinary man named Red who has a roadside rock shop in his garage in North Idaho - an ex-logger, long retired, who now writes poetry dictated to him by trees. I think of him quite often.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Two Poor Little Lambs Lose Their Way- in Harmony!

As promised, here's the interview with Johnny Jack and Lambchoppie about Women's Fantasy Night, and the fantasy Our Little Lamb brought to that amazing event. Without further ado...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Belated Valentine

Because of the wave of response to fate of the OED, we decided to post this previously suppressed photo of what happened to the second volume...

We'd also like to assure you that no actual parts of speech, not even the humblest dangling participle (and we know how everybody feels about these hangers-on) were harmed during Polar Knight's abduction of Bink's literature class.

Note from Pinky, Your Hostess: Thanks so much to all you visitors!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

For Whom the Bell Tintinabulates (or: Never Bring a Poet to a Literature Class)

It all started the day Bink stumbled across Polar Knight (Great Big Bard of Big Bed Land) immersed in the Oxford English Dictionary. Bink took a look at this noble tome and became quite excited.

“Look,” he said, “you can see how writers express the shaping of the English language! It’s like drinking from the source of the sacred stream! It’s like being at the heart of the marshmellow factory itself!” After that airy flight of hyperbole, Bink had to lie down for a few moments, uncertain what had gotten into him.

“How about we teach a literature class together,” Bink suggested. “I think it’s time the Young Ones had their dose of greatness.”

“Yes, yes,” Polar Knight said absently. What Bink didn’t realize was that Polar Knight was not figuratively but LITERALLY immersed in this tome, the way only a Polar Poet can be, kicking her heels up and sending random bits of snow-white and ink-black page up toward the Northern Lights smiling down on her… this was one of the days that Polar Knight was absolutely sure that the Northern Lights were smiling just for her, right at her, and the infinite shapes of snowflakes filled her mind all at once, each a prism, each a door – “then glut your sorrow on the morning tundra,” she intoned both musically and ominously.

The OED was in pretty bad shape by the time class rolled around – it was gnawed here, burrowed into there, looking pretty ragged and tied back together with various bits of ribbon and lace, snarls of hair. Bink didn’t notice that Polar Knight, in one of that great Bard’s female guises (Mayhem Menopause) was in no condition to teach. She showed up to class with bits of the M section (she had fallen into an ecstatic dream at the phrase “mussel plum”) drifting from her fur when she shook herself for the sheer delightful weirdness of having a body.

The Little Ones, still a bit sleepy from their adventures in Water Ballet with Lambchoppie, had gathered for their class. They did love Bink’s classes, and that’s a fact. He made them laugh so much! No one could be as silly as Bink, they all thought privately, though they would never hurt the feelings of the other Animals by saying so. And Bink for his part felt that he was doing both the Young Ones and Art itself an enormous service, so things usually worked out well.

Bink had a long list of phrases with the word bell in them written up on the blackboard that he began to read in a churchy sort of voice:

"Oh bells, ring for the ringing!” he began and continued for some time. The Young Ones were getting restless and Polar Knight whispered: “With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes.” They gaped at her. No one ever spoke in class! “With fings on her ringers and tells on her boes,” she continued and they gaped at her, open-mouthed.

“Me rong bellen & vast the ropes drau,” Bink recited.

“Me Tarzan,” Polar Knight whispered mischievously into the ear of a Young One in front of him, and all at once the spell was broken, they began to giggle softly.

Bink droned on in spite of the whispers he heard behind him: “Alexander Bell…no petticoats at all…?”

Bink asked if they would share their thoughts with him rather than whispering.

“The Alexander Bell Curve is what made hoop skirts possible, freeing women by the thousands from their petticoats!” the ladybug cried out, very fast, in a high voice.

“Excellent,” said Bink, nodding sagely. “Now you are discovering the wonders of history. Let’s go back to Poe whose famous use of alliteration…”

All at once Polar Knight began to wriggle all over when Bink wasn’t looking and the Young Ones were silent, fatally fascinated by his wriggle, wriggle, wriggle. Even Lambchoppie couldn’t wriggle like this. Polar Knight explained that she was…. AN EEL. She taught them the dance and soon they were all wriggling and singing “The ululalulation of the eels, eels, eels, eels, the ululalulation of the eels.” They were getting quite good at it by the time Bink happened to wheel around and notice them.

“What are you doing?” Bink asked.

