happy belated blogaversary to me:
9 years and counting

I started blogging on November 29, 2001, and the old bloghome is still here, reminding me why I started and how I grew as a “personal blogger.” I still keep in touch with many of the bloggers who were around at that early time in blogging history, only now it’s mainly through Facebook.

In reading some of my old posts, I realize that I still write about the same things: politics, injustice, being a woman, ordinary magic, getting older, being me. Things change. Things stay the same.

Let’s see if I can make it to year 10.

a sense of scent

I almost missed this Magpie Tales #33 visual writing prompt, but better late than never.
(As usual, you can read other submissions at the link above.)

A Sense of Scent

She thought she was done with him,
but one night the moon rose
clear and full-faced,
and an early autumn wind
swept the scent of lavender
through her open window.

Some times are harder than others
to sit silent,
hands clenched against
the lure of the pen,
mouth set against
the call of the phone,
thinking to oneself
that some things are better
left to silence,
to the slow decay of time,
the turning of moons
and lavender seasons.

But even in the darkest of corners
some things refuse to die –
some small husk still
riddled with seeds,
some insistent root
defying the dust,
some dormant dream
of a riotous clash of hearts,
clutch of minds,
dance of hands that
hope and hold and, too soon,
let go.

She thought she was done with him,
except his voice
still pulls at her belly
like the insistent tides of the moon.
So when he calls
from places lush
with a thousand thriving things,
she sends him dewy lavender
wrapped in familiar black lace,
because, they say,
The sense of smell
is the most visceral,
holding even the darkening
memory of the dying.

losing it

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, at my age.

I lost my big bunch of keys somewhere in the past few days, and the ring has my car key w/chip on it. Today, as I was out running errands, twice I left my extra car key on a store counter. Sometimes, when I’m driving, I forget where I’m going and wind up blocks out of the way before I come back to the moment.

Granted, I’ve been pretty distracted, worrying about my son’s “dental carnage,” as he calls it. With no health insurance (and living across the country from me), he was given little good advice from the doctors he saw regarding his swollen (although pain-free) jaw. After a CAT scan and a week and a half on antibiotics that didn’t help, he finally was sent to an oral surgeon for the extraction of several infected teeth.

Which brings me to appreciating friends that I HAVEN’T lost, including a former SO who now lives in Portland and wound up bringing my son to stay with him after the surgery and transporting him home and to and from the follow-up appointment.

I guess it’s a matter of losing some and winning some.

I can always get another set of keys made.

so, I won this book

book

The book, which contains free verse and reprints of prayers and bits of prose, features lots of Corita’s collage art, which contains lots of cut-up words from ads and headlines, sometimes reconfigured, sometimes not.

The description above is from a post on the site from which I won the book — Killing the Buddha. It’s a site that I find always stimulating.

I never win anything. I mean it. I think that this is the first thing I every won. Well, I came in second in a Swing Dance contest once. Even got a trophy. Usually I don’t even make an effort to enter any kind of contest. Never play the lottery. Because I never win anything.

But this time I did. And I did because I remember the 60s. I didn’t remember Sister Corita, who created the book, published in 1967. But I did remember the Berrigan Brothers, and I remembered that Daniel Berrigan was a Jesuit.

I recently read online somewhere (can’t find it again) that the story was that Daniel Berrigan kept a photo of Sister Corita in his shower with a note that said “no one should shower alone.”

Thinking of Berrigan, I am remembering another activist ex-priest who was a good friend at one point in my life. He has grown immensely as an artist in those past 25 years, although he was good even back then. His paintings, as he is, are larger than life. I just love his new stuff.

I have been fortunate in my life to have had some closeness with some truly unique men, who have inspired me and moved on and left me with the kinds of memories that will keep me smiling someday as I retire to a rocking chair in the sun.

(And I’ve been just as fortunate to continue to have a group of close women friends whose constancy and candor, humor and heart, help to keep me smiling — well, most of the time.)

So, now I wait for my prize, a book by a creative woman, to arrive.

It’s a good day.

Delilah of Sunhats and Swans

It starts out the way a horror story might: a stormy night, an unscratchable itch in the middle of an odd young man’s head. Something is going to happen.

But it’s not a horror story, and something does happen. Or rather “someone.”

It’s a story about a sense of family forged, not by nature, but by nurture; about a young woman – only a girl, really — dropped into a still town like a pebble into a still pond.

And things begin to happen.

