How do you solve a problem like Maria?

img_0305Nevada, 2012. The trip on Lonely Highway 50.

by cheri block

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?

For the last three years, whenever I sit down to write–be it for this blog or for my graduate classes or for my book– these two lines from the musical The Sound of Music begin playing, originating in that cavernous place, one full of fairies and fears, curiosities and story-lines, sadnesses and fantasies, that I call my mind.

Seriously. I’m not kidding.

These two lines must mean something important, symbolic, and primal, but my studies of the work of Carl Jung and Eric Berne have not popped a clue or lead.

I’ve mentioned this oddity to my gynecologist Vickie, but she, too, has been unable to interpret my behavior, so I leave her office only with my yearly mammogram orders and not with any new insights about Maria. Or clouds. Or problems. Or problem solving.

These lines continue to bubble up like Schwepp’s Diet Tonic.

I’ve tried purging them by writing about William the Conqueror, one of my favorite subjects. Along with miner’s lettuce, sea elephants, free-hand drawing, and Judge Blah, who in the last several years, I have renamed The Judge, I have scribbled about hamsters, turkeys, sex, assisted living, and public education. I have revealed my insecurities, my confidences, my loves and hates, my favorite colors and god knows, I have rhapsodized about American literature and Nietzsche, New Mexico and my parents, Stanford and the University of the Pacific.

I’ve been told that just the act of acknowledging certain, shall we say (delicately), certain idiosyncracies about ourselves is one way to purge them.

You, my readers (of course) do not have any idiosyncracies, right? Good.That’s what I thought.

So in an attempt to confront my psycho-musical demons, I am releasing these two lines from my imagination into the ether. HERE THEY ARE!!

Let’s see what happens the next time I sit down to write which will be Wednesday, February 20, 2013 as I try to put the first lines of my masters thesis onto paper.

IMG_1463Elephant seal rookery, February 2013 Little Guy with a scrape.


About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in Life, My Thesis, People and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to How do you solve a problem like Maria?

  1. And we have all enjoyed every word of what goes through your mind. Go for it Maria!

  2. Christopher says:

    Do you hear the melody as well as the words?

    If so, I see it as normal that a certain song pops into your head when you begin writing. You see, music always resounds through my own head during whatever I do, and right now, as I write this, I’m hearing a song inside my head.

    It’s all costing me a lot of money though, for my psychiatrist is proving expensive.

  3. Cheri says:

    Yes! I do hear the melody and sometimes I even sing it. ???
    I feel better already.
    Now, what do I owe you?

  4. Linda says:

    I always enjoy reading your blogs but as you know I don’t routinely comment. However, I must reply to this if for no other reason than to explore the possibility that gynecologists may offer services I had not ever contemplated. Where exactly is Vickie looking for answers for you? Does she hear the music and go in search of the source? And if she finds it – what then? 😱

    • Cheri says:

      As the song goes, “she’s looking for love in all the wrong places…” Vickie is my yearly therapist. I book one hour of her time. After the routine, well, you know, the routine that I think isn’t as bad as a prostate exam, that routine, we then discuss me. Outside of the office, we also have lunch, discuss literature, and go shopping, so she is a full service friend.

  5. Richard says:

    If you seek a cure, you are consulting the wrong kind of specialist. Unless, that is, you are pregnant with ideas. What you need is a dose of good old-fashioned self-discipline. Write out one hundred times:

    I must not allow myself to be distracted by sentimental musicals.

    and show it to yourself in the morning.

    • Cheri says:

      Richard, why this is a stroke of British genius! As you have discerned over the years, I am a methodical person in some ways. Surely, I was a strict teacher. I shall pound that sentence into my brain whenever The Sound of Music lyrics enter. Other lyrics which free-float while I try to write are as follows: My Favorite Things, You Will Never Walk Alone, and Happy Talk. By George, just writing this response to you has cracked open a clue. When I took piano lessons from the mean Mrs. Click, I had to play over and over again all of Rogers and Hammerstein. Could that be part of my problem?
      Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect and whistle a happy tune, so no one will suspect, I afraid.

