On writing, it’s magic and sharing writing

I love Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings. It’s the perfect size book to keep by my bed or carry in my purse for a possible wait. Eudora was born and lived in Jackson, MS, my home town. Once we were buying underwear at the same time in McRae’s department store. That’s the closest I ever got to her. I was in awe. The old Sears building in downtown Jackson eventually converted to a library, The Eudora Welty Library.

The first chapter of One Writer’s Beginnings evokes a sense of peace, looking back at simpler times, her growing up in a home where reading was like breathing. Eudora reflects, “I learned from the age of two or three that any room in our house, at any time of the day, was there to read in, or to be read to.” I am green with envy, wondering what would my life have been like if reading was encouraged, even a part of our everyday lives growing up. I don’t have any memories of books, of being read to. My introduction to books came in high school, from my older sisters who read Kathleen Woodiwiss, The Flame and the Flower, The Wolf and the Dove. We referred to her books as crotch burners. But I was reading and that got me going.

I was in heaven working at Lemuria bookstore in my late twenties, surrounded by books, overwhelmed with what to read next, meeting and talking with writers who came for readings and signings. Tom McGuane, Tom Robbins, Willie Morris, John Grisham, Jimmy Buffett, Lorri Moore, Tim O’Brien, Rick Bass, Mark Childress, Kaye Gibbons, and Jim Harrison are just some of the writer’s I was blessed to meet. My daughter was lucky to reap the benefits of my time working at Lemuria. Books were what she sleep with, not stuffed animals. I toted the boxes of children’s’ books I had acquired every where I moved to, so she would always have them and could pass them down to her own children. It was somewhat of a relief to hand off those heavy boxes once my twin grandchildren were born.

“It has been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass.” Eudora Welty

This morning I read Chris LaTray’s newsletter, reflecting on the past four years of Presidential office and the new office we are entering. I find him gifted, able to put into words what I am feeling sometimes, a natural wonder. Read and find out for yourself.

I cry at the threat of democracy

I cry at the threat of democracy

I cry that black lives don’t matter

That whites think they are supreme

Democracy was always fragile, if it even existed in my family system

Schedules and decisions were centered around the men, I am a woman

individuality, even if it was shopping, was kept secret

Only certain voices were heard, are heard, some are marginalized, treated as though they never existed or exist now

Human life is not important, being right, being supreme is, mammonism rules

I cry for those who no longer have a voice, whose pleas fall on the ears of those who care but have no power. Those in power say I am too emotional.

Let your voice be heard and begin our return to democracy, power to the people

Just to get it out.

When you’ve made mistakes, done things that would cause others to deem you crazy, but you own up to those mistakes, quit drinking, take full responsibly, keep soul searching, but realize others may have lost faith in you, you don’t drink, you take responsibility and cry. You miss your child, you miss your grandchildren. And since there is not an appropriate way to grieve this, there is not a funeral, I can’t post pictures of my child and grandchildren saying how much I miss them. I write a blog post, just to get it out! Sometimes that’s all there is.

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.

Yellow lilies for solstice

For the shortest, darkest day of the year I share with you beautiful writing from a friend who also moved West from the South.

On The Solstice: Deep Winter Dreams of the Spring to Come by Rick Bass

“I believe they dream of beauty: of the yellow lilies of Easter, and the wild violets and rank mushrooms and pink flesh of trout; of berries, of stones, of antlers, feathers, moss, fire. And fire’s warmth.”

It was a gift to have this be my first read of the day. Hope it is for you as well.

