08 December 2011

in her element

simmering drag by McBeth
simmering drag, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.
By the time we are women, fear is as familiar to us as air. It is our element. We live in it, we inhale it, we exhale it, and most of the time we do not even notice it. Instead of "I am afraid," we say, "I don't want to," or "I don't know how," or "I can't".

-- Andrea Dworkin

03 December 2011

oh, puss

lemony snickerts by McBeth
lemony snickerts, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.

-- William Shakespeare

02 December 2011

the ordinary person

pearly whites by McBeth
pearly whites, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

Maybe it’s like this, Max--you know how, when you are working on a long and ordered piece, all sorts of bright and lovely ideas and images intrude. They have no place in what you are writing, and so if you are young, you write them in a notebook for future use. And you never use them because they are sparkling and alive like colored pebbles on a wave-washed shore. It’s impossible not to fill your pockets with them. But when you get home, they are dry and colorless. I’d like to pin down a few while they are still wet.

-- John Steinbeck

28 November 2011


four pillows by McBeth
four pillows, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

There are four ways you can handle fear. You can go over it, under it, or around it. But if you are ever to put fear behind you, you must walk straight through it. Once you put fear behind you, leave it there.

-- Donna Favors

27 November 2011

various and sundry

legumes (mostly) by McBeth
legumes (mostly), a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.

-- Ansel Adams

21 November 2011

18 November 2011

by and by

kiwi by McBeth
kiwi, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

They say the seeds of what we will do are in all of us, but it always seemed to me that in those who make jokes in life the seeds are covered with better soil and with a higher grade of manure.

-- Ernest Hemingway

17 November 2011

dude quacks me up

Once I saw a duck walking down the street so I went into Subway and ordered two pieces of bread, and they informed me that they could not do that, like there was some special rule at Subway that two pieces of bread weren't allowed to touch. So the woman asked me what I wanted on the sandwich and I said I do not care it is for a duck, and she was like oh then it's free. I was not aware that ducks eat for free at Subway. It's like give me a chicken fajita sub, but don't worry about ringing it up, it is for a duck.

-- Mitch Hedberg

16 November 2011

slow burn

end of the season by McBeth
end of the season, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

Now Autumn's fire burns slowly along the woods

And day by day the dead leaves fall and melt.

-- William Allingham

08 November 2011

bodies at rest

tree by McBeth
tree, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

A living thing is distinguished from a dead thing by the multiplicity of the changes at any moment taking place in it.

-- Herbert Spencer

06 November 2011

i am your opus

kelly by McBeth
kelly, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

-- Sylvia Plath

02 November 2011

Giving up ghosts

Dirty confession time.

I've never been particularly skilled at either forgiving or forgetting. This is not something I am proud to admit but it's the truth, and it's something I have wrestled with my entire life. Silently to myself I sometimes think, "Yes, I am done being angry at...", or "Yes, I have moved on from...", or "No, I'm not harboring resentment about...", but mere days after being so certain I'd moved on from unresolved past issues I prickle back up over those things I'd insisted I was already over and done with. I've tried to make sense of the way I'm obviously not done being mad even when I thought I was done being mad. While all this angry/not angry forgiven/not forgiven simmers away, I also have become more cognizant that I don't really let go of stuff. Stuff, meaninging all the extra crap that lives in the basement. Stuff, meaning the piles of papers and empty boxes I save just in case. Stuff, meaning pieces of lint and other detrius that I keep to remember them/that/then by. Stuff, meaning the things I cling to, the things I've moved from home to home with me over the years. Y'know, STUFF.

Several months ago in a fit of can-do-ism I energetically piled through overflowing file folders and shredded two paper grocery bags' worth of receipts and billing statements from companies I hadn't patronized for a decade or more. It is a slow process of understanding that those documents won't ever be necessary. My emotional self is certain they will at some future point be a lifesaver while my rational self is sure they won't. After the file folder cull there remained a number of fat file folders and overflowing binders whose contents I haven't feel prepared enough to go through, files with deep emotional ties, files that I kept so I'd have something to pat me on the shoulder and supply me with a "there there you poor dear" any time I felt defeated (or angry, or misunderstood). Justification. Cause to nurse past ills. That's really why I've been holding onto them.

