Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Straight talk about rejection.

In the last week or so, I've had five rejections or so. I don't actually want to go back and do an accurate count, Rejections of my manuscript, rejections of poems. Today, I sent my manuscript, newly spruced and reordered, into the world five times. On Monday, I will take the other bedraggled rejectees and give them a little medicinal smack, tell them to snap out of it, and send them into the world again, where the great likelihood is that they will be rejected again.

Today, I told the historian, 'I'm having kind of a crisis about my poems.'

He hates when I say this. 'Really? I hate to hear you say that.'

'Yeah, you know, like what is poetry for anyway? and maybe my poems are elitist crap. Etcetera. Like that.' Sometimes, it helps to say these thoughts aloud, not to have someone deny them, but just to give them voice, let them take the air, perhaps float away.

In part I am thinking these thoughts because of the rejections. Which, I'm sorry, straight talkers, it's hard not to take it personally. In fact: I'm going to say it is personal, in that the manuscript in its various iterations represents your thinking, your judgment, your poems speaking to each other, and the rejection means, at the least, that none of this moved people when they read it, if they read it, at least not enough to move it forward.

Also, I've been thinking about what Sherman Alexie said about poems about crocuses:

So what did I learn during this poetry siege? Well, none of us ever needs to write another poem about crocuses, or croci, or however you prefer to pluralize it. Trust me, we poets have exhausted the poetic potential of the crocus. If any of you can surprise me with a new kind of crocus poem then I will mail you one hundred dollars.

To my knowledge, I have not yet written a poem about crocuses, or one with crocuses in it. Tulips, yes. Birds galore. I'm just thinking, why so absolutist, Sherman? I fear he may be right, not that I have any stake whatsoever in crocus-centricity, poetry-wise, but I think this may be synecdochic for all poems having to do with the horticultural or the domesticated natural. Which is, truthfully, right up my alley.

To be clear, this is not at all about Sherman Alexie. It's not about any editor, not the ones who have published my work or the many who have not. It's really about the will to go on, and whether I'm finding or making time to write, which is meaningful to me whether or not my work gets published. And I'm not. My time is much too spoken for, which means my relationship with poetry feels attenuated, and the rejections feel more like the truth than the writing does.

'Why crocuses? Or anything? A poem is a form of thought, and the thought takes as its tokens the things we live with, whatever they may be.' I may or may not have said this to the historian as we walked across campus to my next appointment. This is my credo, or at least an interim credo.

There are journals I'm not going to submit to anymore, or awhile. One, where the editor rejected my work literally overnight--literally!--while assuring me that my work was considered carefully. Never again. There's a deadline that I'm going to let pass, because the journal just rejected me. It seems somehow foolish to try that place again so soon.

I plan to find my way to a draft soon. I can see that happening next week. I have pieces I want to work on, and when one wants to work at a draft, one ought to find one's way to that draft. It puts the minor cuts and scrapes, the abrasions of sending one's work out, into a more liveable perspective.



Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Short letters.

Dear Pizza,

Today was a monster. I mean 'monster' in the sense of 'Monstro the Whale,' in Pinocchio, as in 'huge and no doubt scary to small children.' I'm not really frightened, I'm more like prepared to surrender. In anticipation of today--and believe me, I anticipated it, I planned for it, I had it mapped out five different ways on all kinds of documents--the historian and I had a chat, a chat about dinner, whilst walking the dog. A dinner which I knew, having anticipated the day, I would not be in a position to make.

'What about pizza?' I said.

'I'm on it,' said the historian, or words to that effect.

When I got home, the historian had preceded me by a mere three minutes, with you, dear pizza, ready and perfect in your perfect-sized box.

So I got out two plates and two napkins and poured myself a glass of limeade, and I roared my terrible roar and gnashed my terrible teeth and rolled my terrible eyes and showed my terrible claws.

And you were still hot,



Dear fall weather,

Yesterday, it was so beautiful, sunny and warm. And the night before, after the eclipse, the moon shone so brightly. Still: shouldn't you be arriving, fall weather? Or maybe even here already? It's not that I'm impatient, but I have sweaters all lined up.

Also, not that anyone's counting, but it's almost October,



Dear nightly dog walk,

Tonight, while watching the next to the next to the next to the next to the last episode of Mad Men ever, I said to the historian, 'I'm soooo tired.' In a super tired voice, which I had totally earned, having just done eight online consultations in a row. At night. After dinner (aka pizza). At night, it bears repeating.

'Maybe you should just stay here,' he said, consolingly, meaning the nightly dog walk.

'NO,' I said, invigorated by this kind but outrageous proposition. 'No, no, that's not happening.'

Nightly dog walk, I feel rather strongly about you. As does Bruiser, the dog in question. He knew when Mad Men was over, and began his excitable breathing and bed-prancing (he was watching with us). In all but words, he said, Let's get on with this. It's time it's time it's time.

Exactly, Bruiser. Without the walk, the night is not, as the French say, fini, and is, instead, incomplet.

(How is it that the French get away with just leaving the final letter off of words? Is this any way to run a language?)

Well, anyway: the dog walk is a little bit meditation, a little bit coaxing the dog to keep moving along, a little bit too much talk about work, a little bit admiring the moon, and a little bit circumambulating the neighborhood. A little bit like a ritual, in other words, and it's necessary.

Nightly dog walk, I need you even when I am sooooo tired, and it's good to remember that.



