Friday, March 31, 2006

"To write poems I need to be alone. When I avoid being alone I avoid poetry and the messages it brings me." from poemcrazy, by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge.

Being alone. What does that look like anyhow? Someone out in the crowd, please shout it out to me. It's like I'm seeing faces all the time. I see faces. I love the faces, moreso than the empty places without the faces. Strange, strange times as extroversion ignites. I remember being the incredibly shy one, being angry at my wordlessness, hoping one day I would speak, and speak well, and speak in a subject-verb perhaps adjective-direct object construct. (Yes, I diagrammed it too.) Mostly, I didn't want that fear of approaching someone else. So I fought it by forcing situations where words had to come out of my mouth. In front of others. I stuttered and spat, spat and stuttered. Those addressed wiped their faces. Shyness covered me with a wooly shame. Ugh, it itched. I got eczema from it. (Isn't eczema a cool word??)

But, it's true. If you practice, twenty years later, you become adept at going overboard. Tonight, a woman called to possibly set up a running date, and I blabbed on the phone to her for about 20 minutes. I don't even know her. Frightening. Do I chitterchatter erratically to the serial killer at my door? I'm thinking that he would have an interesting life to hear about.

Now, according to Wooldridge, it may be essential to backtalk, to return to the feelings and the mood of solitude because it contains essential poetic material, an attentiveness one cannot have while in the presence of others. "Everything's got to do with listening," she quotes WS Merwin. Didn't we just have this talk, Cindy and Jennifer? Yes, indeedy, I can get caught up in the contemplative beauty of the quiet. Thomas Merton, Paul Jones, Julian of Norwich, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Thoreau, Me ... it's all elemental and good.

But then ... I've got a coffee planned on Tuesday with a friend who must tell me all details about his new girlfriend and a ski trip. In turn, I will tell him about baby calves on the farm. And, I've got running planned with mothers who breathe out stories regarding their children or faith. Or, there's a group gathering soon to talk together (for goodness sake) about poetry. Then, there are e-mails to old friends. And, of course, my son rarely ever stops talking which he got from his father who tells me the meat of all of his exceedingly exciting business calls with engineer types. Therefore, I rebel from Wooldridge and poetically assert that society can also be the signifyer of messages and that ~~

Words, words, words pile, pile, pile
like leaves raked to a glorious
glorious glorious
of breath.

Perhaps that little song could have been better had I walked in the desert alone for a while? Yes, most likely. :) I'm just, however, surrendering to my noisy season of life, knowing quite well that in a year, or two, or twenty, silence might surround me once more. For better or for worse.
"Something wonderful has happened," Cody kept saying to his grandmother.

He knew, though, the wonderful event could turn horrible if his grandpa found out that Belle, the Walker coondog, had birthed Bo's (the white lab) puppies. So Cody tiptoed down to the far end of the fenced yard, down by the scraggly garden plot, to the old clapboard doghouse where doleful Belle looked out expecting the worse, suckling her six mixed-up prizes.

I get proud of Cody when he's this way: the champion of little things that should live. I can imagine him having about twenty thousand small animals when he grows up. I can imagine him taking care of me when I'm older too like I'm a mutt of some sort that needs a safe house.

My dad, aunts and uncles are in the throes of caretaking this week as my last living grandmother fell on Tuesday and broke her hip. She was carted off to Springfield to the hospital where she had surgery. When I went to see her on Tuesday, she was all smiles, full of love, holding my hand, not knowing whether it was summer or winter, whether she was at home or at a restaurant. She kept saying, "Well, yes, from time to time, I like to go out and visit places like this." Her gray hair was wild, teeth were gone, once steady gray eyes blurred. She has a form of dementia, possibly Alzheimers, in which she can't remember much of anything. Then, in the hospital, she became confused and when night fell, she became alarmed and demented.

Old age, new unwanted births. Life cuts. My grandmother is now in a nursing home where my dad waits in a recliner, answering the same question over and over, dreading nightfall. She's not allowed to be on her feet for six weeks, yet she has no inkling why not. Her strong character remains undaunted. God, send her grace in the throes of her slow death. She was always so ferocious for God and his purpose in her life. Always on fire, always preaching.

