Sunday, May 31, 2009

One Single Impression -- Denouement

letting go of the denouement

too many hours
for the denouement:
all the knots untangled
loose threads
woven neatly
bound with silk ribbons
pink and gold
and a card

May 30, 2009

I remember when I first heard the word denouement in high school. I loved the smooth French sounds, the soft ending of the word. I loved its meaning even more than its sound. The denouement is my favorite point of every novel, where all the little pieces of the puzzle are explained, all the relationships sorted out, and the story is finally put to rest. Problem is, I expected life to be like that, to have that moment, when all the story lines are laid to rest, all the questions answered.

Carolyn G. Heilbrun, professor of English at Columbia University and writer of mysteries under the name Amanda Cross, wrote the following in her work Writing a Woman's Life:
"We women have lived too much with closure: 'If he notices me, if I marry him, if I get into college, if I get this work accepted, if I get that job' -- there always seemed to loom the possibility of something being over, settled, sweeping clear the way for contentment. This is the delusion of a passive life. When hope for closure is abandoned, when there is an end to fantasy, adventure for women will begin."
I think however, this false desire for closure lies in many men as well as women. Heilbrun herself, in the end was unable to let it go, and seeking the ultimate closure ended her own life.

I have found in my own life, that just when I imagine my story is winding down and the denouement is upon me, that something new and fresh falls from the sky -- sometimes scary, sometimes sad, sometimes difficult, but often extraordinarily exciting and challenging.

For more poems on the prompt "denouement" check out One Single Impression.

Friday, May 29, 2009

unsolicited advice

Bufford (foreground) likes to reach out and pat my wrist while I work.

Oscar (background) withholds his opinions of my writing, he just likes the warmth of the computer and light.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"wonder of wonders...

...miracles of miracles" -- I called the plumbers and they came within three hours! The drip -- the one that kept me awake in the night -- is now gone.

Little things make a difference. Like tackling and completing a small cleaning project that has needed to be done for months. Or getting more medicine inside the cat than outside him.

Sunshine helps.

So does the sight of thousands of tiny volunteer maple trees, their fresh new leaves with their slightly reddish tint poking up through the unmown lawn.

Were we to leave the lawn alone it would transform into a dense thicket of maple. I know because six years ago, the last time the big maple spun out so many seeds, I convinced my husband to leave a 2' by 12' strip as my "experimental tree farm."

I love living in a place where nature is so bountifully fecund. If we were to leave this place, forest would swallow it up totally within a decade.

So the process of strip-mining and "reclamation" must be horrifically damaging, because, ten years later most reclaimed strip-mines are still sterile grass, holding the forests at bay.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


It's that "I don't have any right to complain about my life, but everything feels just a little bit off" sensation. It's a mild (REALLY mild) version of post-traumatic shock, after stepping back from the mine field that is my parents' life.

It's the sudden full force crashing return of all my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, after their inexplicable absence in California -- going from being able to hop out of bed or chair at a moments notice to avert disaster to requiring my walker to make it to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

It's the "I have this really wonderful project (the mural for Southeast's Whitesburg campus) that I'm excited about starting, but I have to wait around for two weeks until the supplies arrive;" coupled with "I've finished all the prep for summer school classes two weeks ahead of time -- now what do I do?"

It's the "I'm so glad my cat (Booger) is better, but now I have to figure out how to get him to sit still for 100 ml of subcutaneous fluids twice a day for the rest of his life."

It's the aching desire to write, but the inability to marshal my thoughts in any coherent fashion.

It's an amorphous miasma that clings like our suddenly hot humid air; an undefined, vague, corrupting malaise.

It's time for BED!!!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

One Single Impression -- Dropped

all I could think of this week was all the various phrases we have with the word "dropped" in it. Turns out that there are quite a lot of them, for example: "dropped a dime," "dropped names," "dropped a load," etc. Below is my feeble attempt at humor.

When he dropped the hint
she dropped a stitch.
She didn't like the glint
in his eye, or the hitch
if they dropped the ball
on their plans for the mall.

Sunday May 24, 2009

For other poems on the theme "dropped" see One Single Impression.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

my mother's beautiful roses

roses 2

My mother has always grown spectacular roses. These days, the bushes she planted decades ago are maintained by a professional gardener who comes twice a month. But they still fill her yard with sumptuous color and heady fragrances.