Dear long day again tomorrow,

I know I can survive you. You're basically the same day I had today, except repeated. So, you know, doppelgänger. Or, as I secretly think, evil twin.

No, no, that's absurd. You're just a long day. At the end of you, I'm going to feel quite a bit better.

But I have to say it: I hate having a day that reads like an endurance trial. Also, I hate the sad truth, which is that there's no one to blame but myself for that.

Boo, long day. I said: booooooooooo,


Monday, September 28, 2015

A year ago.

A year ago today, the historian had come out of major surgery by just a few days. And a few weeks before that, doctors had discovered the aneurysm on the ascending aorta. Those doctors found the blood clots on his lungs, and luckily also saw that atypical and dangerous ballooning.

A year ago, he was in and out of the Surgical ICU. A year ago, I was driving to the hospital and spending my days and evenings there. I was trying to arrive early, early, so I could catch the surgeon on his grand rounds. The historian was trying his best to sleep in the hospital. He was making excellent use of his incredible patience, which was tested to its very limits and beyond. I remember how much he hated that hospital food. I remember bringing him ice cream.

Every day since then, just about, I look at him and his good health, and I am so grateful. I'm grateful for the way he's lived his life, for the fact that, despite blood clots and an aneurysm, his heart was and is in great shape. I'm grateful for the energy and life that rebounded in him. For the walks we take with the dog. For the way he wakes up with the sun. For the places we've been since the surgery and the recovery, and for the fact that we could go and see them together.

Sometimes, when I'm driving east, I remember all those drives I took after the equinox, and the light that lessened every day as I drove home. I remember leaving the hospital when it was dark and finding my car parked by itself in the garage. I remember my son in Arizona calling me so we could talk while I drove home. How all of our children came to the hospital to visit and otherwise check in on both of us. How my youngest son walked Bruiser and looked after me.

Now, it's fall, the exact same time of year. The light diminishes every day. Now, I can look back on that time, and remember, and feel the great difference between then and now; although those memories are woven in now, maybe for good, so that this light recalls that light, and everything else that came with it. All the healing thereafter, until here we are, about to go out with Bruiser again, and I am so glad.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Miracle thinking.

Here are strategies I'm considering for finishing my two presentations in time to deliver them at the end of the week:

1. Be two people.
2. Turn the still-unclaimed sessions on my consultation calendar into ghost sessions. So no one can find them. Magic: extra time.
3. Run faster, jump higher.
4. Superior state of mind, superior mental attitude.
5. Eat only superfoods.
6. Be like Don Draper in a pitch meeting. But that one where he sells them the carousel, not that one where he tells them about the prostitute who gave him a candy bar.
7. Stay up all hours?
8. Be like Quicksilver, but in terms of writing and video-essay-making.

I'm also considering rewinding time, and making better decisions, like maybe not having proposed two proposals or maybe even one proposal? 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

We got up first thing.

At our grandson's soccer game, at the crack of dawn, or, like 8:30 a.m.:

The historian: This is so great.

We're looking east. The sun is up, over the mountains, and shining pretty much straight into our faces. The game is wonderful. The air is perfect. It's early.
A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on
Me: It's wonderful.

The historian: Even being out early in the morning.

Me: No. No, the historian. But it gradually gets better.


After the game, I was planning to go out in the world, all over West Valley City, for a little project I'm working on. I had my camera, my intervalometer, my tripod, my Nemesis Handbag, my iPhone, my laptop, all ready to go.
A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on
A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on
It would just be me and the world and my own mind. And all my gear. And then I was going to go in to my office to work, research, write. But:

Me: (rummaging in my handbag, which seems intent upon my defeat.) Cursing expletive curse words [ < not my actual words]! Where are my cursing keys?


After the shoot:

Me: (looking in the window of my office, like a common creeper:) There you are. (My keys. Sitting like smug bastards on my desk.)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Megastore recommends: Long Day Edition.

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, you have a long day. Sometimes, the long day just comes at you like an enraged rhino--what'd you ever do to deserve an enraged rhino, coming at you?
--and you just have to let it roll. Either way, you'll have a better time of it if you

Last Minute Post It (LMPI)
1. Articulate your plan in multiple places. Let's say that the schedule for your long day is such that you have to execute your being-in-all-the-places plan with laser-like focus and superhuman precision. In that case, you better have your plan in your

  • Outlook calendar and replicated upon a 
  • text document, backed up by a 
  • Word document, and actualized on a
  • last-minute Post It.
Otherwise, things might slip out of view. I'm telling you: recursive planning! It's the next big thing. I'm already developing the app. (If by 'developing the app' we mean 'thinking about how the Last Minute Post It (LMPI) is already a pretty good app for recursion in planning.' Which we do. That's exactly what we mean.)

Shaun T, you and your abs
need to stop bossing me around.
2. Work out first. Some days, you know that the end of the day is just going to be a cluster-cuss, and there's nothing to be done about it (see: enraged rhino, coming at you). So you better work out first. If that means rolling out of bed to put on yesterday's workout clothes, so be it. If that means that when Shaun T tells you to FOCUS you kind of want to talk back to the dvd and tell him to shove it? So be it. If this means that when you on your yoga mat, first as Superman and then as Rocketman, you kind of feel like a boss? So be it. Work out first and you will be the superhero of your own core. Whatever that means. Just do it. (Not the Nike slogan, just the regular, unbranded admonition.)