One of those overflowing binders has been dedicated to holding all things child support related. My child is now 22 years old, a man, living in the realm of grownuphoodness. But from his 18th year all the way back to the "I'm pregnant" days his father and I butted heads. The one issue we could agree on was that neither of us had any inclination to be married -which, at that time, is generally what responsible young people who found themselves accidentally pregnant did.  Through all those years it felt as though his dad was determined to make the dumbest, least child-beneficial choices possible. Over and over, just when I thought he'd reached his lowest point he'd dive just a little deeper to mark a new lowest rung. I was always prepared at any moment to go to court on behalf of our kid's best interest, and the documentation file keeping became as constant a reflexive action for me as breathing. Overstuffed with legal records, that binder provided me proof that I was right and he was wrong.  In recent years it became clear that I was passively feeding my own hurt, that I had to do something to let go of past ills done.  I was too big a chicken to throw the works into a shredder but I purposefully put that binder out on a desktop in my office, right there in my face, right there saying c'mon, you're going to have to deal with me eventually why not now? with the hope that I'd take the note and get past whatever was holding me back from letting the papers go but I couldn't do it.
I just couldn't do it.

Recently, during a discussion with my beloved about solving the world's woes -specifically, releasing anger and maintaining personal equilibrium- she shared a quote gleaned from Oprah's Lifeclass show on OWN:

Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.

(Oh please don't tell Oprah this, but) In general I am a little Oprah weary.  I can only hear so much about healing the past and staying in the now and reaching out to others and buying hundreds of people cars and sending them on trips, and  saving the world and feeding the world and making one's mark and erasing one's other marks and being impeccable with one's word and sharing meaningful text with one's book clubs and dressing just so and Tolle and Statler and Waldorf too. Beloved shared the ways in which that sentence was important to her, how letting go of the past doesn't mean one agrees with everything that happened, it just means that one commits herself to proceeding into the future without dragging the past along, starting now. That clicked something on inside me.  I dunno what the click was, but I felt it.  It wasn't clear but it was specific.  

With this in mind, last weekend as we looked out the window at a crisp breezy autumn Saturday Beloved and I mulled over what to do with the rare beauty of the day.  She said she wanted to have a campfire somewhere.  I said I felt like we haven't been attending to some really necessary home maintenance projects all summer, even after we insisted at the beginning of the summer that we'd get them done (this year!  we can do it!  we'll get organized!).  I said I wasn't eager to do that: I'd feel guilty hanging out fire side if I knew I hadn't done anything to shorten my to-do list before the fire'd been lit.  After some discussion we eventually met in the middle by agreeing to have a fire on Saturday and then we would accomplish (specifically named tasks) on Sunday.    We scurried around the house gathering what we'd want to have with us.  Clothes we wouldn't mind getting ashy.  The fire pokey stick.  Firewood.  Snacks.  Reading materials.  Beverages.  On an unexpected whim, I also grabbed the fat angry child support binder.  I don't have to do anything with this of course just, I dunno, bringing it along for the ride.  

We landed at a gorgeous county park 20 minutes or so outside of the city where we met a group of boy scouts and adult supervisors on a campout.   The park was otherwise empty, and it was quiet quiet quiet.  No sirens.  No engine revving.  No car stereos thrumming bass lines strong enough to make steel rattle.  No shrieking.  No Beltline highway noise.  No industrial equipment.  Just the wind and the birds.

Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.

I kept hearing that quote in my head, like the Field of Dreams line "If you build it they will come".  I pulled the fat angry binder out of the back seat of the car.  Sat down next to the fire, opened the binder, read the top page.  Holyshitholyshitholyshit I am not ready to do this.  (I'm not?)  I can't let go of this.  I've kept all these papers in one place for so long.  (You can't?  Why hold onto it now?)  Slowly, I flipped through a few more pages, reading back through my dusty copies of our family court proceedings, and finally laid a few sheets onto the fire, then I sat and watched the flames catch the edges of the pages, curling the burning pages around one another.  It was exhilarating in a roller coaster ride stomach bottoming out kind of way.  I was so tempted to reach into the fire to pull the pages out, maybe blow the flames out or stomp on them, pat them down or something so I could put them back into the fat angry binder where I've kept them for years and years.  Reading the documents was a very important part of my process - I didn't anticipate it would be important for me to relive in order to release, but it was.  Also, not all the pages dropped so easily into the flames.  The very first piece of personal correspondence I received from 1988, the year before my kid was born, was the hardest to let go of and it took several false starts before I managed to make my fingers ungrip.  And then, liberated, it set aflame.  And then, the words became murky though still legible.  And then, the words were ghost letters on ashen paper.  And then, they were gone.  We were both quiet.  I stood up to take a break and we began chatting about something entirely unrelated to the ceremonial burn.  All of a sudden I began crying.  Little choked sobs.  Big teardrops.  I thought I'd managed to keep my cool so I was not at all prepared for that blindsiding emotional surge.  I said, "Well I bet this is not exactly the day you'd envisioned when you said you wanted to have a fire earlier today".  Thank goodness we both laughed.   I finally fell into a good rhythm - read a few sheets, held onto them for a few more seconds, dropped them into the fire, watched them burn until there was nothing left.  Stood up, walked away, took a brief break, sat down and pulled out a few more documents... over and over, until there were no papers left in the folder save one, one of the paternity-proving blood test results.  I figure that one may be an important medical document down the road, so even if the information is retrievable elsewhere this copy is staying put.