Front door with roses

Monday, May 18, 2009

"card from California" part 3

We survived Sunday on our own. Jennifer had the whole day off, so I was in charge from Saturday at 7:00 PM until Monday at 10:30 AM. It went fairly smoothly. I can really see how my mother has deteriorated mentally, however. She exhibits signs of obsessive behavior, and speaks disjointedly about things that make sense only to her. Often utterly unconnected with the flow of activity around her. She alternates between bemoaning the ways in which her capacities are failing, to refusing to acknowledge that her judgment is in any way impaired. She speaks all the time of how frequently she falls (dozens of times in the last few years, often with very serious consequences), yet, when one asks her to slow down or take care so that she doesn't get hurt, she denies that there is any possibility that she will fall and get hurt. She "explains" away the serious falls as unusual and happening only because of extraordinary circumstances and the interference of others. When reminded that her last fall (that sent her to the ER) a couple of weeks ago was when she was alone while my brother was in another room working with my dad, she suggests that my brother was influencing through some type of remote control making her fall.

It's all very sad. Unfortunately, short of tying her down in bed, the chances are she will continue to fall, and continue to end up in the hospital. We can prevent her from putting my father in danger, but completely prevent her from injuring herself.

My father now recognizes me, which, it turns out, makes things work more smoothly.

I finally got to the public library to use an updated computer. So I can include some photographs.

The wonderful care giver, Jennifer, and my parents in the living/dining room of their home.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

One Single Impression -- Tolerance

Spending time here in California with my parents (mom is 86 and dad is 97), has made me reflect on how the personal privacy that we take for granted as Americans erodes as we get older until ultimately it slips away entirely. Doors get removed from their hinges. Others keep track of all our bodily functions. In the end we only get to be alone in our dreams.

the unbearable
becomes mundane, stretching our
tolerance limits.

May 16, 2009

For other wonderful poems on this prompt see One Single Impression.
My apologies to everyone, my parents' ancient computer (I've decided that 1 year in computer life is equal to 10 years in human life, so this computer is 100 years old -ha,ha!) keeps locking up every time I try to write comments on other people's blogs. I've been reading everyone's poems and they are wonderful, I just can't get the computer to stay focused long enough to post comments!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"card from California" part 2

I forget when I am away from California how omnipresent the sunshine is. I did not appreciate the continuous sunshine when I was growing up here. I would pray unsuccessfully for clouds in the summer time. After all the rain we had in Kentucky recently, the sunshine is welcome, but I also appreciate the rampantly verdant foliage of Kentucky more.

My father sometimes seems to know who I am, but most of the time does not.

I wonder would it be worse for him to understand that it is his daughter wiping his ass, or to continue to view me as just another in a line of care workers.

My parents care worker, Jennifer, is a bright cheerful woman from the Philipines. She is very competent and caring. She has "adopted" my parents as she does not have any family of her own, and calls them "mommy" and "daddy." This I suppose contributes to my father's lack of understanding who I am, which does not bother me in itself. But I have become concerned that Jennifer herself is blurring the lines of reality, and forgetting that her kinship is fictive not real.

Friday, May 15, 2009

random musings

Why does fresh fruit and vegetables grown in California cost more here in California that they do in Kentucky?

As an obese woman I was painfully aware today, that there were no fat people at the upscale mall stores like Whole Foods, Macy's, Williams Sonoma, and Crate & Barrel. Every one was skinny. Later when I went to K-Mart, everyone was overweight. A social class correlation if I ever saw one.

How can people live in a house for 54 years and not have any comfortable chairs? Okay, they have one, but that's my dad's chair, where he has to keep his feet elevated. Today's excursion included a quest for some seat cushions to make some of my parents chairs more tolerable to my back.

The mood here in California, in the midst of a fiscal crisis, reminds me the mood in New York City in 1974 when the city was endanger of financial default. That happened to be the year that The Taking of Penhelm 123 was on the best seller list, and I read it during the few days that I was in New York. The mood of that book fit the mood in NYC at that time. I'm intrigued that some one has done a remake of that movie now.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"card from california" part 1

I arrived at San Francisco International Airport at 7:20 PM, Wednesday May 13. It was, as Walt Kelly's Pogo used to say "Friday the 13th come on a Wednesday." The air travel went smoothly, but once on the ground I was my usual bumbling self and things went slightly, but not irretrievably awry.