3. Eat the breakfast and lunch that give you the power of the righteous. So what if
NOT the snack of the righteous.
Starbucks is out of the bacon gouda artisanal sandwich? Eat oatmeal: the breakfast of the righteous. Bring your lunch from home--and if it's leftover caprese salad and leftover broccoli and a peach, that right there is the lunch of the illuminati. Perhaps less righteously, you may later eat a doughnut (delicious!) at a meeting, and a nut-and-seed bar at another meeting (real good! maybe healthy?), and you might also have a giant diet Coke with lime that you obtained from a drive-thru with your daughter and grandchildren. And who knows what you'll eat at book club (although it will be super tasty). Point is, the righteous breakfast and lunch are the base. Crazy snacks and not-quite-dinner: mitigated.

You're gonna feel so much
better if you do.
4. Just reschedule your last hard thing already, and go do something better. I did this today--I had one appointment at 6 p.m., and if I rescheduled it, I could see my daughter and the grandkids, just barely. There was just enough time. So I did it. I rescheduled, and got to drive with my daughter and crew to Trader Joe's, so we could talk in the car. I got to hear how Deacon finished Zelda, and how Gwen was going to wear her dream-come-true dress. I got to hear about my daughter's travel plans, and I got to gaze upon the sweet, sleeping Naomi. My rescheduled appointment allowed this little dollop of joy and pleasure. Near the end of a long, long day, I call that a win-win.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Q: Do you take requests?

A: YES, but only if your requests are for (a) waffles, (b) my opinions about movies, (c) my opinions about politics, (d) my advice about shopping, (e) a compliment about your shirt, or to (f) borrow one of my books or some music or a quarter. If your request is for other things, please submit it in writing and my people will review it and get back to you in thirty (30) days or thirty (30) minutes.

Q: Are the facts on your blog actual facts?

A: All facts are, indeed, factual, which is to say, they are fact-flavored. Fact-flavoring on this blog is made of actual fact-concentrate. Facts on this blog are subject to a ten percent exaggeration bloom.

Q: What is a 'hightouchmegastore'?

A: It is a large ('mega') store ('place you buy things'), wherein the sensory load is set at a steady 125% level ('hightouch').  Basically, it's Target.

frequently asked questions.

Q: What did you buy at Target today?

A: HA nothing none of your business nothing.

Q: Do you have a favorite noise?

A: Almost any noise that is not someone or something crying. Or, almost any noise, so long as it comes from a great distance.

Q: What is your favorite close-up noise?

A: Right now, crickets in the backyard, the rumble of the swamp cooler, the sound of the bed linens just lying there, waiting.

Q: Why don't you just go to bed?

A: Too easy. It's not midnight yet.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Experiments in the space-time continuum: an essay.

Today, I was in the basement of a library.

Today, sometimes I waited for people who never arrived.

Today, I moved across space and time to my office, and from there to the ether.

Today, I talked to people in real time, but sometimes I was talking to them through a laptop.

Today, I walked speedily, I did flies, presses, rows, pull downs, curls. And then I drove on west and southbound roads to eat at home, spaghetti and salad and toast. And then I drove on still further south and further westbound roads to talk to students in an atrium on another campus.

Today, I waited for a student who did not arrive, and, while waiting, I watched, smelled, and listened to the dinner of a young man sitting near me. It was a hamburger and fries, extracted from a paper bag. It smelled savory and delectable. His manners were not polished.

When I said to my computer, Can you hear me? to an invisible student, the hamburger and fries guy took that as a signal to wad up the paper remains of his meal and leave, which: good. A redolence of grease and salt trailing behind him.

After my experiment in limits or the lack thereof, I came home, I ate ice cream and peaches, I watched Modern Family reruns. When I got up from the bed to get rice crackers, I was a teensy bit dizzy.

Tonight at ten, we walked the dog under a brilliant half moon. It is officially autumn.

The people, today it became clearer that there must be limits. That transitory dizziness may be metaphorical, or perhaps it is not. It may be existential.

Oh, I have a big plan for better limits and less vertigo. It starts in January.

For now, I plan to continue two-a-days because they make me feel like I'm choosing something and like my schedule is not wholly running me.

For now, I plan not to do any more stints at other campuses for the benefit of students who may or may not sign up, or who, having signed up, may or may not show up.

For now, I plan to get one more hour of sleep a night.

For now, I plan to keep planning, because I might be able to carve out another little concession from my tyrant of a schedule.

For now, I plan to collapse just a little bit. And then, to take a breath when I stand up from the collapse.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Short reviews.

ITEM: Pumpkin Seed Brittle.
PROVENANCE: Trader Joe's

I bought this confection today on a whim, which is pretty much the conditions under which I buy lots of things at Trader Joe's. Witness: today's purchase of breaded cod pieces and "Handsome" cut fries.

Re the cod and fries: I was starving, point one. Point two, they were giving away samples. They cut a tiny paper plate in half and put a bite of the cod with, like, six fries and a tiny fork of some delicious, delicious sauce. So I took this sample on its tiny half plate and ate it. Lord, those fries were good. Handsome? Hell, those fries were ravishing. Whatever that sauce was? On its tiny fork? Adorable. Delectable. And yes, the cod was very good. Ergo: I bought it, a package of each, and I will dole these items out to myself on dark, dark days when something delicious will probably save my life. I'm just forecasting here. Winter's around the corner.

The brittle, however, they were not giving samples of. I just saw it and had this thought process:

1. Pumpkin seed brittle: I have made pumpkin seed brittle before. Pumpkin seed brittle is good.
2. Soon it will be October. October = pumpkins. That's why everything--literally EVERYTHING--at Trader Joe's is currently pumpkin-flavored.
3. What the hell, why not?