Without being too creepysmarmyloveygross, I doubt I can ever sufficiently thank my Beloved enough for having been there with me to listen and to talk and to crack jokes.  It was especially meaningful to me that she stayed right there next to me and witnessed me do this Really, Really Hard Thing That I Never Thought I'd Be Able To Do.  It was surprisingly exhausting for both of us, and I am grateful that she braves the unknown by encouraging me to walk my talk.  I'd expect no less.  The older I get the more I understand how love isn't about acquiescing to everything whether you agree with it or not, but it is the encouragement we give to one another to pursue being our best selves.

I'm in no hurry to race to whatever my next challenge is (cripes, this is exhausting and makes my hair smell smokey!!) but with this experience under my belt I feel somewhat better equipped to face the next episode of becoming my better self.

Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.

Yep.  That.  

28 October 2011

hopping about

hops by McBeth
hops, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

Ex-Leper: Okay, sir, my final offer: half a shekel for an old ex-leper?
Brian: Did you say “ex-leper”?
Ex-Leper: That's right, sir, 16 years behind a veil and proud of it, sir.
Brian: Well, what happened?
Ex-Leper: Oh, cured, sir.
Brian: Cured?
Ex-Leper: Yes sir, bloody miracle, sir. Bless you!
Brian: Who cured you?
Ex-Leper: Jesus did, sir. I was hopping along, minding my own business, all of a sudden, up he comes, cures me! One minute I'm a leper with a trade, next minute my livelihood's gone. Not so much as a by-your-leave! “You're cured, mate.” Bloody do-gooder. Look, I'm not saying that being a leper was a bowl of cherries. But it was a living. I mean, you try waving muscular suntanned limbs in people's faces demanding compassion. It's a bloody disaster.

-  Monty Python, from Life of Bryan

25 October 2011


guns not welcome by McBeth
guns not welcome, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

You can get more with a nice word and a gun than you can with a nice word.

-- Al Capone

20 October 2011

The prettiest love letter I may ever have read

pin by McBeth
pin, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.
Last Days

Donald Hall

"It was reasonable
to expect." So he wrote. The next day,
in a consultation room,
Jane's hematologist Letha Mills sat down,
stiff, her assistant
standing with her back to the door.
"I have terrible news,"
Letha told them. "The leukemia is back.
There's nothing to do."
The four of them wept.  He asked how long, why did it happen now?
Jane asked only: "Can I die at home?"

Home that afternoon,
they threw her medicines into the trash.
Jane vomited. he wailed
while she remained dry-eyed -- silent,
trying to let go. At night
he picked up the telephone to make
calls that brought
a child or a friend into the horror.
The next morning,
they worked choosing among her poems for Otherwise, picked
hymns for her funeral, and supplied each

other words as they wrote
and revised her obituary. the day after,
with more work to do
on her book, he saw how weak she felt,
and said maybe not now; maybe
later. Jane shook her head: "Now," she said.
"We have to finish it now."
Later, as she slid exhausted into sleep,
she said, "Wasn't that fun? To work together? Wasn't that fun?"

He asked her, "What clothes
should we dress you in, when we bury you?"
"I hadn't thought," she said.
"I wondered about the white salwar kameez," he said --
her favorite Indian silk they bought in Pondicherry a year
and a half before, which she wore for best
or prettiest afterward.
She smiled. "Yes. Excellent," she said.
He didn't tell her
that a year earlier, dreaming awake,
he had seen her
in the coffin in her white salwar kameez.