      • Richard says:

        My boy Bill is lying in a coffin made of wood with isinglass curtains you can roll right down in case there’s a change in the weather this real nice clambake. The food we ate was good you bet the company was the same – there is nothing like a dame, Mr Snow, shall we dance 123?

        Yup. It’s working.

      • Richard says:

        Keep a hyperbowl beside you until it’s all gone. When you feel better, have a nice cup of strong, black coffee.

        • Cheri says:

          Thank you for the cross-blogular connexion. I’m at this very moment drinking hot coffee out of my hyperbowl and hoping it will not affect my hyperbowel.

          • Richard says:

            No, no. Drink your coffee out of a mug. Pour all your original ideas and formless words, sentences and paragraphs into the hyperbowl and then shape them (that’s the fun part) into your thesis with all due references and attributions.

  6. T E Stazyk says:

    It must be some science fiction mind virus!! Now I’m going to have to listen to heavy metal music all day to get that song out of my mind!!

  7. Cheri says:

    Oh, no. I am so sorry to transfer this to you Tom, but at least you have written another book, so the music is working.

  8. Brighid says:

    This is so enlightening, and the cost is perfect. I’ve heard different songs for years, some sad, some happy, some just there. Haven’t told anyone because I thought it would be too disconcerting to my friends. Now I have no more clue what they mean than I did before… but I am not the only one…. thank you!

  9. douglas says:

    How do you solve a problem like Maria?
    A line like that, out of context, drives me crazy. I spend minutes (sometimes hours) trying to figure out if Maria is the problem to be solved or if she is one I should be emulating. I am grateful that it is not the Sound of Music score that pops up in my mind but I fully understand the issue. For the past several days, Hey Bungalow Bill, what did you kill? Bungalow Bill has invaded my (almost) consciousness and refuses to go away no matter how much I ignore it.

    • Cheri says:

      Oh, no, not Bungalow Bill!!! I just hope he stays away when you are out on the golf course, getting ready to putt or drive, for that matter. And might I add that it was so good to hear from you. I believe we go back about 5 years when I started my blog on Blogger.
      Hope all is well with you, Douglas.

      • douglas says:

        Sorry I haven’t been around more. Things are fine here… not counting the two days of winter we just went though. We should be back to sweating profusely by Wednesday. What pops to mind on the golf course cannot be retold in mixed company.

  10. imagenmots says:

    No wonder, the real Maria, the Baroness Von Trapp, had a lot in common with you: curious, organized, always looking for new ways to do things, yet attached to her living environment and creative just a bit of a rebel, hence the song and the haunting line.
    No maria was not the problem, she was in the wrong place, that’s all. Once out of it, the “problem” became an asset…and you are a great one. I’m sure The Judge, Dinah, the olive trees and the academic commmunity will agree.
    Maria is Cherylan.

    • Cheri says:

      A true therapist at heart, you are Paul. This is the sweetest comment and I thank you for your interpretation. I hope it is right. Since I have implemented Sir Richard’s discipline, things have been a bit better. Now (see his comment) I am singing One Foot, Other Foot…

  11. Cyberquill says:

    If Maria—or any woman, for that matter—presents a problem, the Holy Qur’an sets forth a simple solution:

    As to those women on whose part you see ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them. (4:34)


    And before you can catch a cloud and pin it down, you must find out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    Hope this helps.

  12. Cheri says:

    Love the Koran quote but kind of afraid to comment because I might be followed, or worse, targeted for rampant humor, sacreligiousity, and WoodyAllenesque flippancy.

    Your second suggestion, however, has potential since I have been trying to find the needle in our rotten haystack for several years.

  13. Richard says:

    I have just started to read Nick Austin’s book “Secrets of the Norman Invasion”. Nick Austin is the one who claims to have proved that William did not land at Pevensey and that the battle was not fought at Battle.

    According to Google, this website:

    is one of the most read sites on the Norman Invasion.

    • Cheri says:

      I will cross the channel immediately, but where will I land? If not Pevensey, then where???
      Thanks for the link. I look so forward to your book review.

    • Richard says:

      Despite the mass of technicality, the book is profoundly well researched, using the Bayeux Tapestry, ancient manuscripts, including the Domesday Book, and local geography book and engagingly and persuasively written.