Christmas past, Christmas present

In spite of my dysfunctional family, several of my early Christmas memories are magical. Yes, our privileged white place in the South made some of those memories magic. There was the Christmas party held by First Federal Savings and Loan in which my daddy at one time was president. It was festive, drinks were poured, Christmas music blared, attire was dressy and Santa came in with a bag full of presents for each child. I can’t imagine who was sober enough to drive us home, but here I am writing this blog.
One of my aunts (once removed) Sybil and her husband, put on a Christmas Eve party each year that was not to be missed. Although, one year daddy got too drunk early in the evening for us to go. It as a sad night. I remember, my older brother trying to make for some kind of normalcy or magic. He took me for a drive to see all the Christmas decorations. Some neighborhoods were known for putting on a show. Some streets each house had a tree lit with white lights. Another street might have a tree lit with all colored lights at each house. One street had large decorations with twelve different houses representing the the twelve days of Christmas starting with a partridge in a pear tree and ending with twelve drummers drumming. All of it was quit pretty. I loved it.
Back to the party we missed one year. Valet parking was offered as we drove up to Aunt Sybil’s house that was lit up with class. Each of us four children wore our new Christmas dresses and outfit. After entering, my parents made their way to the open bar where a cheerful black bartender said, “yes sir, Mr. Scott coming right up, Merry Christmas to you.” I would find the nearest cousin and we made our way to the buffet table full of holiday food, the makings for roast beef sandwiches with a horseradish sauce to be downed by eggnog and a perfectly decorated sugar cookie. There were a couple of bedrooms that the children congregated in for games or to watch a holiday show on tv. Santa appeared at this party as well. He entered the front door bellowing, hohoho. All the children gathered round to hear him call each name and receive our present. Each night ended with sparklers being handed out. Children ran outside to light them, dancing around or trying to spell a word with the moving light.
Christmas morning, we had to stand in the hallway until given the OK to go into the living room where the tree was surrounded by a pile of presents, usually one thing for each child was not wrapped, that was from Santa. It was all a flurry. Then over the neighborhoods and through State St. to granddaddy’s house we go, where brunch was served and cousins gathered to count the dollars in our envelopes that granddaddy had placed on our plates. And then Christmas lunch at either our house or Aunt Wilkie’s. Cousin Wilkie, a year older, and I would show off our presents to each other having lined them up all in a row.
Is it a wonder that by the time I had a family of my own, my daughter and her step dad, we opted for a quieter Christmas. I’d roast an eye of the round with horseradish sauce while Christmas carols played in the background. After dinner we’d walk a couple of blocks to the historic Masonic cemetery where neighbors gathered to sing Christmas carols by candlelight and Santa would appear from somewhere among the gravesites with a present for each child. At home, we snuggled by the fire, each getting to open one present before bed. The next morning we’d lazily open presents savoring each one, one at a time. Christmas brunch or lunch was shared with my sister, her husband and son. It was all fairly sane and calm.
Christmas has not been the same since my daughter’s step dad and I divorced twenty years ago. There has been no semblance of a family Christmas since then. I wouldn’t want the Christmas’s of my youth with all the chaos but I’d like something in between. Maybe a quiet morning, then a visit with my grandchildren watching them unwrap the presents I have brought them, something they have wished for.

What I know and what I’m guessing

Here’s what I know, the rest I’m guessing at.

It’s been four and a half years since I have seen or heard from my daughter, fact.
She and I have struggled in our relationship since her teenage years. The struggle intensified when I divorced her step dad after an 11 year relationship. He was a good step dad. I stayed in the marriage longer than I should have because of that. He was a good man, but our marriage wasn’t. We both had a part in that. He and his infidelities, me choosing to stay with him in spite of that. Me drinking to deal, becoming angry, sometimes showing rage that my daughter unfortunately witnessed. It sucked for her. I have days of wishing hard for a redo or an opportunity for understanding and forgiveness.

I’ve read of relationships either strengthening or ending during this Covid time. In the beginning, I thought surely my daughter will want to connect, with all the fear this disease has evoked. Time passed, I got wind she was going through a divorce. As more time passed, the message was clear. She will not be reaching out. She has me blocked on all forms of communication. Covid will not be bringing us together. Nor will it be bringing me together with most of my family of origin. My sisters had a summer visit in the same town I lived in this summer. I didn’t hear from them. I learned on social media one sister has a new grandchild. The message is clear, for whatever reasons, some I am responsible for, divorcing, drinking and suicide attempt our family won’t be coming together. I suppose some things are unforgivable. Sometimes we are seen and defined by our worst actions.

I’m guessing, my family has deemed me crazy, unforgivable, toxic while the diagnosis of varying mental illnesses have certainly been tossed about amoung them. Since we don’t talk, I’m just guessing.
Some days, most days, I realize I have a pretty great life. I’m content really, living in a town I have loved since I discovered it. I’m healthy, have such dear friends, I’m pursuing creative outlets. I’m sober, I’m seeking, will never stop seeking and growing hopefully. I’m not pining to be in a relationship, nor do I feel I need another person to complete me or take care of me.
Some days I miss my daughter so badly, it kinda messes up the entire day. But those days are fewer and they will always happen. I am a mother. I miss my child.
As Dr. Joshua Coleman mentions in his talk here, I chose to feel the pain instead of avoiding it or pushing it away.

Thanks for reading a blog that started as a travel blog turned into a variety of blog posts, favorite shows, podcasts, writings, great places to donate, businesses to support, sometimes it’s sharing the journey of family estrangement. I feel it is an important topic to bring to light and discuss openly.

From Scientific America: “Family estrangement is one of my most requested topics from listeners and readers coping with the loss and isolation they feel when someone cuts family ties. In a way, the grief of family estrangement can be more painful—or at least more complicated—than the grief over a loved one who has died. When a family member voluntarily walks away, you may miss them and feel confused, ashamed, frustrated, and disappointed, especially if the hope of reunification is dashed.”

