waiting

Unable to Decide, While We Trudge

Fernand Toussaint (Belgian artist, 1873-1955) Lady in the Green Dress with MirrorDear Spring
by Charles Simic

Will you please hurry with your preparations?
We are freezing up north as you procrastinate
Like a rich lady with too many gorgeous outfits
To choose from, spending hours in front of
A mirror, trying them on and unable to decide,

While we trudge to the mailbox through wind
And snow, extract our unwilling fingers
From a glove to check if there’s a letter
From you, or just a bitty postcard, saying:
I’m leaving Carolina today, hurrying your way
With my new wardrobe of flowers and birds.

The tease! I bet she starts and forgets one of her
Hand-painted silk fans and has to go back,
While we stamp our feet and wipe our noses here,
Worrying the wood for the stove is running out,
The snow on the roof will bring the house down.

Strategic Patience

Art and architecture history professor Jennifer Roberts requires her students to write a twenty-page research paper on a single work of art. Before they begin the research, however, they are expected to spend three hours in front of the actual work. No electronic devices. No distractions. They have to rely on their vision, curiosity, and skills of observation to navigate the slow passing of time.  

Waiting Strategies for Giving and Receiving Care

Waiting Strategies for Giving and Receiving Care

Whether we are giving or receiving care, we come face-to-face with time’s elasticity – how it seems to speed up and slow down.

This Hum is the Silence

Mountain Fog, North Carolina by David Ploskonka@ploskonkad

"At a certain point, you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, the world, Now I am ready. Now I will stop and be wholly attentive. You empty yourself and wait, listening.

After a time you hear it: there is nothing there. There is nothing but those things only, those created objects, discrete, growing or holding, or swaying, being rained on or raining, held, flooding or ebbing, standing, or spread. You feel the world's word as a tension, a hum, a single chorused note everywhere the same.

This is it: this hum is the silence. Nature does utter a peep — just this one. The birds and insects, the meadows and swamps and rivers and stones and mountains and clouds: they all do it; they all don't do it.

There is a vibrancy to the silence, a suppression, as if someone were gagging the world. But you wait, you give your life's length to listening, and nothing happens. The ice rolls up, the ice rolls back, and still that single note obtains. The tension, or lack of it, is intolerable.

The silence is not actually suppression: instead, it is all there is."

~ Annie DillardTeaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (discovered on whiskey river)

Who Knows?

Waiting Together
by Daron Larson

Two pairs of unhurried eyes
gaze out quietly from the bench,
alert for a bus.

The woman is young,
the boy not quite old enough
for school, yet old enough to learn,
attending to the world, open,
not insisting on attention from it.

Anyone would call him well behaved.

I wonder what could be more important to her
than the silence surrounding them,
sleepy cars,
humming houses, chirping trees,
their own breathing.

Who knows what comforts other people's earbuds
are singing to them? Whispering?

Who knows where and what
others are coming from this morning,
or where they are headed?

Maybe isolation is exactly what they need right now.
Maybe they want something more.

All these questions marks floating above silent faces,
begging to be answered.

Wanting Again

April 22, 2012

I shall be released
by Kevin Young, from Dear Darkness

What we love
will leave us

or is it
we leave

what we love,
I forget—

Today, belly
full enough

to walk the block
after all week

too cold
outside to smile—

I think of you, warm
in your underground room

reading the book
of bone. It's hard going—

your body a dead
language—

I've begun
to feel, if not

hope then what
comes just after—

or before—
Let's not call it

regret, but
this weight,

or weightlessness,
or just

plain waiting.
The ice wanting

again water.
The streams of two planes

a cross fading.

I was so busy
telling you this I forgot

to mention the sky—
how in the dusk

its steely edges
have just begun to rust.


Read other poems excerpted from Dear Darkness.

Waiting for the Weekend

Waiting for the Weekend

isn’t there some value in motivating ourselves through unpleasant tasks and activities by imagining the relief that will follow? Is there really anything wrong with taking a bit of comfort during a tedious meeting or lecture on Wednesday morning by imagining how much fun we’re planning to have on Friday evening?

Stopping for Success

"Study: All American Problems Could Be Solved By Just Stopping And Thinking For Two Seconds," The Onion, May 27, 2011:

A study published Thursday by psychologists at the University of North Carolina concluded that all American problems—from stuck jacket zippers to the national debt—could be solved if citizens just stopped, took a deep breath, and thought for two seconds before they acted. "We found that in 93 percent of cases, a positive outcome could have been achieved if Americans simply splashed a little water on their faces prior to dealing with an unfair boss, being out of clean spoons, signing on to direct a second Wall Street film, or answering a call from a parent," Janet Mallory, the study's lead author, told reporters. "Our data indicate that when U.S. citizens don't take a second to compose themselves, they typically charge in like maniacs and hurt either themselves or several million Iraqi civilians." Mallory said a good rule of thumb for Americans is to think of a plan, stop, and then do the complete opposite.