It’s my daughter’s debut novel, and you can read more about it and also buy it here:

Alice Fulton, poet, professor, and Guggenheim Fellow offers this back-cover description:

Delilah of Sunhats and Swans, Volker’s first novel, combines the insouciance of youth with the tragedy of experience. It tells the bittersweet story of one young woman’s transformative effect upon the lives of others. Delilah is a seeker — a pilgrim and a stranger. She also is a charmer, a being blessed with charisma as mysterious as it is luminous. Haunted by her past, Delilah somehow manages to make the most of the present. You won’t soon forget her.

little altars everywhere

Yes, I know that’s the name of a book by the Ya-Ya writer, Rebecca Wells.

But in this case, I’m referring to this slide show of “altars” that people submitted to a request for “What’s on Your Shelf” from the blog on Killing the Buddha.

I’m not sure how I found that site — probably just surfing around, looking for something to think about, care about. Not that there isn’t plenty out there: homeless, bankruptcy, greed, war, fraud, despair. Oh, yes, plenty to think about and care about. Too much, as a matter of fact. Too much for my tired brain, tired heart.


If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him
is one of my favorite non-fiction books. Maybe by only favorite non-fiction book. So, it’s not surprising that when I ran across the Killing the Buddha website, I was intrigued.

I used to have an altar of sorts — that’s when I had room for a surface to put it on. Now I have a wall

wallaltar
that includes a witch’s broom, my old power stick, a quilted shield especially designed and constructed for me by my good quilter friend, my new walking stick, Acuaba, and a photoshopped picture of “witches at tea” using the faces of my women friends. As powerful and meaningful as any shelved altar, I would think.

My shelves themselves are stacked with books, craft patterns, and assorted other things of significance. For example:

shelf

You might notice the Tarot deck, the icons, the empty box from my 3G iphone, a mini cast iron cauldron. What you don’t see in the shelves below are my collections of beads and jewelry findings that I’m trying to find time to play with/work on.

As I hurry along to get ready for Christmas (yes, I do still call it Christmas; why not?), I think about the cocoon in which I have wrapped myself during this time of world wide insanity to escape from the fundamentalists, the radical atheists, the war mongers and warring sufferers, indeed, the sufferers of all kinds.

I surround myself with resident family and Bully Hill Seasons wine and Chocolate Mint kisses, with quilting dreams and knitting crafts, with escapist suspense novels on ipod and paper, with the snores of my old and much loved cat.

I wish there were, indeed, little altars everywhere like mine — eclectic and inclusive and affirming.

I wish there were an altar somewhere on which if could feel prayers for my suffering mother would be answered.mom

Happy Birthday Millie at 84

If you’re an elderblogger, then you probably know Millie Garfield, of My Mom’s Blog.

Thoroughly Modern Millie is celebrating her 84th birthday by going to the theater to see Jersey Boys.

We’ve been joining to celebrate Millie’s birthday online for the past four years. She became a celebrity among us when her son posted a series of very funny videos in which she starred. You can find them here.

Go there an have a laugh, compliments of Millie, and go to her blog and wish her a happy birthday,

other person’s words

I am struck tonight by the power of other persons’ words.

Oh, I know, this web is a world of words. I spend too many hours meandering among miles of words that escape my head and ignore my heart.

Ronni Bennett’s Time Goes By is the one blog I read every day because what she has to say always has relevance for me. And so I don’t know how I managed NOT to read an incredibly moving section of her blog until tonight. And it is a section that has deep meaning for me because it’s about her time being her dying mother’s caregiver.


“A Mother’s Last Best Lesson”
is presented in 12 poignantly honest pieces that hold the mind and touch the heart.

It’s not that I identify with Ronni’s experience; my attempts to take care of my mother have been very different. But she tells a powerful story, and there is something in me that is jarred by her revealing words.

There is something in me that resents not being able to do for my mother what Ronni did for hers. Oh yes, our circumstances are very different. Dementia makes it so. As does, in my case, situations of brutal familial disputes over how my mother’s care should be handled. I couldn’t win, so I abdicated because I have no legal power to make her struggle any easier, and I couldn’t bear to just stand by.

Ronni’s story made me realize that, after 8 years of caregiving being the intense focal point of my existence, I now find I don’t have a point, a purpose. I can get up in the morning, or not. I can eat, or not. Bathe or not. Go out or not.