Reader, I bought it. I ripped into it tonight after our delicious salad dinner. The brittle had a faint dust of something a little pumpkin-y, which I divined from the words on the package was actually pumpkin pie spices. While I had it stuck in my teeth in the way of all brittle, I said to the historian, 'You should try this, it's good.' He tried it. He concurred.

GRADE: A-, small points off for the the pumpkin pie spices which might be just a bridge too far. But not too big a bridge. Also, I am an easy grader. Okay, A.


ITEM: Law & Order reruns.
PROVENANCE: Sundance channel

There was no good reason whatsoever to be watching L&O reruns tonight, except for the following:

1. The Grantland article which rated all the L&O characters by category: Best D. A. (Jack McCoy, aka Sam Waterston, with Ben Stone, aka Michael Moriarty coming in second, a result I may disagree with, as I have always been a fan of the Moriarty years); Best Assistant D.A., Jill Hennessey, obviously; right on down to Best Detective, a decisive victory for Jerry Orbach, Lt. Lennie Briscoe. You really can't argue with that.
2. There wasn't anything else good on.

In the episode we watched, I called it, that it was the professor/scientist carrying out drug trials on rats and students who was really to blame for the murder (sorry, spoiler alert, in case you were also watching that episode but didn't catch the end). I like when I can spot the evildoer. It was a fairly cozy affair, our L&O watch party, as it resulted in a small nap under a faux fur.

GRADE: B. I feel like Law & Order is a solid B student. You come to appreciate the B students, because they are very reliable, but they never try too hard.


ITEM: the new Don Henley LP Cass County
PROVENANCE: a song sung on The Late Show, now hosted by Stephen Colbert!

I only caught, like, 45 seconds of this. So, you know, this review might be based on inadequate evidence.

GRADE: C. Not as good as 'The Boys of Summer.'

Sunday, September 20, 2015

This and that.

More awesome stuff about Scotland--including the fact that Unst has a higher density of rural Viking sites than anyplace in the world, including Scandinavia.

My dad reports that the aspens at Mesa Falls just outside of Ashton are fall-glorious--so much so that he has coined a new word for scenery that is too magnificent for the word 'scenery.' The new word is 'scenicity.' You heard it here first.

Jon Hamm won the Emmy for his role in Mad Men. About time.

My friend and colleague came up with this book by Lynda Barry, and now I want to redesign all of my course materials as drawings and handwriting.

Anyone want to know all the packages that came in the mail for me this week? Well, you can't. But I did get these, and this. And this will come very soon, because I have some very fancy notes to write.

I have tabs open on all sorts of online retail sites because I am trying to find a dress for my daughter's wedding, and whoa. This is challenging my shopping talents in a big way.

I was sad to read that C. K. Williams died today. So smart, and such beautiful language.

On this perfectly beautiful day, I was happy to sit out on the porch in the afternoon sun, and to read some of this.

And I roasted about fifteen pounds of tomatoes--my house smelled so good!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The answer is always 'the farmer's market.'

Me: Can anyone explain why there are no doughnuts in this house?

The historian: It must be because there weren't any at the farmer's market.

Indeed. Farmer's Market Overlords: please investigate the lack of doughnuts and get on it.

However, in its defense, the farmer's market had the following:

Also: turnips, scallions, lettuce, purple pepper, purple eggplant, oregano, basil.

And the good bagels, including salt bagels. Clearly not a doughnut, not that that needs any clarifications. But a bagel, which is a very good thing in itself.

(In the interests of transparency, baked goods division: it should be noted that I ate a croissant. Which was purchased at the farmer's market. Also not a doughnut.)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

News Flashes!

1. There are no good snacks in this house! (Food section.)

2. This arrived today, and I have already read one chapter! (even though my daughter in Scotland had it downloaded to her Kindle and had already read half of it!) (International News.)

3. Another student for whom I made a special appointment stiffed me! In related news, I'm starting to take it personally! (Business section. Also, possible advice column material.)

4. The park down the street is full of water! like it always is after it rains a lot! (Weather, obviously.)

Really, I'm only giving you the local news because the New York Times, which I make a point of buying on Thursdays at Starbucks--because the Thursday Times is the best Times--was full of terrible news.

Point A: The cover photo was of Donald Trump, mid-bloviation, and Jeb Bush, with his patented 'Why am I currently behind that blowhard?????? I am a BUSH!' expression.

Me, to the historian: (pointing at the picture) I don't want either of these guys to be president.
Historian: EFFF no. (that isn't what he actually said, but whatever he actually did say, 'EFFFF no' is what he meant.)

Point B: The Style section, which is historically one of my favorite sections, had pictures of leather jackets with patches of fur, or faux fur on them? Ugggggghhhhhh. Although, if that's the kind of thing you like, I'll share my Style section with you. Because uggghhh.

Point C: I haven't read the Arts section yet because of the previous disappointments.

Well, in my personal Arts section,

5. I added new material to my emerging poem!

6. I got a manuscript rejection today! With a 'Dear Author' form letter!

7. I went to a poetry reading tonight!

There is no sports news, because

8. The U.S. Open is over!

In conclusion, tomorrow is Friday, which kind of saves everything, if you want my opinion (see: my personal Opinion section).

(I have additional opinions, but they are available only to subscribers to The Megastore Times.)

