Playing with poetry

It was a lovely reprieve to take part in Luther Hughes’s workshop, Reaching for Joy last week. Writing memoir has already proven to be hard, rewarding, triggering, and necessary. Luther’s workshop felt like playtime in comparison. I am not a poet, but it’s fun to try it.

The assignment guidelines: start with “it”, a time you made a choice to basically have faith and also include a food.
Some of you may recall this “story” from a blog post in the very beginning of this blog as I drove from Montana to the southern tip of Baja.

Somewhere In Mexico

It was noon
Driving slow, low shoulder, two lane highway
Potholes in the middle
Didn’t see it coming but heard the pop, felt the bump
Damn only sand
It was the only way to go
All alone as far as the eye could see.
A man came along as we tried to understand
Resigned to not panic, only to trust
He tried with his truck and chain to get me unstuck
But fuck
As if from the sky, a bus fell into sight
Angels who looked like farm workers descended and lifted my car
I witnessed a miracle
Then was on my way to the next town to get a taco

Radio Silence

I might be coming out of radio silence. A little over month ago I got stopped in my tracks due to shocking news.

I have been reconciled with the fact that I likely will not have a relationship with my adult daughter in this lifetime. That acceptance has helped me to get on with my life a bit.

But I had held out hope that I might know my grandchildren who I knew for the first two and a half years of their life. It’s been four years since I have seen them. That hope was diminished at the end of January when I learned my daughter has put it her divorce papers that I am not to have contact with my grandchildren. My ex son in law was wanting me to know them again, but my daughter has made sure that will not happen. It’s heartbreaking. It has set me back. I was writing, I haven’t been writing.

I go to the store, someone asks me, “how are those grandkids of yours?” I say, “I don’t know” as my eyes start to water. This person tells me her cancer is back, her husband just beat colon cancer. She is chipper in her brightly colored clothes. My tears are still there, now for her and the gift of witnessing her strength. I tell her so.

On social media someone is showing off their new grandchild. I click away, happy for them while reminded that I do not have that privilege. I instead go searching for an island vacation.

What I know is that this feeling is temporary. I have to be gentle with myself and everyone involved. I will write again, I am writing now.

What I also know is while the family thing hasn’t worked out so well, I have some of the richest, most authentic friendships a person could ask for. I have kids in my life, a couple of them consider me their stand in grandmother. This does not go unnoticed and is not taken for granted. A therapist of mine says if you have one person you can call during your worst times you are rich in friendship. I have several of those “one” persons. I think they know I am that person for them as well.

In telecommunications, radio silence or Emissions Control is a status in which all fixed or mobile radio stations in an area are asked to stop transmitting for safety or security reasons. I believe it has been a safety issue to not be writing. It’s getting safe again.

Love you all, thanks for reading.

Honoring Barry Lopez

Many of you know we lost the legendary Barry Lopez on Christmas Day after his struggle with terminal cancer. For lovers of language, this world and it’s people it is a great loss. My heart hurts for those close to him, his wife and daughters. They have endured much loss this sorrowful year. The Oregon fires up the McKenzie River, left their property charred and them unmoored. They received the midnight knock on the door demanding they leave within minutes. They grabbed the cat and left. The house is damaged but fixable.
On Christmas Eve, this piece was published in LitHub, An Era of Emergencies is Upon Us and We Cannot Look Away. A gift to have Barry’s viewpoint that day.
In an All Things Considered interview, March, 2019, Barry shares some of how his cancer diagnosis changed him and created more empathy, “I imagined in everybody I passed there was some story that they carried with them that would break your heart. So how could you have the temerity to approach that person and say, here’s what’s wrong with you?”
A few days ago, Literary Arts: The Archive Project re-aired an interview with Barry. It’s worth a listen, more than once, to glean all he has for us to contemplate. A grown up is someone who no longer needs supervision, “meaning they know immediately how to act in a way that harms no one and takes care of everybody in so far that is possible. We are in a time where we are desperate for grown-ups, people who have gotten over themselves, to come together and using the power of imagination that each of us has, create a landscape that no one has ever seen before.” Barry Lopez
In Barry’s honor donations may be made to McKenzie River Trust.

A note for you: If you are looking for a way to seek connection, inspiration and a consistent practice of journaling, The Isolation Journals is offering journaling prompts free for ten days beginning January 1st. Click here: https://www.theisolationjournals.com/10-day-challenge

I am off to buy black-eyed peas to cook and serve on New Year’s Day in order to bring good luck for this new year.

Dia de los Muertos, who would you celebrate and what would you cook for them?

