Saturday, June 04, 2005

Saturday @ home

Quiet day. I have declared June as the month in which I am (once again) going to catch up on organizing my house. "June gloom" has arrived, which means a last chance to undertake cleaning and organizing tasks in perfectly livable weather before the heat of summer sets in. Good progress has been made so far.

Thursday evening I somehow twisted a muscle in my neck/upper back. By Friday morning, my head movement was painfully restricted, and the thought of spending nine hours in a cubicle in front of a computer monitor was not happy. So I stayed at home, slept in, and then carefully worked on sorting some of the piles in my living room while waiting for the masseur to arrive at his station at Wild Oats in Pasadena. Happily, the masseur on duty was one who had been recommended to me a few years ago by a physiotherapist who specializes in neck and upper back problems.

I was very pleased with the results of the half-hour back massage and, while still a little sore, have regained most of my range of movement by this afternoon. So, if you're in Pasadena and need a massage, drop by Wild Oats on Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. or Thursdays and every other Friday from 12 noon to 4 p.m. to see Jaime.

The enforced quiet has me mulling a lot of things, which were more compelling earlier. Now the intensity of desire to write about them has worn off. But I'll mention three topics and (perhaps) come back to them later.

First, Thursday night, I set out to find some books I'd read about, none of which were available at Vroman's Bookstore. Cynthia Crossen recently wrote an intriguing WSJ column in which she reviewed the 1951 science fiction book, The Day of the Triffids, about carnivorous plants developed by humans but which got out of hand.
When Mr. Wyndham was writing, the prospect of nuclear conflagration seemed a dark shadow on the future. The combination of human ingenuity and natural force was turning the earth into a testing field for science.

And, like the various experiments humans are performing on nature these days -- cloning, genetically modified crops, biological weaponry -- the development of the triffids had consequences no one could possibly have foreseen. They were plants, after all, and in most parts of the world, "man had succeeded in putting most forms of nature save his own under a reasonable degree of restraint."
(I just called Book Alley and put the book on hold—paperback edition for $2.95.)

The other books I was interested in were cookbooks by Corinne Trang. I've been enjoying reading a couple cooking sites, for example 101 Cookbooks and Obachan's Kitchen and Balcony Garden, although I don't remember where I read the Corinne Trang reference. of her books is on Vietnamese cooking. Two of my colleagues came from Vietnam, so it's been fun hearing about and tasting some of the food they bring in, in addition to going to local Vietnamese restaurants.

Having not found what I'd come looking for, I scanned the Religion shelves. I like to see what books about religion are stocked in general interest bookstores. This book seemed a somewhat unlikely selection—it was probably special-ordered and then never picked up: Breathing Space: A Spiritual Journey in the South Bronx, by Heidi B. Neumark. The book is the story of a young Lutheran pastor who works for twenty years at a small Latino and African-American church in the Bronx. It is the stories of the people who attended the church, and of the church's efforts, along with other churches, to establish decent housing and schools.

I read the book straight through, which probably didn't help my sore neck but did keep my mind off the pain. I need to read it again, more slowly, and take time to interact with what I read. I was struck by many of the author's observations and sketches of her parishioners. Most of all, I'm grateful for having found another story of a woman from which I can outline part of my own story.

[Note for another entry: Carolyn Heilbrun's book Writing a Woman's Life and the importance of having "stories to live by," especially for women: "It is a hard thing to make up stories to live by. We can only retell and live by the stories we have read or heard. We live our lives through texts. They may be read, or chanted, or experienced electronically, or come to us, like the murmurings of our mothers, telling us what conventions demand. Whatever their form or media, these stories have formed us all; they are what we must use to make new fictions, new narratives." p. 37]

My second big topic, which I'll only note here, is the prognosis of the state of the world, as touched upon in this Path to Freedom entry. It's also the cover story of the current The Atlantic magazine: "Countdown to Meltdown. America's coming economic crisis. A lookback from the election of 2016." I challenge myself dig into questions of world crisis/crises, and what I believe my response should be.

Final links for the day, the hillside homes destroyed earlier this week in the landslide in Laguna Beach (free registration required). Ironically, last Sunday's gospel reading was from Matthew 7:21-29, about the wise man who built his house on the rock and the foolish man who built his house on the sand and what happened to their respective houses when the rains came down and the floods came up. I see The Atlantic has posted an article written in 1999 called "The Liquid Earth" (paid subscription required) about the high costs of landslides.

[Edit: corrected spelling of Corinne Trang's name. Not sure where I got "Connie" from.]

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