Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Friday, June 13, 2008

Today’s Deals



This morning I find a reminder e-mail from a bookstore Web site, and dutifully click on the link. I am greeted with, Hello, Katherine. We have recommendations for you. The computer spits my demographics at me. Forty-something working woman who drinks decaf coffee and sometimes likes to meditate. Oh, and she seems like she can lose a few pounds, if you note the South Beach diet products listed. Any product I have ever lingered over but not purchased greets me from the Recommendations list. One, a book On Being a Minor Writer, stings a bit. Is this what my computer really thinks of me?

The site’s got me all figured out. Well, almost. Although I am intrigued by the thought of marketing and computer geeks creating algorithms that help select what I “need”, I take great pleasure in running through “Today’s Deals” with a skeptical eye. I never knew I needed (greatly reduced) freshwater pearls, reconditioned framing nailers, or a jump starter with built-in radio. Lower down, some of those items I previously viewed but ultimately abandoned appear again, haunting me with their availability. Robert Frost and Yeats are 35% off! Hmmm…My cynicism softens. but just for a minute. It’s like a boyfriend who knows how to sweet talk me, but deep down I know he’s still the same old superficial dude. I’ll be visiting Niantic Book Barn again soon—no Yeats emergency that requires overnight shipping here.

I think about Today’s Deals, the ones that have nothing to do with calculated commerce. I get to blog this morning, a treat for a weekday. I took an early morning walk without looking at my watch--a day off pleasure I should enjoy more often. We are going to Vermont. Soon most of our family will be reunited, seeing Will, our youngest nephew, graduate. Yesterday’s Top Deals included finding an exotic darning-needle type bug on the porch, one that let Gavin and me hold it for quite a while before zooming off. In the evening, I showed Gavin two “secret” staircases that are often overlooked in Chester. Both are shaded by overhanging trees. The best deal was the almost-ripe strawberry that we pilfered from someone’s front garden in Chester. Gavin carried it home like a prize, showing it off to Tom and placing it in a clear Tupperware box for display. We discussed the merits of leaving the strawberry with its owners’ garden, but in the end it was irresistible.

These are the real deals. To borrow from the advertising line: Possible purchases from $87 and counting. Day to day moments with family and in nature: priceless.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

What’s on Your Front Porch?



Spring’s fecundity is fully ripening into summer. In the delight of barefoot mornings, Gavin and I have taken to visiting the front porch first thing. We’ve started a log of what (or should I say who) we find there. Today’s entry:

· Black moth
· Brown moth (looks like a leaf)
· Pill bug
· Potato bug
· Black beetle – shiny (dead)
· Smaller black beetle

This inventory seems important. It chronicles an intent to be aware, to be appreciative of what is literally just outside our door. It imparts lessons that my father, who died when I was six (Gavin’s age now), tried to impart. His love for nature came through, although I don’t remember many details of our discussions. I remember being told that fog was “clouds on the ground”, and that dewy grass predicts a dry day. The message I got was openness—to look, listen, smell, and feel the world around me.

On our trip to Florida a couple of weeks ago, we immediately appreciated the warmer air. It was still comparatively chilly in Connecticut, and the 10 + added degrees had us kicking off our shoes and lingering on the hotel balcony. The area we stayed in had a host of attractions, but what stayed with me the most were spontaneous contacts with nature— the brown lizard who puffed his neck up when we caught him, speckled eggs en route to the pool, birds chirping out alarms, guarding a nest at the miniature golf course. These encounters warmed me in a way that no tropical climate can.

Scooping out mulch to fill our flower beds today, Tom retrieved some unexpected tiny lives. Baby mice, eyes not yet opened, squirming and squeaking for their missing mother. Yes, we’ve become their surrogate parents. Snowy and Twinkle are sipping milk from our hands, snoozing in a cardboard box cushioned with grass and paper towels. What better gift? We know their grasp on life is shaky, but treasure their warm bodies curling into our palms, clumsily lapping up milk.

What’s on your front porch, or just beyond?

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