Straight shooting


In Seattle was a man with a tin guitar, and a thin braid down his back. His name was Pythagoras Gramps, and he sang like Popeye, or maybe more like Tom Waits on helium. He told stories made of palindromes. Gramps was a grizzled little man, a cheerful eccentric in squeaky-clean Seattle.  

When I walked past the flowers and the Tran Sisters quick lunch stand and saw him up ahead, I would pitch quarters at his open case from as far away as I could. He called me Annie Oakley, and for that I could never miss. Now, I have a photo of Annie Oakley over my desk to remind me of aim-focus-objective-path-intent, so I will not toss these quarters of my life out on the empty pavement and find nothing there at the end. 

When I was a little girl, with smaller hands than now, I played piano. We moved often – the piano went with us every time. Some years I had no friends; some years I had lots. Some years I played piano instead of conversation, instead of argument; my hands were expressive in ways that could not be challenged. One night, my father said to his visiting friend who was listening to me play we know she doesn’t have any talent, but it’s a nice hobby anyway. 

There is aim and there is aim. Military time is more acute than peace time. The spaces around notes and words make phrasing. Phrasing is the white space of sound. The said and the unsaid tilt the sing-song seesaw where we rock with the people we love. I love you and up we go. No talent, no talent at all, and down we go. Throw me another quarter, you are so quick and bright with your eyes and fingers and up we go again, our aim polished smooth and warm as a stone in a pocket. 

I found the old journals from my time in Seattle. I struggled so hard to lift myself there. In one, I wrote the same phrase for ten pages – I love myself completely. It is so easy to discount affirmations as new age drivel; sometimes I laugh at the idea of affirming as an exercise, at repetition as a method for strengthening message. Have put it aside, then picked it up again; the handgun, the pistol, the sight through which I look at myself, my heart reflected outward in the faces of the one I love, and I pray for honest aim, straight shooting; the Annie Oakley me practicing with my good eye to see them well and truly as they would be seen, patient with my own teetering imbalances, patient the same with theirs.

Annie Oakley


4 Responses to “Straight shooting”

  1. 1 loren November 6, 2006 at 6:48 pm

    Funny, I’ve never been into New Age, though it seemed to have evolved from my generation, but I’ve always thought self-affirmation is as American as Emerson or Thoreau.

    How can you be anything but perfect if you’re being you’re Best Self?

  2. 2 Teresa November 7, 2006 at 7:21 am

    In my more unitarian moments, I can believe in the essential goodness of human nature. And you are right, affirmations go right back to our transcendental grandfathers. This morning, I am doing affirmations that we, as Americans collectively, will vote for the common good.

    “Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.” (Thoreau)

  3. 3 truce November 8, 2006 at 3:57 am

    And there should be a special landfill site reserved for ‘Things Fathers Say To Their Daughters Without Meaning To Be Hurtful Which Follow You On Into Adulthood And Jump Out To Take You Unawares Every So Often’.

  4. 4 Teresa November 8, 2006 at 11:42 am

    I think there’s an extra sting when a dad says something cruel. To give him credit, though, he was big on full apologies when we were all neurotic young adults. And (ahem) he was wrong — I was quite good. Well, anyway.

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