Sunday, January 01, 2006


Happy New Year! It's early afternoon here, we're doing radio checks with the Embassy, and I feel a little groggy from last night's shindig at Thai Wok. Thai Wok is on top of a rickety four-story building in the south of New Delhi, near Qutb Minar, a beautiful 800-year old red sandstone tower. The Thai food was excellent and the company was good. Of course, the power went out about 20 seconds before the New Year, so we celebrated in sudden darkness. It was pretty cool, in its own way...

So, I'm scrapping about for some resolutions. Here are a few that come to mind:

1. Don't die. Sure, this may be a little morbid, but at least it's pretty achievable. It's good to have one resolution more or less in the bag. Unfortunately, it's not a given. I saw a dead body on the drive into work a few days ago. I think one of the many tiny, teeming little rickshaws got hit by a bus. The way they skitter about, it's not really surprising, but it was shocking to see. The man had apparently been thrown from the rickshaw, which was half-crushed. He was lying on the ground, and a crowd was quickly forming. We drove on.

2. Write more. This blog is a start. I really want to record what's going on around me here. I don't know if my parents kept a journal when we first went to the Philippines in 1975, but I would love to read it if it exists. (I know my father always had his Day-Timer with him, and those notes alone could make a great book...) I'd like also to write a cable or two this year. As a Vice-Consul, I do visas, pretty much exclusively. We Consularites are in a different building from the political section, and sometimes it feels like a different world. The folks in Political spend their days becoming policy experts and writing cables to Washington on the latest developments. It's almost impossible to spend all day on the visa line and understand a topic well enough to write a cable that merits being sent to the mother ship. Still, my hope (no, my resolution!) is to get out and have some unique experiences that will translate into an interesting cable.

3. Learn Hindi. Ooo, just writing that hurts. It is easy to get around India, especially New Delhi, without speaking Hindi. Still, my Hindi is very basic, and it will be hard for me to be an intrepid reporter without knowing the local language. (I admit to having visions of T.E. Lawrence reading local newspapers and understanding the "real" situation on the ground in Arabia. Cue the music.) Even better, I might actually be able to make some friends outside of the Embassy circle. Since "learn Hindi" is really pretty vague, I'll refine it a little to "be able to watch a Bollywood movie without the subtitles, and really understand it."

4. Join a Community Group. I'd like to get involved with a group that is helping people in need here. Just driving around Delhi is a constant reminder of my good fortune. It would be great to get involved with a local community group or NGO and understand how to help at the local level.

5. Read one poem a week. Make that one good poem a week. Sounds easy, but I rarely do it.

Ok, that's it! Goals laid out. Forward into 2006!

P.S. I'd love to hear other resolutions... any takers? Or any favorite poets to read?


At 11:54 PM, Blogger Charles Cameron said...

Hi Crawdad!

Just visiting via a referral from a game designer of my acquaintance, and very glad you've started this blog.

As far as joining a community group goes, one of the richest ways to approach the possibilities might be to visit the Skoll Foundation's Social Edge website. If you dip into a few of the areas and conversations there, I think you'll find a fair number of good hearted, bright people doing interesting, worthwhile and effective service in a variety of areas in India, and would have a range of choices to investigate...

As to the poets, I'd try some Rainer Maria Rilke in Stephen Mitchell's translations -- and please let us know what you find in terms of modern Indian poetry...

Happy New Year!

At 11:20 AM, Blogger Crawdad said...

Hi Charles,

Thanks very much for visiting. Social Edge looks perfect, thank you for the reference. And I will definitely let you know what I find in the way of Indian poetry. I'm glad I wrote that down already!

If you have a minute, I would also love to know more about the work you're doing at the Arlington thinktank. Does your work focus on the impact of peak oil issues? If you wouldn't mind emailing me an abstract or summary of some piece of your work, I'd love to take a look...

And happy new year to you as well!

At 7:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh, I think that is a different Crawdad? But a good glass-bead game connection?