I had reserved a car with Avis. I've always wanted to rent from Avis, ever since they began their "We Try Harder" campaign in the mid-1960's. When I was in high school, Avis ran a promotion that involved giving away buttons that said "we try harder" in dozens of languages. Teens then collected those much the way that today's teens collect those brightly colored rubbery bracelets.

I signed the papers and headed for my car -- a cute, bright red (my favorite car color) Chevy Aveo. I piled the luggage in the trunk. Loaded my self in the front seat. And turned on the key. All hell broke loose. That is if "all hell" means loud honking sounds and lights flashing. I quickly turned the key off, but the noise and lights didn't stop -- at least not right away. I checked everything I could think to check and tried again. Same result -- horrible noise and flashing lights. And acute embarrassment. After a third try, mortified, I locked my stuff in the car and returned to the counter for assistance.

The very kind agent who had done my paper work, got someone else to cover the counter and came out with me to check the car. She immediately noted the red warning light on the dash. Okay -- I'd seen it -- but had no idea what it meant. It was a warning that the trunk was improperly shut. Opened the trunk and found that my travel pillow had been caught in the trunk. Moved it out of the way, shut the trunk again, and the car started up pretty (and quiet) as you please. D'oh!

My next moment of mortification was luckily unwitnessed by anyone else (except you dear readers). I had steadfastly declined the inclusion of a GPS system for the car, and even earlier all my mother's queries about my need for instructions, airily declaring that this was my home town and I knew how to get where I needed to go. Ha!! It was after dark, and the road/freeway set up at SFO has changed dramatically since the last time I would have driven there (1999). So instead of finding myself on Interstate 101 heading south towards San Jose, I found myself on I-280 heading north to San Francisco.

Even in the daylight in my own car, merging right across multiple lanes of traffic is not my forte. At night, in a strange car, on a strange road -- well -- I accomplished it without getting creamed. Only to find myself on the wrong side (the exit I needed was a left hand exit).

I kept going, and took the very first exit to the right off the interstate I encountered. It dropped me into a residential area of San Bruno. I decided that I would just simply keep going down hill or turning right (if down hill wasn't an option) until I ran into El Camino Real. The "avenue of the king" is the thread that connects all the coastal cities and towns of California from San Diego to San Francisco. It comes from the days of the Spanish padres and the missions that they built.

After a modest amount of twisting and turning my strategy worked. I hit El Camino as I knew was inevitable, and followed it through miles of commercial and residential areas, traffic lights every few blocks until I reached my home town of San Mateo, where I was (more or less) on solid ground.

I made it to my parents house, was greeted, fed and got to bed.

This morning I got a quick lesson from my mother in how to get my father out of bed, dressed, and through the routine of the bathroom. Mid-morning, my parents care worker, Jennifer, took my mom to the doctor, and left me to care for my dad.

I thought for a moment, when I came in last night, that my dad recognized me. But since then he's shown no sign of recognition. He appears to tolerate me as one more in a stream of care givers -- albeit one less skilled than most.

This is going to be a very long 9 days.

Note: the subject line comes from a Phil Oches song from the 60's. I have photos to add, but forgot my cord for the camera, so will have to wait on photos until I can buy a new cord.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Yesterday the weather was spectacular -- all sunshine, dry fresh air, soft breezes, moderate temperatures. John finally mowed the lawn, leaving plenty of islands of native plants and shrubbery to satisfy me, but getting enough nicely clipped lawn to satisfy his masculine pride. While he ran the mower outside, I ran the vacuum inside. We made lots of noise, and used lots of fossil fuel.

I have this bizarre, morbid fear every time I go on a major trip, that I will die in car or plane crash and when the mourners come to the house they will think that I was a terrible housekeeper. So, before I take off on a trip I feel it necessary to do a big burst of cleaning.

The reality is that I am a terrible housekeeper. Most people do the vacuuming and dusting I did yesterday every week or even more frequently. I wasn't always this lackadaisical about housework. But in the last 15 years, since John came into my life, other things have become more important than keeping house.