“I’ve just written a poem,” Polar Knight explained quickly. “It goes like this:

The belle dame of the ball took her clapper in hand
And the sedge withered palely across the land
And no birds sang”

To Bink’s shock the Young Ones started to sniffle and cry, then suddenly he was faced by a roomful of wailing Young Ones until Polar Knight drifted on the divine wave of her own sadness out of the room, followed by all the students in a high-pitched ecstasy of wailing and sorrow and desolation.

Bink was left alone

Piggles appeared in the doorway, shaking her head and carrying a jumprope. She began singing softly: “Elephant, patty-pan, sit-upon pie…”

Immediately Gretel took up the other end of the jumprope and Bink hopped out of her pocket to take a turn. He loved the one that went “elephant, patty-pan, sit-upon pie” and he sang as loudly as he could. Afterwards he had the distinct sense that the class had been a huge success and fell into a deep sleep while Piggles and Gretel took a walk together in the mysterious but shining silence that Kangaroos and Pigs can share with such contentment.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lamb Cakes

Monster E. was working on an act for Women’s Fantasy Night at the Alpine Playhouse when Our Lamb declared a desire to attend this time-honored and extraordinary event. “I’m going too,” was how she put it. “Because I have a fantasy I really want some help with. You will need a black cape with a hood and also a large muff.” Monster E. was rehearsing percussion for her part in the Big Bang as performed by Ancient Shadow Puppets- a kind of mystical science theatre- and she said, “That will be just lovely, my Darling Lamb,” but secretly she was already wondering if it really would be…

But went Lambchoppie did to Women's Fantasy Night, and with her went also Monster E. with drum kit, thunder machine, and muff. When Lambchoppie finally returned later that night to Big Bed Land, the Young Ones swarmed around her clamoring to hear the story of her adventures as the First Big Bed Land Animal Ever to Perform on a Monster Stage... But first, a note from Platypuss, who comments that the Animals are possibly not aware of the images that “Women’s Fantasy Night” might conjure up in the minds of Monsters – fleeting through those minds in frothy scraps of lingerie…among muscled and hairy strippers… a Tupperware party gone wild? So, by way of explanation:

Women's Fantasy Night began nearly a decade ago- the curious offspring of Ladies at a Ladies’ Tea Party discussing how to raise some money for the community playhouse. Many digressions took place, as often happens at Tea Parties where wine and chocolate and Ladies abound. Someone started singing “These Boots Were Made For Walking.” And afterwards someone else suddenly said,"How about an event where women can get up on the stage and sing or dance or act out their wildest dreams? How about having experienced improvisers there to help them? A Mistress of Ceremonies to keep things moving? Music, costumes, snacks…" Then someone said, "How about having only women in the audience as well as on stage?"

Since then, this event has become one of the Sacred Mysteries of Ancient Theatre, so photographs are not included in this post. However, we’ll get some glimpses of the show through the mind of Lambchoppie…

Some of the Younger Young Ones wanted to know why only Girl Monsters went to this show? Bink had to remind them that Monsters can’t switch genders, or just forget about their gender, the way Animals can– Monsters are often just stuck with one or the other. This gave those Young Ones something to think about, and they settled down, occasionally murmuring things like, “Weird,” or, “No wonder Monsters are so…”

Here’s Lambchoppie describing one of the first fantasies staged that night – a Big Dance Number by women who had always wanted to be in a Water Ballet. The Young Ones asked how the Monsters kept all the water from spilling out onto the audience? Lambchoppie explained that it was a special kind of Monster water, because you couldn’t see it and no one got wet. At this point Goat looked in and brandished his sword, saying: “That’s not really swimming. No respectable pirate would swim without real water. If that’s the kind of thing that happens at Women’s Fantasy Night it’s no wonder I have absolutely no interest at all in going.” The Young Ones hurled their high-pitched voices at Goat, saying only Young Ones were allowed at this meeting. Goat left, looking huffy but keenly aware that Goats had more important things to do anyway.

Here’s Lambchoppie describing how a Monster came on stage with a box and told a story about how when she was a child she had an illness and was only allowed to eat bread and water. The Young Ones became very excited again saying “Was she in a dungeon? Were there rats? And slimy green dripping down the walls?”Lambchoppie reminded them that they must listen carefully: "The Monster said only that she was ill - but of course she MAY have fallen ill in a dungeon." (How the Young Ones squealed with delight at that!)