Going through files late last night I found that Mom had May Angelou's poem filed away in her "T&P" from 1993:

On The Pulse Of Morning
by Maya Angelou
American Poet

Delivered January 19, 1993 at the Inauguration of President Clinton

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Mark the mastodon.
The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.
You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spelling words
Armed for slaughter.
The rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face.
Across the wall of the world,
A river sings a beautiful song,
Come rest here by my side.
Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more.
Come, clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I
And the tree and stone were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your brow
And when you yet knew you still knew nothing.
The river sings and sings on.
There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing river and the wise rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew,
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek,
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the tree.
Today, the first and last of every tree
Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the river.
Plant yourself beside me, here beside the river.
Each of you, descendant of some passed on
Traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name,
You Pawnee, Apache and Seneca,
You Cherokee Nation, who rested with me,
Then forced on bloody feet,
Left me to the employment of other seekers--
Desperate for gain, starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot...
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru,
Bought, sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the tree planted by the river,
Which will not be moved.
I, the rock, I the river, I the tree
I am yours--your passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage,
Need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.
Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts.
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me,
The rock, the river, the tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes,
Into your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

At 7:58 PM, Blogger Crawdad said...


Are you back in OR? Thanks for the poem, I remember it being read. Did you ever read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?


At 8:00 PM, Blogger Crawdad said...

P.S. What did T&P mean?

I wish I could go through her files sometime. What a trip. I really can't imagine...

At 9:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been thinking that New years is a time for social reflection and resolutions that reflect our interaction with the group, society at large, etc because Jan 1 is a day that we communally co-memorate, somewhat arbitrarily. Birthdays are our personal New Year's. But this leads to a little confusion about the kind of resolutions one "should" make on New Years. How do you make a communal resolution? Maybe one way is to do what you've done crawdad, and commit to some sort of group-help. Maybe another would be to find a group of similarly minded resoluters and resolve together!


At 1:13 AM, Blogger Alizarin said...

I used to think that New Year's was an arbitrary holiday, just a clock ticking over, a clock we set in the first place. But it's about time, and our counting it, which isn't arbitrary at all. Time moves past us and we have to keep up with the ticking seconds. When they reach a nice round number, I think it suits us to commemmorate the inexorable progress of it all, and how scary and fulfilling that is.

So I didn't have any resolutions per se this year, not at your level Crawdad. OK, there are some, but I won't post them. Mainly I'm embracing time's passing, whatever ache or exhilaration that incurs.

At 11:08 AM, Blogger Kale_Pilgrim said...

Hey Charles,

Dug your Mubarak joke. Keep it real!

I picked up my first collection of poems this summer at Powell's, seemed to be the right move after getting dumped. My selection was Ted Kooser's Delights and Shadows. About 60% of the poems I could leave, but the other 40% I've re-read numerous times. If you want a literary shout-out to Iowa farm culture, Kooser is your man.


At 10:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried to send you this witty little poetry do-dad but my flawed fingers erased in some sort of over-clicking and "Back" button panic pushing. many appologies for this redigested entry which will have lost the zest and self-satisfying feeling of being witty on coffee.
So I was thinking about your poetry quest and remembering that a few years ago I got really into Billy Collins, the predecessor poet laureate to Ted Kooser. Billy is silly and dark, and reading his stuff is like eating your favorite meal.
And then recently I heard a large Baptist minister belt out Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar" and I suddenly understood what all the lit-lovers in my life had been saying all the time, when they uttered "Ah, Tennyson..." I recommend finding a copy of that and asking a bass if he wouldn't mind you eavesdropping on his oratory.

So glad you live somewhere with three bathrooms. One to house the cat food and cat litter, one for dying your hair blue, and one for properity. Oh wait that's my dream.


At 11:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure, but I think T&P is (was?) Thoughts and Prayers

At 8:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's one I jotted on a piece of wood while cleaning out the garage:

To This is to Jump
To See is to Do
To Move is to Be

But the one I'd inscribe on the mind is from Wm Stafford:


Before dawn, across the whole road
as I pass I feel spiderwebs.

Within people’s voices, under their words or
woven into the pauses, I hear a hidden sound.

One thin green light flashes over a smooth sea
just as the sun goes down.

What roses lie on the altar of evening
I inhale carefully, to keep more of.

Tasting all these and letting them have
their ways to waken me, I shiver and resolve.

In my life, I will more than live.

At 8:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What would Herr Freud say?

To Think is to Jump

To See is to Do
To Move is to Be

At 1:36 AM, Anonymous shrinkwrap said...

Love that Wm Stafford poem! Know where it is printed?


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