Still, he couldn't stop
planning. That night he broke out with,
"When Gus dies I'll
have him cremated and scatter his ashes
on your grave!" She laughed
and her big eyes quickened and she nodded:
"It will be good
for the daffodils." She lay pallid back
on the flowered pillow:
"Perkins, how do you think of these things?"

They talked about their
adventures -- driving through England
when they first married,
and excursions to China and India.
Also they remembered
ordinary days -- pond summers, working
on poems together,
walking the dog, reading Chekhov
aloud. When he praised
thousands of afternoon assignations
that carried them into
bliss and repose on this painted bed,
Jane burst into tears
and cried, "No more fucking. No more fucking!"

Incontinent three nights
before she died, Jane needed lifting
onto the commode.
He wiped her and helped her back into bed.
At five he fed the dog
and returned to find her across the room,
sitting in a straight chair.
When she couldn't stand, how could she walk?
He feared she would fall
and called for an ambulance to the hospital
but when he told Jane,
her mouth twisted down and tears started.

"Do we have to?" He canceled.
Jane said, "Perkins, be with me when I die."
"Dying is simple," she said.
"What's worst is . . . the separation."
When she no longer spoke,
they lay alone together, touching,
and she fixed on him
her beautiful enormous round brown eyes,
shining, unblinking,
and passionate with love and dread.

One by one they came,
the oldest and dearest, to say goodbye
to this friend of the heart.
At first she said their names, wept, and touched;
then she smiled; then
turned one mouth-corner up. On the last day
she stared silent goodbyes
with her hands curled and her eyes stuck open.

Leaving his place beside her,
where her eyes stared, he told her,
"I'll put these letters in the box." She had not spoken
for three hours, and now Jane said
her last words: "O.K."
At eight that night,
her eyes open as they stayed
until she died, brain-stem breathing
started, he bent to kiss
her pale cool lips again, and felt them
one last time gather
and purse and peck to kiss him back.

In the last hours, she kept
her forearms raised with pale fingers clenched
at cheek level, like
the goddess figurine over the bathroom sink.
Sometimes her right fist flicked
or spasmed toward her face. For twelve hours
until she died, he kept
scratching Jane Kenyon's big bony nose.
A sharp, almost sweet
smell began to rise from her open mouth.
he watched her chest go still.
With his thumb he closed her round brown eyes.


bracelet by McBeth
bracelet, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.

-- Thomas Payne

18 October 2011

in no particular order

dray by McBeth
dray, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

There are three things I have always loved, and never understood - painting, music, women.

-- Fontenelle

16 October 2011

music to come down by

escalating music by McBeth
escalating music, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

It was just a whimsical idea that escalated when so many crazy ladies took it up.

-- Rudi Gernreich

04 October 2011

give it to me straight

ziggy by McBeth
ziggy, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

Imagination is always the fabric of social life and the dynamic of history. The influence of real needs and compulsions, of real interests and materials, is indirect because the crowd is never conscious of it.

-- Simone Weil

20 September 2011


ultratech abstract by McBeth
ultratech abstract, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

He had a word, too. Love, he called it. But I had been used to words for a long time. I knew that that word was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time came, you wouldn't need a word for that anymore than for pride or fear.

-- William Faulkner

18 September 2011

beyond the gables

Monona Terrace bike path by McBeth
Monona Terrace bike path, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

Twilight drops her curtain down, and pins it with a star.

-- Lucy Maud Montgomery

17 September 2011

the frank man's vision

I am an eyewitness to the ways in which people relate to themselves and to each other, and my work is a way of scooping and ladling that experience.

-- Richard Neutra

14 September 2011


reflective abstract by McBeth
reflective abstract, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

Fewer and fewer Americans possess objects that have a patina, old furniture, grandparents pots and pans / the used things, warm with generations of human touch, essential to a human landscape. Instead, we have our paper phantoms, transistorized landscapes. A featherweight portable museum.

-- Susan Sontag

13 September 2011


marbled moon by McBeth
marbled moon, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

The pipe draws wisdom from the lips of the philosopher, and shuts up the mouth of the foolish: it generates a style of conversation, contemplative, thoughtful, benevolent, and unaffected.

-- William Makepeace Thackeray

12 September 2011

another rubber tree plant

Most of my advances were by mistake. You uncover what is when you get rid of what isn't.