Anyway, Lambchoppie continued, the Monster described her fantasies at the time of her terrible diet, how she dreamed of roasted chickens flying into her mouth, and of a cake with huge amounts of fluffy cream on top-- how she had wanted not only to eat the cake but to bury her whole face in it. "At forty," she told the audience, "it’s time to finally make this fantasy come true." The audience whistled and clapped and yelled as she took a cake and can of whipped cream from the box, piling up the white fluff from the can, higher and higher! The audience started a countdown! And she plunged her face into the cream as the ecstatic shouts of the audience merged into wild applause.

“Catharsis,” Bink (Kangaroo and Pocket Philologist) explained, “is believed to have been a crucial element of Ancient Sacred Theatre, though not well understood by contemporary philosophers…” but his explanation was drowned out by shrieks of protest from the Young Ones.

Lambchoppie said that her favorite act (besides of course her own)- was the Fan Dance. And she gave a demonstration for the Young Ones of this marvellous dance.

How beautiful she had been, this Fan Dancing Monster wearing only glitter and a few dancing coins on golden chains. Moving slowly like in the Water Ballet, but with huge fluffy white fan-wings in her hands…she smiled as if she shared a secret with us and we smiled back…

“It was true enchantment,” Lambchoppie said, “I can’t explain it, but she was so playful with those wings and so tender toward her tail - which I’ll tell you honestly had very little fluff to speak of- but when she danced I saw how lovely it was anyway. And now I'm going to kiss you all!" she said, advancing ominously toward a Young Pig in a bathing costume who squealed in delight. Then they all danced the Water Ballet together until they fell asleep. What a night it was!

Note from Pinky Your Hostess:Check in next week when Johnny Jack Poetry interviews Lambchoppie about her own performance on Fantasy Night…

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Cosmic String Mirror Theory

First, I’d like to say that it is simply not true that if an Animal walks up to a mirror without a Monster in the room, no reflection appears in the mirror. Much misinformation of this kind has been circulated through the centuries about Animals and their Ilk. (We are a much misunderstood species.)

In fact, the Animals of Big Bed Land no longer need an actual mirror in order to see their reflections. This was one of the unexpected benefits of Debra’s development of Cosmic String Theory – a body of theory that not even all Animals can grasp by mane or tail, and one that is almost completely obscure to Monsters.

Note from Bink: Please observe that “Debra” in this case is pronounced to rhyme with “Zebra.”

It all started the summer that Monster J. and E. would take an evening stroll from the Old House across the lawn and dirt pile to look at the New House as it was being built. Sometimes they’d take a few animals along to comment on this process. Since the Old House had no foundation, the Monsters were particularly interested in the beautiful concrete foundation of the New House, and had spoken of it together at length.

Many of the Animals were less impressed by the foundation. Some said it didn’t look like a house at all. Where could you hang the miraculous flying hammock, Panda Air? Where was the bed?

Debra had a different reaction. She looked at the string strung above the foundation on little wooden stakes and said: “So. Houses are made of string.”

Nothing would convince her otherwise, no matter how we tried to explain. Even when we took her out to show her the framing, she only said: “So. String turns into walls.”

This was years ago, and evolution of her Cosmic String Theory has long advanced beyond what mere Monsters can fathom. “Music is string,” she says. “See the bow? Horsehair. A kind of string. See the ukulele? String again.”

The discovery that string was simultaneously both music and the Universe led to a revolution of understanding in Big Bed Land. “Cosmic String is how the universe is made out of music-” Debra kindly tries to bring this down to a level we could understand– “the source of the Great Resonating Frequency that unites us all.” We try to look wise but non-committal at the same time and change the subject.

It turns out that by bending one small piece of string (about the length of a piece of string you’d carry in your pocket, Bink puts in here) you can make a space in space that will reflect you like a mirror – and reflect many other things that are you as well.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Goat's Farewell to Summer

We may well come back to to revisit moments of Goat's adventures on Summer Island, but here is the final page of Goat's Official Log.

We feel a pang of nostalgia, which as Bink Your Pocket Philologist points out, comes from the Greek and has nothing to do with the haze of sentimentality with which Monsters of recent times have imbued it- but means simply "the pain of return."