House cleaning is cathartic -- works up a sweat and you can see real results at the end. For the moment, the house looks as good as its likely to get -- given all the patched floors, water stained ceiling tiles, and the accoutrements (e.g., litter boxes) of nine cats, the toys of one dog, and the paraphernalia of one husband engaged in running and lifting.

And if the plane goes down my last thoughts won't be about dust on the bookshelves and cat hair on the carpet.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

One Single Impression -- "What's it like?"

What’s it like?

What’s it like
to live
where the roof
don’t leak,
without patched floors,
duck-tapped doors,
and torn linoleum?
Where you don’t
lie awake
in the dark
“do I hear dripping?”
What’s it like
to plan a house,
build new,
start fresh?

Sunday May 10, 2009

No, we're not destitute. We hope to move in the next three years to a more urban area, and hesitate to put any significant money into this 30 year old trailer that we own outright. We could never sell it, it's too far gone, and would take more money than most people in this county make in four years to repair adequately. It wasn't installed properly by it's first owners, a lake sits under the house year round. Even if we stayed, we'd need to simply replace it. So for the moment we engage in temporary patches, hoping for it to remain habitable for a while longer.

Friday, May 8, 2009

power outage

A spectacular rain and wind storm earlier this morning knocked out power to our rural area. Since grades still had to be turned in, we mounted our metal beasts and headed out to the college, only to be turned back a quarter mile down the road. The very trees that had decapitated the power poles and downed the wires were blocking all exit from our little valley. So we returned home, to relax, find some day light to read, and eat ice cream sandwiches before they melt.

Several hours later, one lane under the downed tree was cleared (tree still on the power lines) and we hit the road for school. Grades are now in, and its time to leave for graduation (50 miles away in another county). I expect that the power will still be out by the time I get back this evening (after 9 PM). Let's just hope that the two hundred dollars of frozen and refrigerated groceries I bought yesterday doesn't go bad in that time.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

it rained for eight days straight

Okay, maybe it hasn't been a full eight days yet, but it sure feels like it. The creek is full and the grass and shrubs have gone completely wild.

early flight

This juvenile American robin jumped and fluttered his/her way into my maple thicket and then froze for the next twenty minutes allowing me to circle around and get multiple pictures.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

feeling very artistic

My campus of Southeast KY Community and Technical College is celebrating it's twentieth anniversary this year. One of the things that the committee responsible for the celebration wants to do is commission a mural for a blank wall in the administration building.

One of the fellows on the committee remembered seeing one of my paintings in my office and suggested me for the job. So over this past weekend I had to pull together a virtual portfolio to submit. So far everyone is enthusiastic about the idea. The only one who has not weighed in yet is the college president.

So I may or may not get to do this. Nonetheless, I've already got the creative juices flowing, and have been sketching out ideas, first as words, then as digital images. This would be extraordinarily challenging, but exactly the kind of change of pace challenge I've been craving. Way outside of my comfort zone and routines!

While I was feeling creative, I decided to replace the generic sunflowers from Microsoft clip-art with a detail from one of my own paintings for the masthead of this blog.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

One Single Impression -- Tactile

In an odd sort of way, this poem is the antithesis of last weeks' prompt "word" for it is about wordless knowledge and wordless dread.

his hand
on my back,
stomach knots.
deeply buried
haptic data
flashes through muscles,
panic rises.
cutaneous memory
supplies cues lost
to conscious mind,
ancient violations.

May 2, 2009

For more poems on the prompt "tactile" see One Single Impression.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

irises for betti

Some time ago my BFF of 46 years, Betti, helped satisfy my passion for irises with a spectacular stained glass piece featuring two blue irises. These living irises from the garden of the physician that lives next door to the college are the same color. I thought the photo did a good job of capturing their velvety richness.

It's been a very busy two weeks, with out any time to post, so I've got lots of pent up thoughts. Also I bought an inexpensive digital camera (Canon PowerShot A470) on Wednesday, so that I would not have to keep swiping John's digital. I'm really bad about remembering to return it to its proper resting place, so he has to come searching for it when he needs it.

I have a really nice, 20+ year old Pentax, but I have trouble remembering to take the film to be developed, and even more trouble remembering to go back and get it. Besides I've become impatient for the instant gratification of digital.