The next couple of days, the Mexican culture will celebrate Dia de los Muertos . During the Day of the Dead, Mexican families set up altars in their houses and decorate them with photos, candles, and various objects of their deceased loved ones. Family members come and connect in a spiritual way with their departed family members and offer them gifts. The Marigold flower (Cempazuchitl) is a popular flower that families place on the altars and on the gravesites at this time. Also, food items are placed as ofrendas for the deceased to come back for one night to eat their favorite foods again.
I love this tradition, that it is a celebration, not mournful or sorrowful. If I were Mexican, if my family were gathering with painted faces to cook the favorite foods of some of our dead, and bring them to the altar with photos laced with marigolds, this is who I would celebrate and cook for.
1. Nanoo, my maternal grandmother, would be served biscuits and coffee on a dainty saucer and cup.
2. Matt Miller, a dear friend, who died our senior year, would be served a Krystal hamburger and fries.
3. Daddy, fried corn, corn scrapped from the cob, sautéed in butter and salt and pepper.
4. Tayloe, my high school, college sweetheart, a city club sandwich from Ole Tyme Delicatessen, oh and his mama’s devil’s food cake.
5. Amedee, the elder gentleman I had the honor of living with and caring for, there would be many dishes to choose from as what we were going to eat for our next meal was a main topic. I’d serve him food from House of India. That was his request in his parting words to me just before he died. Then for desert, I’d serve him Kozy Shack rice pudding.
6. Mama, a steak and baked potato.
7. Woosie, Elizabeth, the black woman who raised me, I’d be cooking for days. I’d want to serve her every good meal she cooked for me and my family. For desert, The Joy of Cooking, floating island.
8. Elaine, lifelong friend, we shared many joys and dramas. I’d make her a big jug of sweet tea.

Driving through Idaho (a different kind of place)

My last stop in Idaho was at the Cenex in Salmon, ID. Guns and ammo stores with large signs lined the streets. Huge Trump flags flew outside homes and from backs of oversized pickup trucks.
I ran into the Cenex, which had a True Value hardware store in it, to use the restroom. I was one of the only mask wearers in there. As I waited for the restroom, I peeked in the camping section. A young male employee approached me, not wearing a mask. I backed away as he asked if I needed any help. “I thought you might be looking for your husband, since you are in the fishing and camping section,” he said. “No, no husband, I’m a camper,” I replied. “Oh you are one of the lucky ones, there aren’t many of you,” he smirked.
After a quick visit to the bathroom, I couldn’t walk fast enough out of there.
It is beautiful country, with a sense of fear in the air. As a liberal woman traveling alone, it wasn’t the safest I’ve ever felt. In fact, I felt 100% safer traveling through Baja, Mexico alone.
When my map app announced, welcome to Montana, my tension relaxed, I took a deep breath of relief.
Yesterday, I had an appointment with my favorite chiropractor here in Missoula, Dr. Van Eerden, at Hickory Street Chiropractic Clinic, http://www.hschiro.com/
He really is good, gentle and uses the activator. Our visit was mainly me on the table with him doing visceral manipulation. We talked of Idaho, shared stories that only confirmed my sense of fear driving through there. His son played soccer, thus they found themselves traveling there for games. Ivan’s gentle touch gave my hips some relief. By evening, I was feeling the pain again and exhausted. I have a doctor’s appointment next week to continue the search into what is causing this discomfort.
Meantime, Aranda Bowman LMT, https://www.massagebook.com/Springfield~Massage~Aranda?src=external (highly recommend her) who I saw in Oregon a week ago sent out this Youtube with some self myofascial bodywork. Check it out and take good care of yourself.

Thanks for reading and coming along on the journey.

Need some community tonight? Join in for live storytelling at Tell Us Something, https://www.tellussomething.org/ $10 per ticket. Support the arts, support storytelling.

Pink barn in Idaho with smoke filled skies

I’ll Never Say His Name Again

Life is good when you find the perfect campsite. Stayed last night in the Sawtooth National Forest. I had my own private spot by a babbling brook surrounded by quacking Aspens. Not cell or internet. The smoke is here now though.

Woke up in the night and couldn’t stop thinking of the 45th’s comments about war veterans who died or came back injured. I’ll say this to him:
My father served this country. Two uncles died in war, one was a POW and came back pretty messed up. My brother was sergeant in Vietnam. His friend, Mr. Green Jeans, was killed right before his eyes. He saw things we don’t talk about it.
You call these men losers and suckers! I will never say your name again.

Out of the smoke and into the hot springs

I had planned to drive back to Montana to get a few more items, leaving earlier this week. However, I had to wait and have the van windshield repaired, plus get some bodywork for my back.
Luckily, a friend told me about Crystal Crane Hot springs, https://www.cranehotsprings.com/ in eastern Oregon. Yesterday, I got all camping gear situated and made my way east. It was just the ticket. A new route for me to drive to Montana, seeing new sites. The hot springs helped my back and made for a great night’s sleep. The first overnight in my new, used Toyota Sienna van. Figuring out how to arrange things, so it’s convenient and comfortable. I’ve got some ideas, nothing elaborate, keep it simple. A platform for my inflatable sleeping pad, with space for drawers underneath will be the first project.
I’ll be in Montana until the first week in October. I’ve got no obligations until then. It’s beautiful this time of year in Montana.
Sienna van and I will get in some camping. 🏕
Also, I love my physical therapist in Missoula. Thinking she might work one of her miracles on this back issue.
Next stop will be somewhere in the Sawtooth Mountains, going through Sun Valley, (I’ve never been in this area) all the while watching the fire maps and possible road closures.
See you soon Montana.
Prayers for fire evacuees.