You Have to Know How to Wait

CasAntica, Oaxaca de Juarez, 31 de octubre de 2010

Para hablar con los muertos
de Jorge Teiller

Para hablar con los muertos
hay que elegir palabras
que ellos reconozcan tan fácilmente
como sus manos
reconocían el pelaje de sus perros en la oscuridad.
Palabras claras y tranquilas
como el agua del torrente domesticada en la copa
o las sillas ordenadas por la madre
después que se han ido los invitados.
Palabras que la noche acoja
como a los fuegos fatuos los pantanos.

Para hablar con los muertos
hay que saber esperar:
ellos son miedosos
como los primeros pasos de un niño.
Pero si tenemos paciencia
un día nos responderán
con una hoja de álamo atrapada por un espejo roto,
con una llama de súbito reanimada en la chimenea,
con un regreso oscuro de pájaros
frente a la mirada de una muchacha
que aguarda inmóvil en el umbral.

In Order to Talk with the Dead

In order to talk to the dead
you have to choose words
that they recognize as easily
as their hands
recognized the fur of their dogs in the dark.
Words clear and calm
as water of the torrent tamed in the wineglass
or chairs the mother puts in order
after the guests have left.
Words that night shelters
as marshes do their ghostly fires

In order to talk to the dead
you have to know how to wait:
they are fearful
like the first steps of a child.
But if we are patient
one day they will answer us
with a poplar leaf trapped in a broken mirror,
with a flame that suddenly revives in the fireplace,
with a dark return of birds
before the glance of a girl
who waits motionless on the threshold.

Librería Grañén Porrúa, 31 de octubre de 2010
Librería Grañén Porrúa, 31 de octubre de 2010
Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán, 31 de octubre de 2010
Casa de Josefina Mendez, Teotitlán del Valle, 1 de noviembre de 2010

Both the Problem and the Solution

Listen to this short, remarkable story about a clever strategy which a nursing home in Düsseldorf, Germany came up with to address the problem of disoriented residents wandering away.

“It’s like another thought comes up and you forget what you wanted. It’s like fishes coming up to the surface of the water and then going down again. Thoughts come up and they disappear and you don’t know that they have ever been there. You forget.”

~ Richard Neureither (translated by Regine Hauch) for “The Bus Stop,” by Lulu Miller, Radiolab, March 23, 2010

Pressure

by Company of Thieves

I'm angry all the time

No one's fault but mine

Tell me how you fashion kind

When you're out of style

And I try hard to answer

All the questions that you've posed

Tell me now how should I care

When I feel so alone

And so unloved

The pressure is rising

I mean it, it's binding

I've been compromising for you

When you come home really late at night

Ripe to pick a fight

I know just the kind you'd like

So come on and bite

And I try hard to answer

All the punches that you throw

Tell me now how should I fair

When I feel so unloved and so alone

The pressure is rising

I mean it, it's binding

I've been compromising for you

The pressure is rising

I've been compromising for you

I'm waiting at the bus stop in the morning

And it's pouring

Oh, I am waiting at the bust stop for you

Staring at walls with closed doors

The key that won't work

Sure helps the time pass by

Saying I'm wrong when I'm wrong

Knowing it's the right thing

Sure helps the thoughts in my mind

The pressure is rising

I mean it, it's binding

I've been compromising for you

You, you

I am waiting at the bus stop

In the morning

And it's boring

ddddd

Pressure

by Company of Thieves

I'm angry all the time

No one's fault but mine

Tell me how you fashion kind

When you're out of style

And I try hard to answer

All the questions that you've posed

Tell me now how should I care

When I feel so alone

And so unloved

The pressure is rising

I mean it, it's binding

I've been compromising for you

When you come home really late at night

Ripe to pick a fight

I know just the kind you'd like

So come on and bite

And I try hard to answer

All the punches that you throw

Tell me now how should I fair

When I feel so unloved and so alone

The pressure is rising

I mean it, it's binding

I've been compromising for you

The pressure is rising

I've been compromising for you

I'm waiting at the bus stop in the morning

And it's pouring

Oh, I am waiting at the bust stop for you

Staring at walls with closed doors

The key that won't work

Sure helps the time pass by

Saying I'm wrong when I'm wrong

Knowing it's the right thing

Sure helps the thoughts in my mind

The pressure is rising

I mean it, it's binding

I've been compromising for you

You, you

I am waiting at the bus stop

In the morning

And it's boring

Are We Just Going to Wait it Out?