      Austin proposes that William landed at the port of Hastings, a sheltered harbour which in 1066 lay between Bexhill and Hastings, and then went on to fight the battle at Crowhurst.

      The harbour is now silted up and it is proposed to build a link road through the site. There is a campaign group that is already seeking an injunction through the Court and the application is opposed. If Nick Austin can get English Heritage on side it will be a major advance. EH is to make an inspection and question him about his findings.

      This month my brother-in-law is hosting a meeting of the campaign group in his flat in Bexhill. Nick Austin will be there and Glenys and I hope to go along. it means that I must read the book beforehand. I have reached page 30 of 355 but am intensely engaged on somewhat urgent business matters, unfortunately.

      • Cheri says:

        I will await your report from the meeting of the campaign group. This really is exciting, but I wonder, what on the Bayeux Tapestry gives a clue to a different landing site? I am curious, having spent a great deal of time with those nine panels of the tapestry.

        I wish I had time to read that book, now. Richard.

      • Richard says:

        In a long and painstaking analysis of the Tapestry, comparing with documents whose reliability he assesses, Austin (inter alia), broadly, concludes:
        1. the words “ad Pevensey” indicate a coastal landmark William aimed for as it was near Port of Hastings;
        2. he would not have landed at fortified stronghold (Pevensey Castle was Roman);
        3. there were 696 ships of 2 sizes, the small ones little more than war canoes, with total of 5064 men and1914 horses that would have fitted Port of Hastings;
        4. fortification at landing site built partly of ships – William had all ships dismantled to prevent escape back over English Channel;
        5. a small party of soldiers was sent back to Pevensey where there was no resistance (William would not have landed twice or moved from Pevensey to Hastings itself, as has been suggested);
        6. Domesday Book shows little waste at Pevensey, which rapidly increased in value, while waste around Port of Hastings was still apparent in 1085;
        7. Tapestry shows the landing site was worked farmland that was unoccupied while locals on annual fishing expedition off East Anglia;
        8. Tapestry shows Odo eating fish, indicating a Friday, which is consistent with Austins’s findings.

        Austin’s final sentences on such aspects of the Tapestry read:

        “Tide and time were against the version of events we were taught at school. Now we find that the correct version given to us in six major manuscripts is authenticated by the Bayeux Tapestry.”

        A little diversion from your thesis will do no harm. All work and no play … . 🙂

        • Cheri says:

          Wow. What a list.
          3. there were 696 ships of 2 sizes, the small ones little more than war canoes, with total of 5064 men and1914 horses that would have fitted Port of Hastings;

          Richard, my research, reading all the original sources, indicates there were 800 ships of at least three sizes and about 3000 war horses. I’m not sure how Austin comes up with the figure of 1914 horses.

          Yes. Diversion is important. I spent all day at the library outlining and writing the plan for my chapters. I have sent that document to Herbie.

          The list you above is fascinating. Wish I were at that campaign meeting. Please take notes.

  14. wkkortas says:

    It could be worse–you could, like my mother, start to whistle when show tunes enter her consciousness; she is a wonderful woman, but she tends to compensate for less than perfect pitch with volume, and that just isn’t a winning trade-off.

    All the luck in the world with the thesis, and I will endeavor to whistle the entirety of The Music Man on that date to distract the fickle gods of Sixties movie musicals.

    • Cheri says:

      Oh thank you, Wk. I arrive at the library around 10:30, open my computer, and stare out the window, praying for inspiration and then, that damn tune starts up. If you could whistle all of the Music Man and The Sound of Music (am I asking too much??), around 1:30pm your time, I am sure it will help. It will be Oh what a beautiful morning…

  15. Don says:

    I came to complain about the earworm you planted that plagued me over the entire long weekend only to get infected with several more. Indeed, per one commenter, I may need some heavy metal to wash that song right out of my hair.

  16. Cheri says:

    Don, I am soooo sorry. Doing that to anyone is unkind and unfair. For what it is worth, I also got a Bumblebee Tuna jingle stuck in my head. Bum, bum, bumble bee, Bumblebee tuna, I love Bumblebee tuna…and so on. Please forgive me.

    Your last sentence is a riot.

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