I am finally “retired” from employment and living with a loving family and an almost-7-year old engaging grandson who is a joy. But I have forgotten how to be engaged in my own so-called life.

I am feeling like a work in progress that has had no progress for 8 years. In my past life I raised a family; held various challenging and rewarding jobs; was an vocal activist on behalf of various political and educational issues; and found power in the poetry of women’s spirituality. And I wrote. And I wrote. I was passionate about everything I did; if I didn’t feel passionate about it, I didn’t do it.

I have found myself in a “dark night of the soul” before and have labored, successfully, to find my way out, one step at a time.

Next week I am going on a week’s vacation to Maine with two of my closest friends. We will play Boggle and drink wine and laugh a lot. We will walk on the beach and read and contemplate and talk and laugh a lot.

And when I come back home, I will begin yet another journey to find the parts of myself that I have lost, to regenerate the parts of myself that have lost passion and purpose. I think I have found a new counselor who might be able to help me with that process.

Over the course of some 20 years of my previous life, I had the good fortune to have had as a friend and counselor someone who has moved on to assisting veterans and their families as they reconnect and readjust into full, productive civilian life.

He was a poet before he was a therapist, and his work and his words, now, still hold a great deal of healing power.

The word psychotherapist comes directly from the Asclepiad tradition. It means “soul attendant.” Psychology literally means “the order and meaning of the soul.” It didn’t become a science until Freud and his followers arrived out of the medical tradition. Modern psychology left the soul far behind and has not yet reconnected with its spiritual roots, though it needs to, because psychological healing occurs at a spiritual level.

The above is from an interview in The Sun magazine on helping veterans with PTSD, entitled Like Wandering Ghosts: Edward Tick On How The U.S. Fails Its Returning Soldiers. It’s worth a read.

the letting-go dilemma

Stories begin somewhere in the bowels of truth. Do these things happen or do they not? Who is to know what is true? I only know my truth. And so I tell my story.

It is two days ago, and an April morning the likes of which we had been waiting for. I am sitting in a sun beam, leisurely eating a corn muffin, sipping a cup of green tea, and waiting for my mom to wake up. I am supposed to be in Albany, attending my friend’s quilt show and then getting together for mine and my women friends’ combined annual birthday celebration. But my mother is catching a cold and is feeling more miserable than usual.

He walks in, waving two different socks of hers, angrily accusing me of losing their mates in the wash. Later, I find the mates to those socks stuffed into the pocket of one of her jackets, along with balls of Kleenex and a comb. It doesn’t matter. As far as he’s concerned, anything that’s “missing” or “broken” is my fault. He will not let go of needing to blame me.

The newly hired live-in aide arrives the next day. She is a perfect “Mary Poppins” to my mom’s now childlike persona. She speaks Polish. She is kind and gentle and understanding. I wonder if he will wind up letting her go. Or, perhaps, like me, she will finally do the going.

My mother is more upset and upsetting than usual. Her nose is running. We think she has a fever. I catch her trying to bite into a paper plate and later find a wad of Kleenex in her mouth. She goes through boxes and boxes of the stuff — folding, shredding, tearing, and, apparently, trying to eat. She lashes out in frustration, smacking her hand against the wall, causing a wash of blue skin — just one more place on her body that will now hurt. Sometimes, when she’s quiet, when the air around her is quiet and we sit side by side on the edge of her bed, rocking and humming, she asks “What is happening to me?” “You just got old, mom,” I say, and start singing “Pack up all your cares and woes, here we go, singing low. Bye, bye Blackbird.”

And so I finally go, tired of the blaming, realizing that now he will have to find a way to coexist with the aide. She and I have similar approaches to caring for a frail, usually demented old woman, although she has a lot more practical experience than I. How will she deal with his enforcefullness (yes, I made that word up, but it says it all)? Will he let her do what she is there to do? He will need to let go of his need to control. I wonder if that is even possible.

My grandson’s cat Cuddles has not come home. It’s been two weeks since he escaped out the back door. They know he shows up in their yard at night because they have set up outdoor cameras. They leave food out for him. They bait traps with his food and their smelly clothes. So far they’ve caught a possum, a raccoon, and two tabby cats. But no Cuddles. My daughter goes out in the middle of the night and sits in the shadows, waiting to see if he might venture near. She said today that she just might have to let go of the idea of catching him. He will either come home or he won’t.

And my mother will either let go or she won’t.

And all I can do is tell my story.