Every so often, my husband and I wind up with a stack of old, half-finished magazines.  Recently, I’ve been trying to read through a few back issues every week.  But finally today I admitted defeat.  I always feel a little bit guilty recycling magazines I haven’t finished: it seems like such a waste of paper.  And I figure there was probably an interesting article in there somewhere.

But I brought a big pile out to the recycling bin this afternoon, getting rid of all but the three most recent issues of each.  And I have to say: all that empty space on my bedside table feels like such a relief.

Does anyone else feel bad about recycling unread magazines?  How do you cope with a growing magazine pile?

Myers Briggs

On a lark recently, I took an adaptation of the Myers Briggs test.  I’d never taken the test before, and the resulting description was so shockingly accurate I had to stop reading periodically to catch my breath.  Since then, I’ve been thinking about the assessment a lot, and I wanted to figure out why it’s had such an impact.  It wasn’t that it told me anything radically new about myself.

I think the thing about Myers Briggs that was so revelatory was that it helped me see various components of my personality as parts of an integrated system.  For example, my tendency toward perfectionism is connected to my ability to envision the potential in any given situation.  The latter makes me good at innovation, the former makes me beat myself up (usually about unimportant things like leaving bread in the oven too long).  Understanding that these two traits are interrelated has made me inclined to be more forgiving of the perfectionism.  The test results help me look at myself holistically.

Although I understand that not everyone gets results that are so immediately recognizable, I’d still recommend giving Myers Briggs a try.

Poetry and Baseball

The summer after my senior year of high school I used to sit at my kitchen table and listen to the Mets on the radio.  I loved listening to these games because I love baseball, and also because I am continually captivated by baseball’s announcers.  Baseball is a game with a lot of downtime, a lot of pauses.  Pitchers rotate the balls between their fingers, shake off pitch calls.  Young grounds workers rake the dirt around the infield like a crew of zen gardeners.  On the radio, baseball announcers fill these pauses with a finely-honed eloquence.  They fill the empty spaces with poetry.

Like any genre, baseball poetry has its own form and conventions: statistics, history, lore, descriptive sensual immediacy.

And baseball is a populist literary medium.  At baseball games, we tell stories between innings, we listen in on the conversations of strangers in the seats around us.  We trade banter, pontificate, and rhapsodize.

In 2001, I wrote a found poem consisting entirely of the language I heard during baseball games.

Other major sports don’t have this same kind of space for language.  Basketball, soccer and hockey are too fast-paced and free of pauses.  Basketball games in person are thrilling, like a ride at an amusement park: your jaw hangs open.  And years ago I read a New Yorker article that talked about the way television has shaped our understanding of the game of football: the slow motion, the wide shots at the beginning of each down zooming in closer and closer to the action.  While football has gradations of speed, has light and shadow, it is not literature: it’s cinema.

I like the tilt-a-whirl and a good flick just fine every once in a while.  But I love the poetry of baseball.

Rainy Day

Last week my friend J. and I got together on a rainy afternoon.  As someone who loves summer, I have an affinity for hot, sunny days.  But driving to meet her that day, the rain felt like a relief.  It was nice not to have to wear sunglasses, or lower the sun visor, or strain my eyes.  In the rain it’s as though the whole horizon line is one beat lower: it’s easier to focus in on the page of a book or the curves of the road.  We can wander around in our own minds for a little while.

J. and I talked about the way rain carries mystery.  I’ve driven that same route hundreds of times, but driving in the rain that day I felt like I was exploring new ground.  Untethered from my usual thoughts and worries, and moving forward into a welcome unknown.

Listening Lately

Until this summer I had never discovered the full extent of the “This I Believe” radio essay series.  (Though I think I’d caught a few of the  essays on the radio over the years.)  The series features famous and everyday people talking about the personal philosophies and core beliefs that have informed their lives.  It first aired in the 1950s, and has since been revived as a regular series on NPR, so there is quite an extensive and impressive archive of these programs to listen to.

Click Photo to Listen to “This I Believe”

I finally stumbled on this gem thanks to my friend Jen, who suggested it as a teaching resource.  Since then, I’ve been keeping a “This I Believe” CD in my car, and listening to other essays online.  In the middle of such a busy summer, the essays have been a godsend: keeping my eye above the horizon of the day-to-day.  They’re like five-minute respites.

Opening Ceremony

I love the Olympics.  I especially enjoy seeing some of the lesser-publicized sports — sports I might not catch on TV or know much about except for the Olympics.  And I love the Opening Ceremony.  Bejing’s was among the most spectacular large-scale works of human performance and artistry I’ve seen, and I don’t imagine any future Opening Ceremonies will top it in sheer wonder.  But I will always look forward to the parade of athletes: the different uniforms, the human stories, the athletes’ pride in a life dream realized, the incredible sense of connection with people around the world.

And though London’s Opening Ceremony can’t beat Bejing’s, I really appreciated their homage to British Children’s Literature, much of which was an integral part of my own childhood.  And I am always moved by seeing literature honored and recognized.