(But basically, you can have them for free everyday. We're a daily edition around here.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Ten minutes ago, I was wading hip deep in my gmail, looking for a message from a friend from awhile back. I thought it was an email, a message that he had actually written. As I read this message and that, one after another, I started to suspect that the message had actually been delivered in person,   bodily, a person in a place, speaking in a voice and a let me show you.

It was sort of like on Monday, when I was looking for a particular sweater, now that the weather is changing and perhaps sweaters are called for, or will be called for, on a regular basis. And I couldn't find it, which made me briefly panic. And then I remembered the other box of sweaters.

Except in this case, what I remembered was an afternoon at the end of the week a few years ago, when my friend came to my office to show me how he had made a little time-lapse video out of stills
--how he captured the stills using an intervalometer, a timer, and then how to edit them.

Now I remember it was a YouTube video, and I was searching for it in the wrong way--looking for a video about the timer, and not about the editing. Just as my memory was of an email and not of a Friday afternoon, a conversation with a person.

I found the sweater. I'll wear it later. And I found the video, too, although not the email, because it was never an email. But the emails I found--those reminded me of my friend, whom I haven't spoken to in awhile, and of a time when I used to make little movies, and the intense absorption in those projects, the surges of invention.

Here's to the video I hope to make over the next couple of weeks. Here's to memory, getting it wrong and then getting it right, and here's to what you find in between.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Short letters.

Dear Postal Robot,

How I appreciate your ever-readiness, at all hours of the day or night. For instance, when I have a small submission to mail to the Futility Gods, I mean to a poetry-related venue. I need to mail it. I'm motivated to mail it because I had some poems rejected today. And it's the end of the day, it's the deadline, and today was such that no way would I see the Post Office in the light of day.

How lovely it is that you wait there, no matter my previous history of rejection, with your 'Touch to Start' screen, your helpful guidance step by step, your green light when the credit card reader has actually read the credit card. At the conclusion, when you so calmly and helpfully ask if the big postage sticker will fit on my envelope, and I say 'yes,' I kind of feel like you're my friend.

You're stalwart like that,



Dear Crime Fiction Series,

I am not sure whether you're as good as I sometimes think you are, or whether I just want you to be. I like your Louisiana style, or at least I think I do. However, and in your defense, I do keep reading you, novel after novel.

You certainly are reliable,



Dear Late Night Online Appointments,

After a night of you, I feel like you are pretty much a bridge too far, as a marker of my commitment to teaching. And I know, I have no one to blame but myself for not following the logic of listing an online course--that, paradoxically, requires consultations--to its obvious conclusion. Also, I feel a little bit like a virtuous martyr when I am there and the students show up in the chatroom and we talk about their drafts, and so forth. How in sync we are! What apt feedback! and whatnot.

I guess there's just, like, twelve more weeks of you. I feel kind of jacked up all the time, but twelve weeks won't kill me.

At least I think it won't,



Dear Peach,

It's probably over-reaching to praise you as the best peach I ever ate. I'm not even sure that's true, or how, really, I would know that, exactly. How would I extract from memory my whole history of peach eating in such a way that I could accurately compare?

But while I was eating you, I certainly felt like you were the best peach ever, all the way to the very last bite.


Monday, September 14, 2015


I've been thinking about quiet, maybe because I'm kind of hungering for it. Once you get a taste of quiet, as we did in Idaho, if you truly need it, it's hard to live with noise, real or metaphorical.

Today, I worked from home, which constituted a long spell of no noise. I made a quiet breakfast. I worked in my Canvas course and responded to emails from students and colleagues (a kind of noise, let's be honest), but I also revised a poem and worked some more on a new poem. I graded (much less noisy than emails). I added some notes to a document that's a precursor to my promotion file.

Milky Way Silhouette, by Ben Coffman. Part of a series of astrophotography
taken in places with clear skies and no light pollution
. From Twisted Sifter.

I took a short break to close my eyes. I could hear the fan whirring overhead, and the speed of cars far away.

By Alex Scott. Part of a series of photographs of L.A. freeways
when there are no cars, typically between 2 and 6 a.m. Also from
Twisted Sifter.

I heard my son come in. After a minute, I got up to go talk to him. He had a box of doughnuts. He and his friend had driven to the nearest Krispy Kreme. He set two on a plate, one for me and one for the historian, and after a brief mom-quiz about what the plan was, the plan being both big and small, he was off.

That's what it is: even as you long for quiet, there's still the coming and the going, the surge and ebb of beloved people and the work of the world, and here and there a little moment to pay attention to stillness.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dinner in one hour: Salad Sunday.

Today, for a variety of reasons, I had just over one hour to make dinner. My daughter and her family were coming over, and we would have just an hour and a half together. I slid home from my writing group at about quarter to four. Our guests would be at the house by five.

