Those Relentless Sands

“It was fun while it lasted.” I guess I could say that about many periods of my life, especially when it comes to relationships with men.

I am thinking about that as I read Jack’s obituary. Our relationship lasted about three years, back in the 80s, and it was fun while it lasted. One of the legacies of that relationship, oddly enough, is friendships I formed with a couple of the women whom he dated after me. He had a knack for seeking out smart, creative women.

I kept in touch with Jack on and off over the decades. When, after he moved to Portland OR and my pedestrian son needed a ride from the oral surgeon’s office, I called Jack and he took care of it all. He was a good, imperfect guy. I am glad that I knew him and sad that he is gone.

More than ever, these days, I am painfully aware of the relentlessness of time – which really does seem to accelerate as one ages. And, here I am, at age 78, still trying to figure myself out as those relentless sands continue to carry me along.

It is all about the journey. Slogging through the sands of time. It’s all about the metaphors. Baba Bogina. The Raven. The knight with the swan helmet crest.

My Jungian therapist often uses “sand play” to stir and spur our conversations. I find that I intuitively pick out figures for the sand play without consciously knowing why. And then we work on the why.

I am still pondering why I chose the warrior with the swan helmet crest. It is the only figure I chose that was not obviously either male or female. Its face and body are covered with armor. Its stance can be interpreted as aggressive, defensive, or protective. It is blocking my path. Welcoming? Warning? And then there’s that anomalous spread-winged swan sitting on the top of its head.

My therapist did some searching before I had a chance to, and she send me a link that explained: a medieval tale about a mysterious rescuer who comes in a swan-drawn boat to defend a damsel, his only condition being that he must never be asked his name.

Does that help or not. I don’t know. I will need to ponder this a lot more as I wait for some synchronicity to spark an epiphany.

Is there someone on my path waiting? To lead me to the authentic “me”? To accompany me for a while on my journey? Or is it me in there, under the armor, my wings wanting to escape the hold of the protective helmet.

This is what my “journey” looked like in sand play.

Change Happens

Today, in her blog Time Goes By, my blogger friend Ronni Bennett posted about “Making Friends in Old Age” that prompted me to leave her a comment, which I share here.

Until recently, I always considered myself an extrovert — never had any trouble meeting new people and making friends. I joined groups and often even facilitated them. I had no problem walking into a room where I knew no one and striking up a conversation with a stranger. But I’ve changed; life changed me, I guess. Bad knees keep me from doing the dancing I always loved to do, and I no longer like to drive at night.

After living with and taking care of my mother until she passed away, I moved in with my daughter and family, 90 miles from where I used to live. That was about five years ago. Even though I’ve joined some groups, I haven’t clicked with anyone as a friend, even though they and I have made some effort. And I have decided that it’s not a problem.

I thoroughly enjoy doing the things that I love to do and, while it would be nice to share my interests, in person, with some others, it’s no longer necessary the way it used to be. Of course, I have family right on the other side of my door if I feel lonely, and we spend as much time together as I want or need. I also periodically visit with a group of close women friends where I used to live, and we keep in touch online as well. And yes, over the years online I have made new “virtual” friends and also connected with old friends from my past lives.

I have gotten back to writing poetry — which is a solitary endeavor — and I play around with designing and making the kinds of knitwear that stores don’t sell and I like to wear. If Spring ever shows its lovely face, I will garden. I watch shows via Netflix that no one I know watches, like “Crossing Lines” and “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.”

It is said that “happiness is not having what you want; it’s wanting what you have.” At my college reunion, an old friend asked me if I am happy. What I told him was that I was content. I want what I have, so, I suppose, I am happy.

I am certainly happy that I have two poems published in this issue of “Mused.”

my latest yarn improvisation

front


back


hexagon motif

I layered it over a long sleeved shirt for photo contrast, but it looks much better layered over a white camisole — which is how I’m going to wear it when I go to Saratoga this weekend. No, I’m not going to the racetrack, although this is the season for that. I’m going to see the production of an original script performed by a new company with whose founder I worked and whom I’ve known since college.

After Saratoga, I’ll be spending a few days in Lake Luzerne with my long-time group of women friends. And, if all goes well, I will motor one afternoon over to Northville to visit another former colleague and still friend with whom I play Zynga on FaceBook.

I’ll be taking along my latest plarn market bag project to work on as we sit around in the evening drinking Comsos and getting therapeutically giggly.

But back to my latest improvisation, for which I had no pattern and no plan. I found a pattern for the hexagon and I wanted to try it with a lighter yarn that I had purchased ages ago on sale. I’m not even sure they sell it any more, so I’m glad I bought as much as I did, because I used every ball I had.

I started with one hexagon and just kept adding others, figuring out the shape as I went along. I wound up with it being too wide at the bottom. Hmm. I had to figure out what to do to make it work.

My mother had a saying in Polish that translated into something like “a dumb person will not even notice, and a smart person will think that’s how you intended it to be.” She used that saying a lot with me, since I’ve always embarked on projects by the seat of my pants and then had to improvise to figure out how to make them work.

So, I made a pleat in the back of the sweater to take up the slack. It looks like it was actually designed that way. Works for me!

On a whim, I tried to search for the exact saying in Polish, and, while I didn’t find what I was looking for, I did come across this wonderfully outrageous Polish crocheter whose work is on exhibit now until February at the the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC. Be sure to watch her short video.

I could learn a lot from her, on lots of levels.

I know that there are women who continue to be outrageous right up until the end. The extent of my outrageousness these days is wearing my latest improvisation with matching orange sandals and white cropped pants.

