Tiny letters from Susan Weber

This is a dream about Mom

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Jane Hewes WeberI’m with her in the grocery store, shopping for a nice lunch. I’ve bought a soft cheese with a chalky rind. Not my favorite, but I know she likes it. 

I go around the corner to find her and our engorged cart in the meat section. Oh, she'll be planning meat for our lunch, most likely beef. I decide I’ll eat it even though I’m a vegetarian. Funny how then, when Mom was living, I wasn’t one yet. But in the dream, I am. And in the dream, I don’t feel oppressed by her choices anymore. 

But when I look at the packages she holds in one hand, I see three small cheeses. She says they are good cheeses, that we will like them. The shiny comestibles in the cart beneath her outstretched fingers begin to blur. 

It is in that instant that I know. Mother and daughter have laid down their struggle. Their will for control has been replaced by a desire to please.

Will holds in. Desire seeks out.

When I wake, I consider my long lost mother. Like so many times before, I berate myself for not having loved her more. For resenting her incursions on my sovereignty. For ignoring all she had to teach and withholding all I had to give. 

I forget that much of the time, we were living in a dead zone. Suburbia’s vault, where souls go to suffer in silence. Plenty of nice looking things fool the inhabitants into thinking...

Fact and imagination

Saturday, March 22, 2014

U.S. Atlantic Seaboard at Night


This week’s Science Friday guest is John Gurche, a Smithsonian sculptor of prehistoric life. He says the more facts he knows about his subject matter, the more constrained he is in his creativity. But at the same time, if his sculptures only depicted the known facts, they would be flat. This is where his artistry comes in.

Gurche's reconstruction shown above is an adult female Homo floresiensis, a three-and-a-half foot tall species that overlapped in time with Homo sapiens. The two species may have met. “What I wanted to get into the face was a sort of wariness,” as though the primitive little hominid is really encountering a human. “What would we have seemed like to them?” says Gurche.

Laurie R. King’s Garment of Shadows is set in Morocco. The more she knows about Moroccan history, geography and culture, the more constrained she is, and yet her novel is vivid with both fact and riveting story.

Humans are storytellers. Reality inspires us to dive off our known facts into possibilities bounded only by our relentless imagination. Artists hew more or less closely to scientific or historical fact,...

The Play's the Thing

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Laurie R. King, Pirate King

Long ago, it was the newspaper or the daily mail. What bit of novelty therein would make my day happier, more interesting, unique?

Just now, drinking a coffee and reading a Mary Russell novel set in Lisbon, I get that same tingle of wild anticipation. Good story, yes. But the spark, I strongly suspect, is from imagining myself an author, researching a book in far flung Old Europa. 

Compare this to newsprint, stationary or, of course, your favorite social site. Ping. Notification. Pang. Message. Pong. Comment. Exciting? 

Go read any of them and - except for the love letter from your mom when your head is in the tank - plop. They are not as all fired filling as your eager soul had hoped. 

Now, researching a book in a castle overlooking Lisbon - the idea is energizing and though preposterously unlikely, more nourishing than the ping pang pongs of outrageous phony fortune. Why? 

Because for those, you wait around for somebody else to make “it” happen. Their fingers do the shopping in the yellow pages of your jealous mind, hankering for love in all the wrong palaces. 

This is just a wild guess based on decades of...

Bird of Paradise

Thursday, March 13, 2014

U.S. Atlantic Seaboard at Night


I’m in a jet, setting sail for parts familiar after a long stretch out at sea. The flight attendants have drugged us with food and wine, calmed us with dim lights, answered our questions with soothing sounds. As we drool on miniature pillows, we are late night comedians making light of the sleep we crave in the cramped quarters of economical travel.

After six or eight hours of futile repositioning I sit up, unfold my limbs, peruse the harmless strangers in my bed and chance to look outside. There it is, perfection.

This wordless beast has stretched its wing on the frigid air miles above the ocean and all I see is grace. Never have the upturned tip and curved metallic engines looked more like feathers. Have I changed so much this time away, or am I finally dreaming? Above us, stars emit eternities of lost civilization while far below the blackness surges, lonely, vast and otherworldly cold. In heaven, at least there is light.

Some of the hopeless dreamers in my cabin have glued their attention to images that flit across small screens while, beside them, below them, above them this quality drama plays out. They are missing the greatest show on earth.

I remember seeing the Milky Way from a distance our scientists collapse with telescopic prowess way beyond my comprehension. Our galaxy is made of light so dense it froths...

Delhi day 15

Monday, February 24, 2014

Delhi, India


Yes it is our last day in Delhi, our last in India and the Far East. 

We rode the women's coach today, the first car on the metro. A man would pay a fine if he climbed aboard. We saw a couple separate into gender specific cars and reunite when they got off. 

Last night we set out to explore Indian TV. We tried a show called Imprints about shrines and temples in foreign lands inspired by ancient Indian seafarers. We learned that scholars world wide have a knack for making interesting subjects painfully dull.  

Then we watched Amrit, a 1986 film about two Indian families that treat the elders badly. Various women characters are obsequious, bossy or outright mean.  

We switched to a new series called Heroes based on true stories of sexual harassment. The women of the re-enactment also fell into obsequious, bossy and nasty camps, but the admonition to 'Speak out and fight back' that flashed on the screen between segments reinforced other female qualities too, which the characters eventually displayed. Strength. Confidence....

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