Factors in my favor:

  • I had all the shopping done.
  • The historian had swept the floors and otherwise tidied up.
  • I had previously cleaned off the kitchen table.
  • The menu was straightforward: green salads with lots of things to put on it, including steak, and bread and butter, and peach crisp for dessert.
Here's how it went: 
(3:50) 1. I put fingerling potatoes and Romano beans into the oven to roast, with olive oil, salt and pepper, at 375.
(3:55) 2. I put a flank steak into a baking dish, covered with slivered garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.
(4:00) 3. Peeled and cut up eight peaches into a dish. I tossed the peaches with a little flour and some sugar and cinnamon and cardamom. I grated nutmeg over that. Then I made a crisp topping: flour, cold butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and cardamom, all cut together so that the texture was pebbly, even sandy. Put that all over the top.
(4:15) 4. Made a cheese and cracker plate. Put it on the table.
(4:20) 5. Got out the mandoline, and sliced some Persian cucumbers and a yellow pepper into very thin slices. Put each into its tidy bowl. Put the bowls on the table.
(4:25) 6. Put a gorgeous rainbow of heirloom cherry tomatoes into a bowl, and on the table. Ditto kalamata and sundried olives, and ditto the last few marinated artichoke hearts--sliced, in a bowl, on the table.
(4:35) 7. Washed three beautiful heads of farmer's market lettuce. Spun it dry. Heaped into a bowl. Made my vinaigrette.
(4:45) 8. Moved the roast potatoes and green beans to the lower rack in the oven. Heated up the broiler to grill the steak.
(4:50) 9. Took out two balls of burrata and sliced them onto a plate. On the table.
(5:00) 10. Checked the steak. Still pretty pink. Lowered the temperature back to 375; put in the crisp, put the steak back in on the lower rack.
My daughter arrived with homemade rolls. I greeted the kids, put the potatoes and green beans into bowls, dressed the lettuce, sliced the steak, and put everything remaining on the table while the crisp baked.

Also, somewhere in there a dozen ears of corn got shucked and cooked. 

This was some of my finest fast-dinner work, I must say. I love cooking a dinner where I can linger over the preparation and where things take loads of planning and days to execute. I'm glad, though, for a dinner like this. It was fresh and abundant, and everyone liked it, just about, and while it took planning, it came together quickly. The adults could sit and talk, and I could hold Naomi while she smiled at me. Meanwhile the kids played with legos and sidewalk chalk, and Bruiser hoped, but not too obnoxiously, at the table. 

When it was over, and everyone who was leaving had gone home, and we'd put everything away, we watched Arthur & George, and Sherlock. And there is leftover crisp. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A few notes from today.

I love how cities with some history have brick warehouses. The historian put several brick warehouses in Salt Lake City from the 19th century on the National Historical Register, including one designed by the same architect who designed the Lion House. Of course, the fact of these buildings having been put on the Register didn't stop recent owners from demolishing them.


John d'Ambrosio, on the warehouses in Chicago:
It [Chicago] was destroying itself, or sloughing off its old industrial self, and many of the brick warehouses and factory buildings in the neighborhood, gutted and windowless, deserted, were no better than caves hollowed from rock, with doors gaping open blackly, home to the homeless, the vast vacant interiors lit only by the light of fires burning in oil drums. In seeking the future a city like Chicago wrecks itself and returns to stone, at least briefly. There were piles of rubble such as you imagine in war, but the absence of declared enemies, and the lethargic unfolding of time, its leisurely pace, kept people from seeing the scale of the shift as catastrophic. Factories and warehouses and hotel, these old muscular hopes came down in heaps of brick and mortar, of pulverized concrete and cracked limestone, and then those cairns of rock, in turn, were cleared off to become barren lots as flat and featureless as the prairie they'd supplanted.

Today at the market we got a box of peaches. A dozen ears of corn. Asian pears from the Asian pear family. Fingerling potatoes. Romano beans.

And we saw this:

Eurasian Eagle Owl, according
to the guy who had him there.


This afternoon, I rested and slept for a quiet hour. As usual, I'm up late. I'm watching Song of the Sea, because my daughter told me it was 'weird and sad but literally the most beautiful animated film' she'd ever seen. I'm thinking about a poem, about islands and causeways, exiles, marauders, hermitages. The day's almost done.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

My two favorite things about today.

1. When my colleague and friend, upon hearing that I believe Karl Malone is my spirit twin because of the grudge he held (at least that's the way *I* saw it) against the world for underestimating him, told a story about how she was in a spin class that Karl Malone was teaching and in which he said to her, 'I like your attitude.' And I was all


2. When I showed the historian the clip of Jimmy Fallon and Ellen Degeneres in their lipsync battle,

and we laughed and laughed, and then a few minutes later, when I was in another room, I heard the historian singing, 'b!*@^?, give me my money' while he was reading the paper.

Because that was the best.

Okay, another one:

3. good outfit.

And one more:

4. summoning up the willpower to go to the gym even though my early semester sleep is in ruins. Endorphins!

Oh, fine, one more:

5. garlic toast. Also the best.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Dear pointless western,

As I staggered out of my study after two hours of online student appointments, at night, I heard you, pointless western, drifting in from the other room in the estimable voice of Jimmy Stewart.

Oh, I know. How pointless could you be? Because Jimmy Stewart, who is the ne plus ultra of old time movie stars. I love him, which is why I kept on staggering into the room, and fell onto the bed,
movie star!
and leaned up against the historian, and watched, sort of.

'Is that Henry Fonda?' I asked, about some other ancillary character who had what seemed like a Fonda-esque voice, at least at first

'No, that's Arthur Kennedy,' said the historian, who had been watching for awhile before the Great Weariness emerged from my study. Of course. Henry Fonda's voice would have been reedier.

Pointless western, we watch a lot of movies in your neighborhood, because there are channels that specialize in old movies, and in old movie days, there were a lot of westerns. Plenty of them were pointless because most of the time, most movies are pointless. Most of the time, you're a kind of old time-y noise. A relic, except for the aesthetic, sometimes, and the movie stars.