Oh, and I I’ve had my hair cut sort of like Andy Warhol. Well, maybe more like Sharon Gless on “Burn Notice.” But a little longer.

I’ll get around to a photo eventually.

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.

finally a wireless connection

It’s not that the York, Maine library doesn’t have wireless. It does. But I have Ubuntu OS on my HP mini notebook and I couldn’t figure out how to connect. I couldn’t get on their help page because I couldn’t get on the Internet.

I can’t believe that I actually figured it out by myself. I guess there’s hope for me yet. Although I’m not sure how much more frustration I can put up with re Ubuntu. I can’t get any sound out of the machine. Bleh.

Since I am in Maine, I got in touch with Ronni Bennett to see if we might have a chance to grab a cup of tea before I leave tomorrow, but she’s just getting back from NYC, so it’s a no go this time. But I’ll be in York again at some point, and I’ll try again.

I can’t believe how frustrating it was not to be able to connect through my laptop. While there are terminals at the library that are for public use, it just isn’t the same thing. (And I don’t know my WordPress login info by heart; it’s stored on my laptop.)

Tomorrow, we leave for home, after a week of Boggle marathons, too much wine and Sea Breezes (the alcoholic kind),. and just about enough belly-laughing.

Not enough sun, but that’s Maine for you

Now I’m off to have lobster roll for lunch and poke around York Beach.

straddling worlds

I keep wondering how long it will take for me to feel really settled in this next stage of my life — to adjust to a new physical state and a new mental state.

Massachusetts is very different from where I was living in New York. Needless to say, I was financially shocked to receive a $348 bill from the town for the “excise tax” for my car. Everyone in Massachusetts who owns a car pays an annual excise tax. Well, since there’s no sales tax on clothing and shoes, I suppose that’s only fair.

On a more positive note, it seems that I don’t have a co-pay for doctor’s appointments through Medicare. I guess it all balances out, especially since I’m in the middle of a round of doctor’s appointment to get my health stabilized — including starting physical therapy for my arthritic back.

Parts of my old life are still with me, though, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I will be traveling to visit my mother this weekend, although I’m not even sure that she will remember me. The live-in aide will be able to visit her family, and my brother will be able to have a few nights to himself. And then I will travel half-way back home and spend some time with my women friends, whom I have seen in months and months.

When I get back next week, I wonder if the Cardinal eggs in the bushes not too far from my back door will be hatched. Every day, we go out and check to see how mom and babies are doing (not too close, though; the dad scolds us insistently if we get too close). My grandson is excited about perhaps being able to see the babies still tucked into the nest. Of course, he gets excited about a lot things — spotting a Monarch butterfly, adding a model Brachiosaurus to his dinosaur collection, driving by a construction site while a grapple is working, watching an air force plane flying overhead, going fishing with his dad.

I used to get excited about all sorts of things. I seem to have forgotten how. Maybe I need some mental therapy as well as the physical.

Now I’ll go pack my car.

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.

sleeping in the bed you made

“Jak sie lozko poscieli, tak na nim wyspacz,” was what the old women in my family said when we youngsters complained. “The way you make your bed, that’s how you have to sleep in it.”
I was thinking of this phrase as I drove from Massachusetts, via Albany, to my mother’s/brother’s. I was in Albany for an overnight so that I could get together with my long-time women friends for our annual holiday dinner.
When I got online today and read Ronni Bennett’s two most recent posts (Are You Satisfied With Your Life and The Real Economic Story), the admonitions of my female elders came to mind again. (Ronni always seems to be two steps ahead of me.)
While in Albany, I stayed with one of my friends whose home looks like the pages of a decorating magazine. I stayed in a guestroom bed, which was, well, lets just say, well made. It was a pleasure to lie on it and to wake up in it.

bedroom.jpg

This friend, now retired, is not wealthy, but she is certainly is better off than I. She can afford a twice a month cleaning lady and someone to take care of her lawn and shrubs in the summer. If her driveway needs paving, she pays to have it done. She spends time where it’s warm when it’s cold here in the Northeast, and she pays an enormous amount for long-term care insurance. I think she diversified where she put her capital enough so that she wasn’t terribly affected by the Wall Street fiasco. She’s a few years younger than I, more than a few pounds lighter, and she’s always been more attractive. While there are times that I envy her lifestyle, ultimately and finally, I have to sleep in the bed that I made.
Am I satisfied with my life, as Ronni asks? I made my choices and took my chances, and things could be a lot worse. My only DISsatisfaction is that I’m not totally moved yet. Will I be satisfied then? I don’t know, but the last three years living in my brother’s house while I take care of my mother have been pretty miserable. So I guess it’s all relative.
Reading the Huffington Post links that Ronnie provided (here, here, and here) certainly makes me grateful for what I do have.
My bed might not be of designer quality, but at least I have one.

I miss Halloween

More to the point, I miss getting costumed up on Halloween.
At my last job (which lasted 20 years, and there’s lots of reasons why), my boss loved Halloween, and every year we all dressed up and made the rounds of all the offices.
snowwhite.jpg
This is some of us as Snow White and some of her dwarfs. That’s me on your bottom left, and that’s my boss behind me. Other years we dressed as the Seven Deadly Sins, Hogwart faculty (I wish I knew what happed to my costume for that; I wonder if I loaned it to someone), gangsters, and, of course witches. I’ve forgotten some of the other themes we used. There are photos, somewhere, but it was all before any of us had digital cameras, and they were never scanned in.
Two years ago, when my boss retired, she chose Halloween as the day for her farewell party, and she urged people to dress in costume. Of course, I did.
About six years ago, I went to a few dance parties as Medusa.
I guess that’s where my grandson gets his love of costumes. You sort of become whatever you wear.