All of us family members wonder if the night will fall hard on us in our winter years too.

All of us hold onto our current health in a gripping sense.

In the hospital waiting room, we only wanted to talk about upcoming vacation plans instead.

God grant us all grace in our throes. Amen.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

My daughter is in NYC tonight visiting her father. I drove her to Kansas City earlier where I left her at the gate, and she, the full fledged seventeen year old she is, headed off to her gate, ipod in ears, burrowed protectively down in her songs. I called her an hour and a half later, and she had just landed in Milwaukee for her layover, and, guess what, mom?, the stewardess forgot to give me and my seatmate peanuts! We had to ask for them! She, reassuringly, still needs me to know this.

I called her an hour and a half later, and she was already at stepmother's parents, fully emerged into Dominican Republican flare, far from the midwest, surrounded by tall multi-eyed structures. Secured in the City.

She had been reluctant to go. Other classmates' parents had allowed them to travel to Panama City, Florida, alone. I had been oldfashioned and mean. We had more than too many heated discussions about my decision. Thankfully, she's where she is, supervised, parented.

And now, a breather from the teenager. Like my brother, I must agree parenting the teen is difficult; we've had a tumultous past two months which has stretched me into unbelievable postures and places. I believe I'm going to enjoy my week off, even though still as my child, she's ever present in my mind. Secured in my heart, she'll be waiting on Friday, half kid, half adult, sighing, aaaaaghhhhinng, primed for another go around, which I won't think about until Friday. :)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Are Christians really for torture? According to a Pew poll, the "results" are in to the favorable. Check these out:

Somehow I can't imagine Jesus holding a match to someone's skin and saying he's doing it to protect the country of Israel.

I wish things like this wouldn't blight the name of following Christ.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Is the run supposed to make you feel revved up or wasted? Scientific research sitting on my chair says wasted. I'm so tired, and I'll blame it on the six a.m. run instead of staying up late organizing my son's millionth room object. I'm just so glad that I energetically peeled the potatoes and sliced the onions and seasoned the roast early this morning when I didn't feel as if I dragged a semi around the house twenty times. Now, the smell winds around the corners. It says, "May I serve you?" It says, "Take a bath. I've got it covered." It says, "You deserve a night off." Mmm.... I like my talking and kind pot roast.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Okay, my tribute to Pride and Prejudice is over.:) We had just rented the movie, and I remembered my mulling thoughts, particularly in the interesting angle some take with the book, and it just had to come out. Strange!

The poetry group is forming. We have nine who are interested. It strikes me as crazy that women (and a potential guy) are seriously saying, "Yes! I'm there! (Or, interested in finding out more). I guess I've been a closet type for so long that I forget that the world longs for uplifting language and words. So cool.

Here are the books I'm reading to help me obsess about the topic!

Frances Mayes, "The Discovery of Poetry"

Susan Goldmsith Wooldridge, "poemcrazy: freeing your life with words"

Mary Oliver, 'Rules for the Dance: a handbook for writing and reading metrical verse"

Robert Pinsky, "The Sounds of Poetry"

Heather McHugh, "Hinge and Sign"

Mary Oliver, "New and Selected Poems

Alan Dugan, "Poems Seven"

"Imagist Poetry: An Anthology"

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Truly, I should thwart my following thoughts due to a popular (and dare I say political) following of this lovely 18th century novel. The book is a masterpiece, a compendium of social manners, a glimpse into a societal structure, a wit and dialogue extravaganza, a study in subtlety. My daughter could learn to be a lady from it.

However, something bothers me about the perfect "Pride and Prejudice". I'm sure it's personality driven which goes to show that maybe the whole lady concept is troubling to me. But, strikers out there would slap me down with retribution if I extended it beyond my own comfort zone and said the following:

"Pride and Prejudice" is a bleak look at womanhood. Of course, it was realistic back in the aristocratic England for a woman to be engineered for marriage; however, to see all hope and hype directed towards this saddens me. A woman's choices were narrow, yet in this work, stemming from the author who lived in that time, a romanticism caps the other contents. The love story between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth flows beautifully, we sigh, they break through obstacles, we sigh. And, yes, I've sighed. However, I sighed during Cinderella once upon a time too, and not because she became a woman underscored by princedom. Now, it's just I prefer more of an inner look. Perhaps Virginia Woolf has ruined me. Mrs. Ramsay (in "To The Lighthouse") spelled out clearly what the world of social and marital limitations might demand. It's the post honeymoon view, of which I'm more curious.