Wait It Out
by Imogen Heap, from Ellipse

Everybody says time heals everything.
But what of the wretched hollow?
The endless in-between?
Are we just going to wait it out?

And sit here cold?
Well, We'll be long gone by then.
And lackluster in dust we lay
Around old magazines.
Fluorescent lighting sets the scene
for all we could and should be being
in the one life that we've got.

What’s Essential in Life

Bob Shumaker, a former POW in Vietnam, describes how he and his fellow prisoners developed a social network that was crucial to their surviving three years in solitary confinement. They succeeded by creating a tap code that allowed them to communicate through their cell walls. "Being a prisoner really focuses on what's essential in life and there are a lot of things we can do without and still be happy. The key lessons from Bob Shumaker's story are that inside almost all of us is the capacity to overcome the most horrific of stress in our life and even ultimately learn from that stress and thrive and grow as a person."

~ from Rethinking Happiness, an episode of the PBS program This Emotional Life

Catching Up

The Letter From Home
by Nancyrose Houston, from American Life in Poetry

The dogs barked, the dogs scratched, the dogs got wet, the
dogs shook, the dogs circled, the dogs slept, the dogs ate,
the dogs barked; the rain fell down, the leaves fell down, the
eggs fell down and cracked on the floor; the dust settled,
the wood floors were scratched, the cabinets sat without
doors, the trim without paint, the stuff piled up; I loaded the
dishwasher, I unloaded the dishwasher, I raked the leaves,
I did the laundry, I took out the garbage, I took out the
recycling, I took out the yard waste. There was a bed, it was
soft, there was a blanket, it was warm, there were dreams,
they were good. The corn grew, the eggplant grew, the
tomatoes grew, the lettuce grew, the strawberries grew, the
blackberries grew; the tea kettle screamed, the computer
keys clicked, the radio roared, the TV spoke. “Will they ever
come home?” “Can’t I take a break?” “How do others keep
their house clean?” “Will I remember this day in fifty years?”
The sweet tea slipped down my throat, the brownies melted
in my mouth. My mother cooked, the apple tree bloomed, the
lilac bloomed, the mimosa bloomed, I bloomed.

Waiting on a Different Time Scale

From “A Test of Patience,” by Mats Bigert, Cabinet Magazine, Issue 34, Summer 2009:

Pitch Drop Experiment The Pitch Drop Experiment was initiated in 1927 by Professor Thomas Parnell of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, to demonstrate for his ­students that some substances that appear to be solid are actually fluid. A heated sample of pitch, a naturally occurring petroleum substance, was poured into a funnel-shaped glass container and sealed. After three years, the sample had apparently coagulated and it was time to kick-start what is now the longest-running, and what must surely be one of the slowest, laboratory experiments in history. Parnell unsealed the funnel and the pitch was free to flow. After a couple of years, a drop began to form, but it took eight years for it finally to fall, the student audience of the experiment having long since graduated. The experiment continued, nevertheless, since it required no maintenance, and every eight or so years, a little baby drop left the nest of mama pitch for the growing expanse of papa pitch below. Eventually, after the eighth, and most recent, drop fell on 28 November 2000, the viscosity of pitch was finally calculated to be roughly one hundred billion times that of water.

To date, no one has ever witnessed an actual drop fall and there is no visual documentation of the dramatic event. The closest anyone has ever come was in April 1979 when Professor John Mainstone, who now maintains the experiment, came­ to work on a Sunday afternoon. He noted that the pitch drop was just about to touch down, but he did not have time to stay and watch. On returning the following morning, Mainstone saw, much to his chagrin, that the drop had fallen. Even modern technology has been foiled in its attempt to capture direct evidence of the pitch’s clandestine maneuvers; a video camera placed to monitor the experiment happened to fail at the very moment the eighth drop fell.

Timeline

Date

Event

Duration
(months)

1927

Experiment set up

 

1930

The stem was cut

 

December 1938

1st drop fell

96-107

February 1947

2nd drop fell

99

April 1954

3rd drop fell

86

May 1962

4th drop fell

97

August 1970

5th drop fell

99

April 1979

6th drop fell

104

July 1988

7th drop fell

111

28 November 2000

8th drop fell

148

For My Unconquerable Soul

The title of the new Clint Eastwood film, Invictus, comes from a poem that Nelson Mandela took comfort in when he was incarcerated on Robben Island for eighteen of the twenty-seven years he spent in prison.

Invictus
by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

*     *     *

Listen to Overtone and Yollandi Nortjie’s “9,000 Days”: