Remembering my parents’ graveside military services as the months progress toward first anniversaries. A year ago, plus a few weeks, my mother entered the hospital, and then into hospice care for two months before her death. Father followed her perhaps ten weeks later.
Two years previous, on September 30, my youngest sister died. She also was in the military. I expect that her son Jesse received the flag from her funeral.
Actually, all three memorial services were filled with crowds of family, friends, townspeople, many stories, much laughter, and overflowing love. As the concrete memories of those events fade in the aloneness of the years that follow, such reminders are blessings.
My remaining sister mentioned in a recent letter the memory of our mother and father sneaking off from the family room for a while to spend time alone with each other, when my sister was young. A reminder of the happiness of our family life and growing up in our family.
I recently woke up from a dream (this week, I think) having just seen my (much younger) mother walking out of and away from the woodworking shop that Al and I are building in the back yard, this summer (and autumn and most likely winter, also). Mom was wearing her favorite red t-shirt with the embroidery on it, which she herself had added, and her blue shorts, and when she looked at me, she was smiling. And so, with the continuing loss, there is also continuing joy.
memorial service programs
their photo montage
folded flags, spent cartridges
their ashes…my shattered heart
I am discovering all over again how much writing about the losses in my life helps with the healing process. Happy memories surface, again, and I can think about our shared past…and the many years mostly not shared. All is understood, now, and where there is understanding, there is forgiveness. I look forward to that, whether it’s literal or only a figure of speech.
The tanka practice in week three of the workshop continues. This is one of the practice poems that I think I will not submit to the workshop leader; it feels like just an extended haiku. I like the flower, though. Seems as though I need a photograph, or at least a picture in my mind’s eye, in order to get started. And I’d always thought that I’m not a “visual” person.
brown on gold petals
poppy flowers bask
in the summer sun
Beginning on Monday, 11 September, and continuing for four weeks, I am taking part in an online poetry workshop: Introduction to Japanese Poetry. It is a “hands-on”, writing workshop, which I expect to enjoy immensely. I’ve a book by the instructor, Naomi Wakan: Haiku: One Breath Poetry, which I have put aside for the time being, while I am working the workshop exercises.
I enjoyed the prompts. They were not earthshaking, but they served their purpose. The subjects were predictable, but the techniques/methods for addressing the prompts were varied. I was able to bypass the techniques I needed to and choose from alternatives that fit me better. One thing that I tried to do was to avoid responding to every (or every other) assignment with a poem. I think I got away with only 10% being poetry, and the only original-to-the-project poem the Acrostic for Day 13. Since I usually write 3- to 7- or 10-line poems, 16 lines stretched beyond my customary word count.
What I missed with this course, and what made Writing 201: Poetry so rewarding, was the active push to community and interaction that came with the private WordPress form for that particular class, starting and ending at the same time, so that there was a coordination of activities. The #everydayinspiration tag in the WP Reader helped, as did finding bloggers with whom I am familiar who were also beginning at approximately the same time. As my schedule eased, I reached out to a few more, some of whom will end up on my Reading list for this particular blog. (I have a number of blogs, each with a different general focus and tone.)
I also had fun with the Mine Your Own Material assignment, where I chose as my unifying subject “Food”. I located a couple of favorite recipes (a breakfast omelet and a gluten-free cake-in-a-cup). Also, I pulled out an old science fiction short story that I wrote in 2005 for a 48-hour short-story-writing competition; a light romance and a consideration of variations of plants that should be first grown on community/agricultural space habitat. For having been written in two days, I thought it didn’t turn out too badly, considering that I hardly ever write short stories, and have only had one published (in the previous century … in a limited edition anthology … not in the United States).
An “Aha” Moment
In between my first and second jobs out of college (computer programmer and computer operations), I lived with a fellow for about seven months, when he graduated from college at the end of summer school and joined the U.S. Army (his number in the draft lottery was 038). During that time, I was going through my notebooks and boxes of papers, time after time, looking for my senior philosophy paper, of which I was particularly proud. I could not find it. What killed the relationship was my discovery that he had taken my paper, presumably retyped it, and then handed it in as his senior physics paper. Evidently he did well, or he would have been panicking about having to (re)write the paper at the last minute or face not graduating on time.
I was a help to him in his adjustment to having to go out and live in the world, as I provided a structure for him that served him well until his death (late winter or early spring of 2014). But as I was writing the blog post about making my own decisions, it dawned on me that I had never forgiven him, even though my actions toward him were loving actions. I refused ever to see him again, finally, some time after his discharge, and suggested that he not phone me anymore, and he made his way successfully in the world, generally. The “aha” moment was when I recognized that recalling him in the process of writing about that particular time period in my life evoked a sudden, powerful rage.
I think that I want to think about that for a while. I think that I over reacted and that he was right to believe that I would not be understanding about his appropriation of my work.
As I continue blogging
As I continue blogging, I plan to continue being open to what I may learn about myself and others. And how I feel at a particular moment about a situation, a person, or a group of people, does not have to govern how I will act or react. It has not in the past. I think that’s probably a good thing.
Years from now
Having lost to death seven close relatives within the past eleven months has affected how I feel about planning on/for continuity in our lives. My writing and photographs are on the Intenet, an ephemeral medium. They will not continue to exist past the funds that pay monthly or yearly for my blog space and domains. As I have always written for myself and for the now, I will bear that in mind as I continue. I write because I am a writer, and I trust that those who also might/should look at my photos, art, or writing, will find it. If not, there always will someone else to write, to see the world as effectively as I do, albeit from their own perspective. We are as much or more a collective being, we humans, than individual. Nothing needful is lost.
Perhaps not so much great “reads” in every case. I do enjoy looking at photographs of the out-of-doors and the creatures that live there.
Belinda Grover Photography: Belinda Grover has a particularly nice photograph of a hoverfly on a plant leaf here. I love taking photographs of the hoverflies in my garden, and I was taken with hers.
I am fascinated with the works of art at Golnaran Art, and have been for years! On this page: “There is no fear to leave, when you are ready to get lost.”
I cannot leave out Mara Eastern’s blog. Her photos in particularly set me to writing off-the-cuff poems to go with them. I strive to restrain myself. But you might take a look at the comments for this blog entry. (My complete poem is here.)
And finally, I have very much enjoyed the poems at Paul Webb’s Portfolio. And, his blog is Oudeis2005 on WordPress.
These photos are from my personal album. My parents took a lot photographs throughout their lifetimes. As we left home for college, we each received a large photo album with a copy of every photograph that included us. Mine is on the bookshelf just to my right as I sit in the front room. This first group is photos taken the first winter in our “new” house. They started out building a basement house, adding the upper story (which my mother designed and drew up the blueprints for) before I finished grade school. My mother’s father took endless correspondence courses, and she and her father took architecture courses together; she also worked at the hardware store until she left for college.
In the summertime, Mother would send Dad and me out of the house, so that she could take care of the younger children and get housework done. (I was an active, precocious child.) I enjoyed going fishing, learning how to remove the scales from the fish, learning how to mark a trail through the “woods” in the pastures along the river, and going out into the fields with my father and his brothers when they went hunting for pheasants. (When I reached the proper age for such, I was the only girl in the school-sponsored Hunter Education Program.) The table at which I am sitting in that last photograph above is a picnic table that my parents built to serve as a kitchen table in the basement. (Mother’s father had a lumber yard, back in Iowa, and she was really handy at planning and building shelves, bedsteads, daybeds and whatever else needed doing. Together, she and I built the furniture for my first apartment after college and refinished some pieces that we picked up at the Salvation Army Store.)
Three more photographs. First is the “gathering of the Wicker clan” for Father’s 100th birthday party, the day after Mother’s memorial service in the home town. The second is a photo that Dad had taken to send to Mom while they were in the service (Army and Navy, respectively). The third is a portrait photo of Mother in uniform.
For this day of “Finding Everyday Inspiration”, I am once again “mining my own material”. “Right-of-Ways” was written in response to a Poetry 101 Rehab prompt (March 2015). The Google Map encompasses various places I traveled to, whether by train, plane, bus or car, or in the 60s and early 70s and short of cash, hitchhiking. As the tenor of this country’s mood has become tense, concerning the Dreamers and DACA, I recall my own dreams and the often treacherous freedoms of my childhood and early adulthood.
Rivers and railroad right-of-ways
were the trails of breadcrumbs
that led me away from home
to adventures in long hot days
of childhood’s summers.
They tempted me to run across the tracks,
then follow until the railroad bridge
spanned a river. Tree branches overhung
a bend where I could fish and dive and swim,
sheltered from the rapid currents.
Later, because one cannot hike or swim
through all the years of growing up,
I saved my allowance to travel the right-of-way.
A commuter train would take me to the city
with its wonders of a Five-and-Dime with escalators.
The right-of-ways felt right. They
ran both ways: between home’s safety
and a world of new sounds and hotdogs with
mustard and tall buildings and people
who didn’t all talk or look like us.
Sometimes railroad right-of-ways
divide a village into two. The ‘right’ and
‘wrong’ divide themselves from one another.
The right-of-way can turn into a wall of
self-defense against humiliation, others’ pride.
We have need of right-of-ways, the trains and
rivers that guide us, move us from traps and tears
to dreams and possibilities. Roadways not barred,
right-of-ways that offer open passage
to wherever we are called to become.
Favorite Recipes and a Short Story, from previous years of blogging
Eggs and Orange Juice, September 2014
I like starting out the day with an omelette, a couple times a week. Sometimes they’re simple, and sometimes they’re more involved.
This morning’s omelette consisted of three eggs, two slices of colby-jack cheese, a small handful of Dole chopped salad greens, two sliced baby bella mushrooms, and two small celery stocks with leaves from the very center of the bunch. I cooked them in butter, the greens first, then the well-beaten eggs, and the cheese scattered across the top. Seasoning: generous portions of ground cumin and ground white pepper over all. (I’m not at all fond of salt.)
One time-saving practice is using paper plates and bowls. There is a limit to how much time I want to spend washing dishes. Serving meals on paper plates atop the Corelle plates of corresponding size simplifies cleanup.
Add one egg and mix thoroughly. Stir in the rest of the ingredients one at a time and continue stirring until batter is smooth.
3 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
Put the cup into the microwave and heat on High power for 3 minutes. Remove the cup promptly and turn out the cake onto a plate.
Variation 1. Using brownie mix that calls for added oil and milk, in place of the sugar and cocoa powder add equivalent amounts of flour. [If you use coconut flour, add an extra Tbsp of milk (or water) for each Tbsp of coconut flour.]
Variation 2. If you have problems with gluten: I use gluten-free flour (or brownie mix) for my own cake in a cup. When my baking shelf is fully stocked, I use 1 Tbsp each of white rice, brown rice, tapioca, and coconut flours.
A Food-Centered Short Story
Written for a 48-hour short story competition in 2005
“By Any Other Name”
a short story by Liz Bennefeld
Elaine sat at the desk, telephone to her ear, nodding in response to the speaker at the other end of the circuit and throwing in an “I see” during the occasional breaks. She hated roses—especially red ones—and the stink that came with them. Useless plants! Let in just one rose with the discretionary planting allotments! There would be fifty different varieties of ornamental roses in the space habitat, and there wouldn’t be a useful plant in the bunch. Even though she knew her hatred of the plants harkened back to early childhood, when she hadn’t been allowed to plant her own little herbs in the only space available, in amongst her grandmother’s prized rose bushes, she could not overcome the distaste the memories brought up. Continue reading →
Rather than poll my readers (hi, Mara!), I turned to the alternatives listed for Day 15 on the Resource Page and selected three related suggestions:
Tell us about a book that opened your eyes when you were young.
Describe a life-changing experience with a book.
When I was in grade-school, I read “In Hiding”, a novella by Wilmar H. Shiras, and later, Children of the Atom, based on “In Hiding” and two other subsequent stories. (Our village librarian knew that I was into science fiction novels, and I got a steady supply from her and from the regional bookmobile from second grade on up.) The child who was the central character in the book had interests beyond his age and had developed self-protective practices that helped him maintain a fairly normal front to the rest of the world. The novel deals with his finding other children like him and gradually forming community with them and beginning the process of integrating with society.
Because I found it difficult to communicate with peers, with few interests in common, I started developing some of those techniques as a camouflage. That is, I pretty much quit talking to people in general, outside of my family, except for librarians, who could be counted on to provide me with reading material beyond my grade level. I also shadowed a couple of students in my class who seemed to have no other friends, and that gave the three of us a group to be part of: to sit together during school events and to walk with, going from one classroom to the next. I don’t think I formed any friendships as such until my last two years in college. Almost none of those “took”, but at least I knew and was known by a fair number of people. As I look back, I don’t think I was quite so invisible during my college years as I had thought at the time. I still wasn’t paying much attention to anything outside my head.
Another thing that Shiras’ stories and others taught me was to start making decisions about my own life, and not just follow the path of least controversy. In college, lacking only two courses to complete minors in chemistry and mathematics, I started an English major the summer leading into my junior year, and the summer leading into my senior year, I began a philosophy major. The philosophy department arranged for me to take one of the required courses by independent study, so that I would graduate on time. My parents had been set on my becoming a scientist (and making a lot of money with a major corporation). My changes in coursework did not go down well, but since I had previously arranged with my chemistry advisor to have him talk with my parents about my decision, should that become necessary, I prevailed. But had to borrow more money, my senior year, than I’d planned on to pull it off.
Anyway, Shiras provided a “role model” for me that made me comfortable moving through society without more than minimal interaction. After I ended my corporate career to work freelance, I began to meet more people with similar interests. That was really good, being able to have conversations with folks. Talk about almost anything. Sometimes, still, I don’t find the right words to communicate what I see in my mind, but that also doesn’t bother me so much anymore.
Where do you like to read?
When I was very young, I liked to climb from the top of the bookshelf into the casement of the window and hide behind the curtains to read. Ours was a basement house in the early years, and so I could look out the window at ground level. Later, I learned how to open the window from the inside and slide the screen out, so that I could disappear into the horse pasture just beyond our back fence. The village was not well lit at night, and on the other side of the pasture’s windbreak, to the west, I see the sky clearly, the moon (I drew maps) and the constellations (I drew maps). Lovely escape into another world!
This morning, 7 September 2017, I awoke after eight hours of sleep (or more). I’d practically fallen into bed, last night, before the sun had set. Exhausted, I think. I had fallen asleep towards the end of the afternoon, was awakened by hungry puppies, and did not really come alert, again, afterwards.
Wednesday was a scattered day. I awakened without the alarm, as usual, at 8:30 o’clock or a little after, let the Scampers outside, took my fasting BG test, fed the Scampers, and, picking up my point-and-shoot camera, took the Scampers outside, again. The temperature was in the high 40s °F. There were no open flowers in the wildflower garden, other than the Plains Coreopsis, and so we went back inside to nap (the Scampers), make coffee (for Al), and find something to eat (my breakfast).
I ate, brought coffee to Al, who was still in bed, and settled in to read the news and drink my first cup of Toddy coffee of the day (homemade cold-brew coffee concentrate diluted with whole milk). The Scampers napped. We went outside again at a little after 10:00 o’clock, and the Scampers raced around the yard while I took photographs. The sun was out, the temperature had risen a bit, and there were insects to photograph. Oddly, a lot of them stopped to pose for the camera!
Meanwhile, Al got boards measured and trimmed for the morning’s task of installing the soffits on the south side of the in-progress woodworking shop building in the back yard. I get the tall ladder, so that I have something to hold onto. This project has been an exercise, not just physically, but also in dealing with my dislike of heights. I continued to take photographs, off and on, while Al trimmed the next boards we were to put into place.
After lunch, we went to the mall, where I got my six-week haircut. The salon is being remodeled, and so everything was set up in half of the salon space. I am certain that exposure to the various chemicals quite near to me contributed to my fatigue and breathing problems. Upon leaving the mall, we stopped at the grocery to pick up some essentials (lots of meat, forgot to buy more milk), and then went home, again. I took a nap while Al went out to do more chores, and I ended up in the gazebo for a while before I made a sandwich for supper, drank another cup of Toddy coffee, and went to sleep, again.
Mostly, I write short verse. What SFPA refers to as “Dwarf” poetry (10 lines or fewer). Writing a longer poem than usual would qualify, I think, as playing with the word count. On a whim, I also upended habit by employing a different technique and structure, as well as a change of topic. This was written on a whim, once through, so please forgive any fumbling in the writing.
Lapse Into Winter Sanity
Trees grow along the road
Hiding fields and gardens
In shade and shadows
Safe from brutal winds
Aside the bales of hay
Lurk deer and cattle, mingled
Snug behind the thick, dried straw
Open to the warm midmorning sun
Winter snows pile up
Inside the windbreaks
Leaves insulate foundations
Last service by dormant trees
Peace covers the countryside
As the winter wears on, isolating
Sleeping towns and villages
Spared floods and fear and fools
Today, express your opinion on a topic or a piece of artwork. This is your opportunity to comment on something you’re passionate about, or review a piece of entertainment that you love or despise. | You can approach this assignment in your own style and preferred format, and write about work in any genre or medium that speaks to you.
This assignment has presented a conundrum. A discontinuity. Critique and review are not the same thing, nor is a critical review or comments on an object of passion or entertainment. In the Resources section for this course, I read the alternative, “Offer your perspective on a topic of your choice (from politics to public education, from feminism to the environment, or any other topic you’re passionate about).” I wonder if we’re just asking, Do you feel strongly enough about some subject to speak about it?
According to the online Cambridge Dictionary, passionate is defined as “having very strong feelings or emotions”. I would go so far as to say that I have convictions. A conviction is defined as “a firmly held belief or opinion”; synonyms include “idea, stance, thoughts, persuasion, article of faith,” &c. I think that convictions translate more directly into decisions and actions, in contrast to passion, which I associate with reactions, rather than decisions, and less objectively focused with regard to consequences.
I don’t know why, but an incident…a couples questionnaire that my husband and I filled out during premarital counseling, required in order to marry in the church of our choice. The instrument was designed to analyze the family of origin in terms of structure and power. My husband’s family was categorized as rigid and authoritarian, while my environment was described as chaotic anarchy. And so, my opinions are my own and closely held, but I believe that I would be uncomfortable at finding myself among other people like me.