"Pride and Prejudice", although excellent in many ways, shouldn't be used as a moral and politically correct code book. I've seen quite a few bloggers who wave their Austen in one hand and their Bible in another (ouch, sorry). That's perfectly fine. I can wave my Woolf and Bible too. However, for me, some of this Austen waving seems also judgmentally proclamative in the sense that "a woman should be this way" not "a woman is this way". I guess I just value the suffrage movement (I prefer "Little Women" over "Pride and Prejudice" ) and don't want to return to the 18th century view of women. I also believe that "biblical womanhood" doesn't necessarily mirror an Austen novel where women are kept in neat safe categories. Yes, marital fidelity, goodness of character, are jewels in the Bible; however, one can embody that with some realistic complexity and some compassion for those outside one's own category (socially or religiously).

Austen was an outstanding, avant garde (for her day) writer whom I've appreciated. It just helps, though, to ponder the fairy tale a bit without adopting it as gospel.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Shakespeare: Sonnets. Everyone has heard of you,
and almost everybody can find something
touching in you. You are calm and control
yourself, even though your wisdom and your
messages are no lesser than those of others.

Which literature classic are you?
brought to you by

Saturday at my parent's farm, I sat on a hill that I had walked and ran to with the white lab Bo. It was far off. I had to crash through brown leaves on an old trail to get there. I had to be distracted by the deer stand which I climbed and sat in for a while. I had to examine a rock pile for quartz. Finally, I crested the hill and the trail and found a view of a pond, a couple of stark trees, and the roundness of the old mountain range all around me. I sat there for quite a while, breathing in the air to drive the stale, contained, small air out of me. Something about doing this consciously makes me want to cry, an inherent great need of purification strangulates and messes me up until the clearer air begins to make entry. It becomes apparent that the ability to think and feel has been lost and again rediscovered. I sat without the common anxieties that bite at me. I sat watching the last of a dead leaf flutter dramatically from a tree. I sat looking at a faroff slope where the Penner cemetery holds my grandmother and grandfather. Many of my people have been across this land, this hill. It was amazing to even be breathing and alive and there in the day.

When Bo and I ran back home, I felt buoyant, glad, thankful for spirit,life and air. So happy life offers us pockets of treats.

Now for news on the cul-de-sac ....
After a day of intense life-questioning tossing and turning yesterday (post hillside), I casted and so far... one bite from an interested participant! Thanks to the discovery of a bargain book at a closeout sale here in town, I picked up a copy of Frances Mayes' "The Discovery of Poetry: A Field Guide to Reading and Writing Poems", I hope to form a small group to read or write poetry here in town. My whole body / person needs this as badly as sitting on that far off hill. I'm hoping something comes together. (Btw, Jennifer, if you're reading this, you're invited -- prob meet every other week at a restaurant. I know you're crazy/busy, though!:)

A new view. A sitdown. Time to breathe. Ah. Tears and smiles.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Tomorrow is my book club, at my house. I should be finishing the cherry cream glaze on my cherry chocolate brownies, or my grasshopper pie, or tortellini salad, or my romaine sirloin steak salad. And, I definitely should be cleaning. However, stop the madness! No one will care, and if they do, they get booted for being anti-literary. Mostly the women will be wining instead of whining and will be loudly sharing their own personal interpretation of the book. I love the group and how we can agree to disagree on anything: religion, politics, Bridgett Jones, what to wear under a burka (sp?). I'm always replaying all the wonderful quips and laughter of the evening later in bed, wishing that the meeting was still bubbling forth. My extroverted side will glow with post-delight. Our book wasn't too meaningful this time; however, our exchange will still be, I'm almost certain. Now, I hope that I can stay awake for it, because I have a lot left to do. No wonder I don't volunteer to host only once every two years!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I'm a feelin' bluesy, and all I can picture as an antidote is going to the hills this weekend and walkin' it out alone in the woods on my parents' and great-grandparents' farm. I'm just feeling overwhelmed by parenting. I'm taking on all of their stuff. I'm blending myself to where I'm not breathing. I'm not doing some of the heart and soul things that I enjoy. I need to walk and sit on a stump and hear the squirrels scampering and the blue jays calling and the wind rustling and hear my thoughts and God's whispers and know that when I emerge, my deeper breath will have been restored. I'll still have kids, yes. I'll still have challenges to walk through with them, yes. I'll still have lunches to fix out of whatever's available, yes. But, perhaps I'll be resonating again somewhere within myself. Heading south, definitely needed.