Slaying dragons in your sleep

Pressing question: Do you ever wake up, your covers are strewn all over the place? Do you wonder, what dragons did you slay in your sleep last night? Are they gone now?
Lately, that’s been the case. In fact, I’ve tucked blankets in tight and it still happens.
A couple of months ago, the doc had me wear a monitor on my finger at home while I slept. The reading did show I am not breathing well in my sleep, not getting good oxygen. Hence, maybe that’s why I’m a lazy daytime person. I often feel like I want to go back to sleep during the day. A follow appointment with a sleep doctor is coming up in a couple of weeks. Probably need a Cpap machine. Hey, if it gives me better sleep and more energy why not.
I’ve alway prided myself on being a good sleeper and feel for those who can’t get to sleep or wake up at all hours unable to get back to sleep. I’m sleeping but sometimes that is all I want to do. Yes, I am content, more so than I have been in a long time. So it’s not a depression or anxiety. It does feel like possible oxygen deprivation. Curious where the doc will go with this and if energy will be revived.
Woke up thinking about sleep today. Hope you slept well. Time for a nap!

Featured art print by https://www.storypeople.com/

Love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us. Anne Lamott

“Hope is not about proving anything. It’s about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us.” ~@ANNELAMOTT

This holiday season, I’m believing it Anne. Holidays have become so different from what I was brought up to believe they are all about. Lots of decorations, lots of presents, parties, food, family and sometimes drunk daddies. All of that did feel magical at times, the anticipation of Santa and what he would bring was real and exciting. No matter how old I get, I can feel that on Christmas Eve, as ridiculous of an idea that it is. Maybe I kinda like that feeling for a moment though. Is it possible that there is magic, is it possible a gift will be left tomorrow, even if it is a phone call from a loved one?
Even though we did have a pile of presents before us as we entered the living room on Christmas morning, I don’t remember what the presents were, except for the sting ray bike. I still have a picture of me on it. We did some miles together and made some memories. A few fond Christmas memories stick with me: the year we had children from the orphanage over to make cookies and the times we visited the orphanage after that. Our time with orphans was a project my mama was involved in through the Junior League or church. I’m not sure which one, but it was her duty to society none the less. I loved it. I also love the memory of running around Christmas eve day delivering presents of baked goods or the like to friends and neighbors. And Christmas Eve service at church was always calming with the candles lit and carols being sung.
Aside from those memories, it all felt like a lot of show. Once I moved to Montana in the 80’s, my older brother lived here in Missoula as well. Christmas Eve, we shared a meal then geared up for a cross country ski at the neighborhood golf course. Silently sliding across the glistening moonlit snow ❄️ I felt warmth, peace and love.
I have a little bit of Christmas in me this year for whatever reason. I won’t be buying any presents. I will be hiking with friends, gathering greenery to decorate with. Some baking will happen. Baked goods will be delivered to dear friends. There will be warmth, peace and love. Wishing you the same.

For my grandchildren

My Grandson

He named me.
Before that, the first time I saw him he had that wisdom in his eyes.
His head was strong and may it always be.
He would run, I mean run to me when I opened the door,
Eyes bright with delight and a giggle that would melt a heart.
If he spotted me through the window, before I got to the door,
The both of us could not get to the door fast enough.

I wonder, will I see that smile, hear his laugh, feel his hug.
Does he want to share that, will he want to share that?
Will there be any glimmer of remembrance?

Are books by your bed, are you outdoors quite often, walking among the trees or zooming past them as you pedal fast?
What are your interest, I’d love to know?
Do you feel protective of your sister even if she bothering you when you’d rather not be bothered?
How is school, do you enjoy learning, making friends?
Will I get to know these things about you?
I love you.

My Granddaughter

You learned pretty quick to take up for yourself when your brother tried to overpower.
In the double stroller, you were delighted to be behind your brother, able to reach up and grab at his hair to make him squeal. I have a picture to prove it.

I am proud, proud of the way you are determined, even if you have to be loud about it sometimes.

And I beamed when someone said, “she looks like you” and when I saw you dressed in the clothes I had saved from your mother’s babyhood.

So peaceful were our quiet times together, snuggling, reading, figuring out a puzzle or singing itsy bitsy spider. 

Tell me now, do you like to draw, read, do crafts or would you much rather be getting on your bike, adventuring outside or a little of  both. What do you enjoy most about school, do you want to know more about numbers or words or science?

By the way, do you remember me? I do hope to know you again someday.  
I love you.