-- Richard Buckminster Fuller

30 August 2011

six of one

six tomatoes  by McBeth
six tomatoes , a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

There are 6 admonishments in the Bible concerning homosexual activity and our enemies are always throwing them up to us usually in a vicious way and very much out of context. What they don't want us to remember is that there are 362 admonishments in the Bible concerning heterosexual activity. I don't mean to imply by this that God doesn't love straight people, only that they seem to require a great deal more supervision.

-- Lynn Lavner

29 August 2011


empty swings by McBeth
empty swings, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

A lot of parents pack up their troubles and send them off to summer camp.

-- Raymond Duncan

28 August 2011

25 August 2011

cape a'flapping

charlie's lego dude by McBeth
charlie's lego dude, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

You can't relate to a superhero, to a superman, but you can identify with a real man who in times of crisis draws forth some extraordinary quality from within himself and triumphs but only after a struggle.

-- Timothy Dalton

22 August 2011


blissed out by McBeth
blissed out, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.

-- Socrates

18 August 2011

of the many, one

fungus  by McBeth
fungus , a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other's welfare, social justice can never be attained.

-- Helen Keller

17 August 2011

beginner's bite

violet snuggles by McBeth
violet snuggles, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

Adam and Eve had many advantages but the principal one was, that they escaped teething.

-- Mark Twain

15 August 2011

stepping inward

sandhill crane, family of four by McBeth
sandhill crane, family of four, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don't try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.

-- Tao Te Ching

10 August 2011

counting little things

butterfly id? by McBeth
butterfly id?, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.

-- Rabindranath Tagore

02 August 2011

growth cycles

ripening by McBeth
ripening, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

Private victories precede public victories. You can't invert that process any more than you can harvest a crop before you plant it.

-- Stephen Covey

28 July 2011

playing together

up and over  by McBeth
up and over , a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

You are led through your lifetime by the inner learning creature, the playful spiritual being that is your real self. Don't turn away from possible futures before you're certain you don't have anything to learn from them.

-- Richard Bach

22 July 2011


palace suite by McBeth
palace suite, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

The personal life of every individual is based on secrecy, and perhaps it is partly for that reason that civilized man is so nervously anxious that personal privacy should be respected.

-- Anton Chekhov

bang a gong

heteros love homos by McBeth
heteros love homos, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

There is a spirit in us that makes our brass to blare and our cymbals crash -all, of course, supported by the practicalities of trained lung power, throat, heart, guts.

-- Sir Lawrence Olivier

15 July 2011


photographing the photographer by McBeth
photographing the photographer, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

Focus 90% of your time on solutions and only 10% of your time on problems.

-- Anthony J. D'Angelo

17 June 2011

we can do this, together

blind rider by McBeth
blind rider, a photo by McBeth on Flickr.

Enjoying the joys of others and suffering with them - these are the best guides for man.

-- Albert Einstein

15 June 2011


Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.

-- Walter Elliot

02 June 2011

27 May 2011

response to landscape

bodyscape II, originally uploaded by McBeth.

We are the children of our landscape; it dictates behavior and even thought in the measure to which we are responsive to it.

-- Lawrence Durrell

26 May 2011

hello? hello?

beeting hearts, originally uploaded by McBeth.

There are things you just can't do in life. You can't beat the phone company, you can't make a waiter see you until he's ready to see you, and you can't go home again.

-- Bill Bryson

17 May 2011

that which you can, you do

(hospital) room with a view, originally uploaded by McBeth.

There are two big forces at work, external and internal. We have very little control over external forces such as tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, disasters, illness and pain. What really matters is the internal force. How do I respond to those disasters? Over that I have complete control.

-- Leo Buscaglia

19 April 2011


quinn , originally uploaded by McBeth.

The highlight of my childhood was making my brother laugh so hard that food came out of his nose.

-- Garrison Keillor

29 March 2011

let's do lunch

bright eyes, originally uploaded by McBeth.

I'm sick of following my dreams. I'm just going to ask them where they're going and hook up with them later.

-- Mitch Hedberg

18 March 2011


settle down kitty, originally uploaded by McBeth.

We were that generation called ''silent,'' but we were silent neither, as some thought, because we shared the period's official optimism nor, as others thought, because we feared its official repression. We were silent because the exhilaration of social action seemed to many of us just one more way of escaping the personal, of masking for a while that dread of the meaningless which was man's fate.

-- Joan Didion

04 March 2011


fresh breath, originally uploaded by McBeth.

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.

-- Alice Walker

01 March 2011

stand up

protest in madison: 02/26/11, originally uploaded by McBeth.

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

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