Sunday, July 15, 2007

Boy Sports

Soccer rocked. The rules are easy to communicate; kick the ball into the net. Don't use your hands. Have a lot of fun. He did all three, though the hands thing - and not tackling the person in control of the ball - proved a challenge. On the last day, Paul got a medal to hang around his neck. It's now above his bed, cradling his team picture.

T-Ball is a mixed bag. There are more steps involved; hit ball, run here, wait, repeat three times, then sit on the bench and wait. Later, we'll all stand on the field and wait for the ball to come. If it does, get it and throw it in the coach's direction. Often, Paul opted to play on the playground adjacent to the ball field, or sit on the pitcher's mound and make tracks in the sand.

Last game he stayed longer than he ever had before - one inning. Poor coach. She's trying really hard, but the little-little guys snub her for the jungle gym. We'll try T-Ball again next year.

Sun Coming to Earth

We got this site from Sharon Hurlbut and Olivia loves it. Here's her latest creation:

At the water slide last week, Olivia and I played in the pool. Olivia choreographed aquatic dance moves until I wondered if she'd channelled Ethel Merman. I watched, resting from several trips with Paul up the water slide stairs, my only exercise this week."Here's the volcano, Momma," and then "the hurricane," and "the dolphin," and then she announced "and this one is 'sun coming to earth.'" She swam over to me, popped her little head out, water running off her hair and mouth stretched wide in a grin and hugged me. I didn't get it. I almost missed it. If I hadn't been listening, and I don't always listen, I would have. She said, "You're the earth, Momma, and I'm the sun." And closed her lips in a triumphant smile.

And I knew anew that it's all worth it. Every dime spent, every mile traveled, every particle of body fluid cleaned, every fight refereed.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

And the Rockets' Red Glare

Like the rest of the Americans in this red state, I like fireworks. Like most of the rest of America, you can't light them off in my town. So we drive five miles east to the fierce little town of East Helena. The official display is the same as you find anywhere, say, in Montpelier, Vermont where they practice studious and orderly patriotism; it starts at dark, pops and dazzles for about twenty minutes, climaxes and falls silent. But East Helena, now there's a town. Formed around the lead smelter roughly 105 years ago, East Helena was paradise found to the immigrants who got jobs here and brought brothers, sisters, cousins and wives over; Slovenians mostly, their kids have not yet forgotten just how great it is to live in plenty and relative freedom. People still make poticia here. Yellow ribbons of wood, each painted with the name of a kid from East Helena serving in the military, hang from the street lights all along Main Street. Last night we saw American flags everywhere, even tied to radio antennae on cars risking Main Street. And I say risking because, besides the official fireworks, East Helena allows shooting off any legal firework anywhere in the city. They don't necessarily bother themselves about clearance from vegetation or houses or moving vehicles, and for some reason, most everybody living on Main had the wherewithal to buy an extravaganza. Or maybe they formed a buyers coop to get wholesale pricing. Those East Helenans, they are go-getters. One teenager at the park told me her family saved recycling all year long, cashed it in and bought fireworks.

It was, and I use this word in the spirit in which I first heard it misused in the Eighties, AWESOME. We parked behind City Hall and lit our puny, safe, fountains, sparklers, smoke bombs and ground flowers on asphalt away from anything flammable. (Safety first, we've got kids in the minivan, dontchaknow) For blocks around, people lit off massive, multicolored rockets; mammoth fountains; gunpower and dye whirling, hissing, zhizzing, dazzling everywhere. I saw one guy leaning over lighting a rocket fuse by putting his head nearly to the ground and poking his lit cigarette through the rocket's legs, without removing it from his mouth. Before the first official firework torched off, the air was thick and gray. Fire engines raced hither and yon. My eyes strained. It went on an hour and a half. "Look, Paul, Look, Olivia - look, look!" I pointed north, east, south, west, - there, there, and there, trying to see everything and show them everything. By ten, they'd had enough - the same way I felt when touring St. Mark's in Venice - there's so much that after a certain point the brain can admit no more. And the excitement of being allowed to stay up and eat Choco Tacos had worn off.

My politics may be different than the people who hung the signs, but we stand together supporting our troops. Though we'd do things very differently from one another given a day to run the country, we love our country. We're grateful, we children of immigrants, one or four generations removed. And fireworks is a grand way to show it.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Money and Poetry

Money, Montana and Poetry. Could there be a trio that in which each more completely repels the others? Poetry and Money - Montana and Money - Montana and Poetry - are each of these mutually exclusive? Montana's Poet Laureate Sandra Alcosser, near the end of her tenure and having worked her butt off in a non-compensated position, testified at the legislature in favor of a bill which would have provided a small measure of expense reimbursement for travel for her successor. Not only did the out-going Poet Laureate not get paid for her time in this honorary position, she had to take donations, stay in people's houses, and catch rides to get to the far-flung Montana communities who asked her to come. The bill would have authorized $4,000 for defray travel costs - not an amount approaching full reimbursement. And the legislature said "No." Here's a sample quote from an ultra-conservative legislator: “It doesn’t do anything for the state of Montana.”

Poetry doesn't do anything for the state of Montana? Here's one part of one person's story:

When I was 11 or 12 and tortured by the politics of Middle School, I didn't think I was worth much. The Arts Council sponsored a poet to come in and do a workshop with the pizza faced hormonal inmates. I scribbled something on paper in response to a prompt. She came around and talked to each of us in turn, suggesting ideas to some, trying like hell to get others (future legislators?) to even take the act of writing seriously. When she got to my desk, she changed my life. I don't remember much of what she said. All I remember is that she said my work had worth -- value, and the promise of more. She fed an inner light that's flickered but not to date gone out.

The value inherent in bringing self-expression through poetry to people wherever and however they are, whether geeks in the middle school or retirees on the High-Line, people living in the colonies or the reservations or ranches and in the good and bad parts of every town, can't be understated. We need it. We need the people who illuminate every place they are allowed (or enabled) to go.

Thank you, anonymous poet. Thank you, Sandra Alcosser, and thank you to the next Poet Laureate, whoever you turn out to be, for enriching Montana with this vital gift.