The Animals all say: hooray for Goat's Log! -the first written Animal record known to Big Bed Land.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

In Perfect Hominy

As you may know, Animals don’t need words to communicate. A subtle language of sound and color, simple beyond our Monster imaginings, is their way - involving images layered with emotion – where cardinal sins come in feathered shades of red, and pools of sanguine darken as they dry, where carmines are deep as ermines are white, where a rose is a rows is a roes…

And that’s exactly where one encounters a major difficulty in translating a written language to a language that has no words, Bink points out. Rose and rows. Red and read. Those pesky homonyms. You can't explain them and you can't pretend they're not there.

Bink, Our Pocket Philologist, as a young lad in his mother’s pouch (dear, mysterious Gretel!) started trying to fathom the intricacies of Monster Language in relation to Animal Language. The complexities of Monster Language came to obsess him, though so much cruder than his mother-tongue. In fact, it is perhaps the crudeness itself that exerted its fatal fascination on his orderly mind. The siren song of chaos?

He sometimes brings his knowledge to Big Bed Land by teaching a seminar. Reactions to these have definitely been mixed in the past, but Bink feels it's important to keep trying. He began his latest seminar by writing this list of words on the blackboard:

Polar Knight (Great Big Bard of Big Bed Land) became excited right away. "I understand those, I really do," he said and right away he improvised the following poem:

"To reed an owed to a buoy aged too
You knead a buoy who can be red two."

"Excellent!" said Bink and explained to all and sundry that Buoy:Boy is an example of what poets call a "slant homonym."

Well, some Animals can read and some can’t – they only learn if they want to – but Lefty is the only one who can sometimes read and sometimes can’t. Bink’s class was on one of the days he couldn’t read. This presented something of a difficulty when talking about spelling, and Bink gave Lefty special attention. Here's an example of the Animal Socratic method:

"OK, Lefty, what do we call words that sound the same but are spelled differently?"
"Hominy grits."
"Common hymns?"

Bink decided he had to put an end to what threatened to shortly become a complete takeover of the Socratic method. Luckily Bink is fast at thinking on Gretel's feet.

"What’s black and white and red all over?" he asked. Lefty adores riddles and jokes. Bink and the rest of class had the pleasure of watching Lefty twist this way and that, stand on his head, scrunch up his face, and remain completely silent while he tried to solve this riddle. At last he presented the solution:

"Chairman Panda in a spangled dream!"

(An ancient story of Big Bed Land relates how Chairman Panda invented the miraculous Panda Air flying hammock as well as the method for Animal Teleportation while dreaming among the newborn stars.)

Bink declared the seminar a success and the students announced there would be a picnic for all Animals in honor of Bink and Gretel! With Alphabet Soup, of course, Bink's favorite.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Thanks Johnny Jack!

February is the shortest month, as we say in our household. Meaning that even if there's still snow on the ground and frost on the car, we have survived the perils of January: frozen fog, being housebound and abandoned by the sun for days at a time, cabin fever. One memorable January we brought home a $1 ping pong set from the store, including one ball, two rather small paddles, and a net that fell over when hit - nonetheless we became completely obsessed with playing ping pong on our kitchen table...that's January.

This winter, I made my own drop spindle from an old faucet handle and a scrap of dowel, and tried spinning silk fibers into thread. John re-arranged his sitting-room to accommodate a model train table and the budding universe that goes along with that - we had lovely and intricate discussions about what kind of landscape we wanted to create - very relaxing to sit in that room and dream of an abandoned salt mine and a herd of burros gone wild, where the borax mine would go and if we could involve a small traveling the snow fell and Pablo the parrot made little snoring sounds from his playroom...But it's always a challenging month. When we heard the first blackbirds a few days ago, I was amazed, as I always am by how early they come back and start singing and bring the promise of spring.

So it's a perfect time to focus on what makes happiness - especially when it's sorely needed! So here's my list of ten points of happiness:

*Johnny Jack publishing his book of poetry, The Days of Wine and Roses.
*Moon gazing with Hippo and Golden Bear from the porch.
*The adventure of discovering friends in blog-world and bringing the Animals along with me (or are they bringing me along?)
*The mystery of John, as this unfolds, veils itself, gleams in unexpected places, returns to the familiar, over and over.
*Drawing with Amanda Every Otter.
*The pleasure of having friends, old and new, help out in hard times.
*The advent of Rosie and the chinchilla room.
*Praying in my oratory and making things for it.
*Writing my new book, Magdala Red.
*Learning how to knit with my new friend Heather.