To be honest, pointless western, I couldn't even recount what the story actually was, or what happened in and among the flirting with the storekeeper and the plot about who sold rifles to the Apaches, except at the end, I know there was a showdown and someone paid the price for some perfidy. There was some shouting to that effect. Lots of conniving and some high-minded speeches, and an old man who dreamed terrible dreams. All of it in black and white. Big skies. Horses.

There might have been something else on to watch, but I was too busy laying there and then doing one tiny bit more of work to find the remote.

In the end, justice, of a sort, and the hero rides away. Back to Laramie. I envied him that, pointless western--maybe not the Laramie part, but the riding away, and the sunset, even in black and white.


Tuesday, September 08, 2015


--next to godliness, as we all know.

As I have heretofore whined about, dear reader, I'm currently wrestling with a big anaconda of a schedule--you know, like in the movie Anaconda?


--and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be IceCube in the river with the anaconda popping up like a real bad dream, I'm pretty sure I'm going to be more like a super-smart character who *outwits* the anaconda by staying home and watching TV where no anacondas live, but that doesn't mean that the anaconda, aka my schedule, isn't running me around like a bad idea. Just four weeks of this, and then things moderate. Just four weeks. (is my new mantra, which I just typed 'moantra,' which is maybe more accurate and in tune with my current whiny mood.

ANYWAY. Today I had to wrap my mind around the fact that if I wanted to work out today, it would have to be in the morning, a realization that simultaneously resulted in the concomitant clarity that I  would thus have to take a shower, and get dressed, at the gym. And all that that entailed.

--oh the HORRRRRRor. (with extra Rs, as the situation clearly warrants.)

For your reference, here is what taking a shower and getting dressed at the gym, in the morning, for the day, entails, in my world:

1. consideration of the hair and the hair product.
2. consideration of the clothing, shoes and accessories.
3. consideration of the 'I need to smell awesome' accoutrements.
4. other crucial stuff I am forgetting.

Should going to the gym on the way to work be this hard? Should I have so many considerations and requirements? Perhaps not. But on the other hand, should working out in the morning mean I should look less splendid than I want to look on an ordinary work day? The people, I submit to you that it should not.

So I went to the gym, packing all of the considerations and requirements and my dedicated gym towel. I worked out like the righteous, and thereafter got clean, including washing my hair, which is a project unto the highest degree of project-iness.

May I say, as I evaluate my performance:

  • I got all the things I needed into my bag. (25 points.)
  • maybe I forgot just one thing, but it was of no consequence. (Minus one point.)
  • well, of little consequence. (Minus 3 points.)
  • I was expeditious in my workout-to-dressed time. (25 points.)
  • I left the gym with damp but not dripping hair. (which is my usual, anyway. Curly hair, you guys. It is bossy.) (20 points.)
  • I wore super cute shoes and a sophisticated outfit composed of summer-to-fall neutrals, in linen, and forgot nothing, so that my outfit was complete, including earrings and a bracelet. (25 points, plus five points for the bracelet.)
  • I was not late for my first appointments at work. (10 points.)
In conclusion, I give myself a solid A for this performance, because I did not let my loathing for the morning workout deter me from doing it, and because I accomplished a satisfactory level of dress and grooming, AND because I did with without whining to anyone, except maybe to this blog, and thus to you, my readers, but nonetheless delivering a triumphal conclusion, TA DA, the end.

(p.s., I am so sorry about that angry looking anaconda, but I think you'll have to agree, it was necessary, if graphic, to make my point about my schedule.)

Monday, September 07, 2015

I have a ridiculous week ahead of me.

I won't go into details, but let me say that my day tomorrow does not end until 8:30 P.M, hashtag gross.

I suppose it's a good thing you have to drive between Idaho and its lovely blisses and here, so as to adjust to the work ahead.

Evidently I can only handle one sentence at a time.

There are, however, the good things that have happened since we got home:

1. Bruiser came up to meet us.
2. My son took good care of things, and we are having dinner, the three of us, before he has a big test at his work the next day.
3. Spaghetti.
4. I made cherry sauce for no good reason except that I had a bag of frozen cherries and a hankering.
5. Ditto, leftover pie crust rolled out with sugar and baked, to eat, as it happens, with the cherry stuff.
6. A walk when it was cool--even a little chilly.
7. One, then two middling romantic comedies on television, with which to while away some I-wish- the-weekend-were-longer.

I say this in the compositional, and also the metaphorical, senses: transitions can be so difficult.

Wouldn't it be better if I could come up with a graceful turn here--a gesture toward something, anything, more important than my own disinclination to dive into the work that awaits me?

All I have, however, is this meta transition thing that, let's be honest, is barely even worthy of the 'meta.'

Ready or not, YIKES: there goes the weekend, here comes the week BAM, no cherry sauce for you.

(except there is still cherry sauce.)

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Bird life of Idaho.

In Idaho, we love several things:

1. the journey up, as we leave behind, for at least hours and most happily days, the things that press us and worry us.
2. the georgian vista, as I once said grandly in a poem, of the high mountain valleys.
3. the blessed, blessed quiet.
4. the quality of the sleep, and the air, and the--again--quiet.
5. the river.
6. the birds at the river.

It's September, and we have been feeling the chill of it--up here, it's maybe fifteen or twenty degrees cooler, sometimes, than in Salt Lake--but there are still birds enough to give us a few thrills.
A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

A photo posted by Lisa Bickmore (@megastore) on

Saturday, September 05, 2015

And now, a cooking report.