I've clicked about 200+ photographs (excluding the one's deleted immediately) in the past four days! It's been raining off and on all day, and the photo below captured a clearing moment with mist rising from the hills.

starting a garden

Planted my tiny container garden this afternoon. So far, two tomato plants -- a heirloom gold and red tomato, and a smaller hybrid -- and six sweet yellow bell peppers. John helped me by digging down to the bottom of his compost heap for some nice gooey black compost to add to my potting soil.

We locate the containers just outside the fenced in part of the yard -- because Rosie dog likes to chew on the containers, and she will eat the tomatoes! I am re-purposing some non-recyclable kitty litter containers. (We usually buy recyclable containers, but had a few stacked in our junk room that we couldn't recycle). We punched some holes for drainage in the bottoms. I hope this experiment works.

before the storm

There is a fabulous quality of light just before a storm. That moment while you are still in the sunshine, but can see the storm approaching. This photograph doesn't quite do it justice.

As I prepare to go visit my parents in about 10 days, I feel a little bit like this -- standing in the light looking at the storm approaching, unable to avoid it.

Creative Writing

One of my real pleasures of this past semester was taking a creative writing class. The course was taught by my friend and colleague Madeline Gibson, who provided us all with a safe place to experiment and learn, gave us lots of interesting creative challenges, and even more encouragement
I have been writing poetry all my life, but never short stories. During this class I completed a 4,000 word short story. I started it two years ago, but was never able to get it finished. The encouragement I got from my classmates from reading the beginning out loud, helped push me to complete it. It was absolutely amazing to discover that other people were interesting in "finding out what happens next" in a story I was writing.

On Thursday April 30, our college campus held its annual awards ceremony. Each of the faculty members gives any number of awards and recognitions to students in their various classes.

Madeline had several awards to give out to writing students in her various classes, and concluded with our writing class. She recognized Mitch (left) for his wit and humor. Shirella (with the glasses) whose MS makes just getting to class a daily struggle was recognized for her persistence and enthusiasm.

Lora (in yellow) declared on the first day of class that she simply could not write at all, and had no creativity -- surprised herself (but not Madeline) in having a real knack for writing rhyming poetry that turned everyday moments into music. Madeline recognized her for most improved writer.

To Joy (in pink), who always lives up to her name, Madeline gave an award for most talented writer. Amazing, insightful, beautiful, poignant words just flow from Joy. Her short stories, sketches and poems thrilled all of us.

The surprise of the evening -- Madeline even had an award for me: best reader!

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Wilderness of Spring

My fellow blogger, e.r.dunhill, at Blue Island Almanack has a wonderful post today "Where the Wild Things Are" that tells about the National Wildlife Federation's certified wildlife habitat program for individuals and organizations.

I was so excited when I read this. We have about 3/4 an acre with a lot of mature trees (and plenty of young one's too), tangled thickets of blackberry and wild rose, blow-downs (from last summer's storms), and unmown islands of native plants around our big trees. We have lots of plants that provide pollen, seeds, and even berries.

I followed the link and discovered that our property already qualifies to be certified, and was already to click the button, donate, and get a sign. Then I discovered that what I consider deliberate choices to provide good land stewardship and habitat, my husband as a badge of shame.

John thinks he's suppose to have a yard that looks like those of everyone else in the neighborhood -- with nature properly beaten into submission. He fears that the neighbors will think that the reason our yard doesn't look like all the neighbors' yards is because he is too lazy to take care of it. It would seem that despite his conversion to Buddhism, that old Protestant work ethic still has him firmly in its grip.

So he doesn't want a sign that would call attention to our yard. I thought it would be a good thing to generate questions and perhaps create "teaching moments." But the last thing John wants is for anyone to ask him about his yard.

Part of the problem with changing to a greener, more environmentally sound society is that so many Americans hold cultural values and attitudes that put them at odds with nature. Nature is viewed as the enemy of civilization. My husband is only one of millions of men in America (and dozens in our neighborhood) who equate responsible middle/working class masculine adulthood with beating back nature so create a manicured lawn.

Please check out erd's post, and click on the links. You too many have a yard that is already a wildlife habitat, or can achieve this with some minimal effort. It's a worthy activity, whether or not you get your habitat certified.