Monday, March 06, 2006

It's just a beautiful day outside: blue skies, warmth, shiny-ness.

I just returned from playing board games with homeschool children during a coop period. I'm still envisioning a beautiful little girl who was hyperactively bouncing everywhere today with her big smile and beautiful black hair, off of her wheelchair, down with the other kids. She has no arms or legs, yet she manages on the small bits that decided to grow in their place. She always appears to be one of the happiest kids there. Definitely one of the most beautiful.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

For some reason, my daughter is extremely late, way past her curfew tonight, and to waylay worry, I'll write about an event that happened by the potatoes this evening at my favorite grocery store.

And, I never reached for that bag of potatoes that I needed I now realize.

An old work friend was walking by the oranges, when I called his name to say hello. He and I used to run every Tuesday together on the trail (before I knew any women who would were runners) -- we ran through the seasons, hot sticky summer, the snow and ice of winter, four miles every Tuesday. Even though he's about 13 years older than me, and was a ph.d. student in educational and counseling psychology, I ended up being his listener for the many woes he experienced in life. He was a fellow post-Ozarkian which also snagged me a bit (besides the compatible pace and the occasional bluebird sightings we'd experience).

However, after a while (a year or two), the sameness of the woebegone issues began to be wearying, and I purposefully began to distance myself. I'm a fairly optomistic person, a believer in change, a hoper, and when I'd offer that to him, he would Eyore it away, only to return to his lament (Puddleglum is the corresponding character in The Chronicles of Narnia; I think there's some also in "The Inferno", swirling around a core of hell, always rejecting goodness just for the sake of rejecting it). It was sad and frustrating at the same time.

So there in the produce aisle, five years later, he appeared, and we talked for about an hour by those potatoes that I still need.

His lament began to pour fourth again, so readily, hardly anything had changed; however, this guy is in real straits with his profession (no job) and says he's extremely depressed. Not much had changed really. I began to feel the compassion well up inside of me again. And, began to tell him the journey of my faith which accelerated after the time of our running together. I told him the story of God returning me, how faith strengthens me, how it could him, how he could face his older age (56 now) with hope and comfort. He listened, said his faith is gone, commented that he did need a shift. We exchanged e-mails again, and I walked away.

I felt that typical heady, humble rush of hope that happens when I tell someone how lifechanging God can be based upon my own story. Then somewhere in the dairy department, I reminded myself how unlikely it would be for this guy to change. He, in some ways, had already hardwired himself into a certain mode of being, and I knew it too well.

Nonetheless, God does erode, doesn't he?, the walls of soul and heart brick that people construct? I pray for my friend that he can experience the joy, comfort, peace that comes through the belief of Christ. Perhaps there'll be a positive outcome despite the forgotten potatoes.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Five (okay, seven) Little Things that Bring Me Satisfaction or Pleasure

Per Cindy's prompting at Quotidian Light, I've been motivated to post again, after a break in which I've had to focus all of my attention on being a mother. So, here goes!

1. My son's laugh because it comes from his toes and spreads out like rays.

2. Hearing the birds sing on warm winter days like today.

3. Watching my husband's smiling face as he watches one of his favorites: "The Andy Griffith Show."

4. Silence, silence, silence

5. Getting an instant facial steam when I drain freshly boiled pasta in a colander.

6. Rolling down the windows to breathe in the country air as we first arrive and drive down the lane that leads to my parents' tucked away farmhouse way out in the hills.

7. Seeing two women walking and chatting like crazy on the trail or the street.