Today, unlike yesterday, was cloudy. Big clouds, big cloud cover. In a word, chilly. The temperature dropped a good ten degrees from yesterday.

I got up and plugged in the space heaters. Put on my slippers. Made some pancakes. (Pancakes are not just breakfast, they are an epistemology, and don't let nobody tell you different.)

I worked, sort of, on a poem, sort of. I felt dissatisfied with my efforts, and possibly my poetic means, and also my feet were cold.

We went to the store and chatted with our friends the grocers there. We bought bread and a newspaper and some snacks. We came home and made lunch.

I wrapped myself in a voluminous afghan to do a crossword which I did precisely half of and then fell asleep. My cold feet woke me up. I got in the bed. I put extra layers on my feet. Still cold. I got up and put on socks. Yes, the obvious thing, socks. Why did this take me so long WHY. I blame the chilly weather and the gray situation happening in the sky.

Well, I finished that crossword and read a chunk of my French detective novel, then got out of bed with decisive power, because I was going to make a pie, and for a pie you need pie crust. I found a serviceable pie crust recipe on the internet--well, it was better than serviceable--and got started.

DIGRESSION: in the middle of the above paragraph, I got up to fortify myself with a snack and also another small sliver of pie. The historian said, 'Are you finished?' meaning my blog post.

'No,' I said emphatically. 'No. What do you think this is, child's play?'

'Actually, I sort of do,' he said. I wheeled about, nostrils flaring. (Or that's what I think I looked like. I like imagining myself as a very nimble dragon.) 'Not too much revision,' he continued. (More wheeling and flaring.) 'For you,' he amended.

'No,' I said, emphatically. 'No. I need fortifications, so I can finish.'

'Will you read it to me when you're done?' he said.

'Yes,' I said, with emphasis. 'Yes.'


So I made the pie crust. Cold butter. Flour. Salt. A little sugar. Very cold water. I put it in the refrigerator to rest. So that it could dream of expanding into layers and becoming flaky, or else being perverse and leaden. Whatever things pie crust dreams of when it's resting. And we went out for a walk.

We saw a new eagle's nest, and some skittery, unrevealing birds, and then we went down to the water and saw some water birds of an indeterminate variety. One of the birds was diving and coming up with fish which it ate with a great deal of showy flipping and swallowing with its long neck.

When we got back, I took the pie crust, located the rolling pin, and made a smallish, very thin circle on a piece of foil. I have been making galettes instead of pies in pie tins because galettes are, frankly, easier--you don't have to lift and fit the crust into the tin. Also, galettes seem Frenchier, ergo more nonchalant, insouciant, and je ne sais quoi. I ground some almonds with a little flour and sugar and cinnamon, and put that on the rolled out crust.

I peeled four fat peaches and layered them onto the ground almonds. I tossed some more of that almond mixture onto the top of the peaches, then folded up the edges of the crust (so French!) over the peaches. Baked at 375.

While the pie was baking, I took pretty much every vegetable there was and made a glorious frittata. This included onion, a purple pepper, a zucchini, mushrooms, and the remainder of an excellent corn salad I had made back home, as well as the last of a potato, yellow bean, and feta salad. Six beaten eggs and a bunch of parmesan. When the eggs had set on the bottom of the pan, I slid it under the broiler for about five minutes. It was puffy and perfect. (I had to take the galette out of the oven for this broiler magic--then back into the oven it went.)

This, my friends, was an excellent cabin dinner. (The sliver of pie I just ate--research & fortification!--only strengthens this judgment.) We needed it, what with the strenuous laying around we did in gray weather.

Plus frittata for breakfast. Plus toast.

Friday, September 04, 2015


The tallest peaks in the Teton Range are sometimes called the Cathedral Group. The comments of Fritiof Fryxell, the park's first ranger naturalist, said: ‘More evident here than in many of the great cathedrals of men . . . the gothic note . . . it is seen in the profiles of the countless firs and spruces . . . congregated like worshippers on the lower slopes. It reappears higher in the converging lines of spire rising upon spire . . . it obtains supreme expression in the figures of the peaks themselves . . . that towering above all else, with pointed summits, direct one’s vision and thoughts yet higher.’ 

There are two small chapels in Grand Teton National Park. One, the Chapel of the Transfiguration, frames those peaks, the actual mountains a simulacrum, at a distance, of an altar.

All day today, driving in the golden light, we were transfixed.

self portrait with camera & Tetons.

the duomo of the cathedral.


Teton glacier

The Cathedral Group itself.

At Jenny Lake.

At Jenny Lake.

It was hard to drive away from them.

cloud & light

cascading away, over Jackson Lake.

Thursday, September 03, 2015


Today we drove north. We left an hour later than we'd hoped, which meant that, at the end, we'd be driving up a mountain in the dark.

The high valley between the two towns, the one just over the border and the one fifty miles further, was gold, the grasses drying and the fields stubbling.

We drove toward banks of cloud that darkened and thinned at their edges. Lightning burst over the mountains, lazily, intermittently.

Rain made curtains of mist.

The irrigation, here and there, in full throttle--an end-of-season, inexplicable all-directional spray.


Extravagant light tore through sheets of cloud in the west, poured from the sun, its source, as it sank.

Across the valley, the sky was dark, but somehow, even so, lit up. The ends of a rainbow shimmered into view. They rose to form the full bow. The bow doubled.

We traveled with the rainbow to the east of us for it must have been twenty miles. For those twenty miles and more, I was an ecstatic.


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