Oddments

In search of story


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Disconnections: September 1.18

Many years ago, I taught in a pretty little red brick school across the street from the National Cathedral in D.C. I walked to and from school every day, right past that towering Gothic wonder, its gargoyles keeping wary eyes on me from their unfinished perches, sometimes its carillon belling from the clouds. Often I would stop in after school. Sometimes I was the only one there, or so it seemed. Always with a sense of unreality, I stood in that vast space, feeling both diminished and uplifted. Isn’t that the purpose of Gothic? Doesn’t it force our eyes up, and don’t our spirits follow? There was nothing there that wasn’t beautiful to me, in both the enclosed silence and the embrace of balance.

It seemed to shelter me and yet leave me open to some mysterious elements. I never quite believed I was there. I remember.

In that time, I learned what it meant to stand alone in that graceful vastness, I learned what it meant to fall in love with a classroom of sixth-graders, I turned 23.

I just returned to that cathedral to watch John McCain’s funeral, overflowing with the here and now. But part of me was back in the there and then. Through all those seated dignitaries, I could see that girl-woman who was me, her arms full of books and papers, moving in her snail’s pace, trying to absorb her fleeting present. She was very aware of transience.

I think she turned and looked at me, in her future, and I’m wondering what she saw.

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Disconnections: August 28.18

I maintain it cannot be

this baby girl hovers over me?

In clinical proof we’re head to head

but the photographer shoots

our feet instead.

 

 

Begrudged thanks to sneaky photographer, S.W. Berg.


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Disconnections: August 20.18

The chase and the catch, continued from yesterday.

You see “In search of story” at the top of my blog.  For me, trying to write a story is like trying to enjoy a root canal. But I listen to others in an effort to learn about story. And this is what bothers me about the machines: they yield the tidy catch, thereby rendering the messy chase obsolete and attendant stories extinct.

My Grandma Mauck and her siblings would fight to the verbal death about who was born when. With them, it was all about the chase. If they’d had Smartphones to consult, our Thanksgivings might have been quieter, but I wouldn’t have learned about their internecine wars and I’d have been deluded into thinking all my relatives were rational.

My Grandma O’Hern would celebrate summer, no matter how icky hot, with a mountain of pierogi; family and chairs would appear magically and morph into a small city around the table. If they’d had iPads, would I have heard the accounts of how Baby Edna had to walk because Grandpa’s hootch rode in the baby carriage?

How can I hope to develop any story-telling abilities at this point in my life when people are nose-dived into their gadgets, and mind only the catch?

It is arguable that if I don’t know how to tell a story by now I never will. I guess I am stuck in my own messy chase, trying to catch the skill of story-telling, dodging the thumbs of the world.

 

 


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Disconnections: August 19.18

Recently I posted a photo of a blissful Jack Russell (one Lulu by name) with her slimy ball. The question posed was this: which is more fun, the chase or the catch? Chasing and catching had been on my mind.

It used to be that when someone asked a question in a group the others would offer answers based on what they knew (or thought they knew). A hodgepodge formed and grew: bits of memory, stories, irrelevancies, maybe even an argument or a snippet of song. Various voices could be heard.

A lively chase would have been run.

Now the response to a question in a group is silence. Eyes are down, thumbs fly. In half a trice there’s an answer. The catch is caught. Quick, straightforward, efficient. Also sterile.

I think this is not merely the grumping of an old curmudgeon; I think this is the plaintive cry of the writer. What is lost if memory isn’t tapped, stories aren’t told, if no one is wrong, when the path goes straight to the answer, no detours and no curves and no dead ends?

I accord technology the wonder due it, but I’m uncertain about what happens when we don’t dive into our own personal data banks and goofy lives to try to find answers. I’ve been dismayed at how often people dive into their clouds instead.

I grant there’s a place in life for efficiency.  Sometimes the best way is the fast way. But I think the writer in me wants the chase and feels rebuffed in some way by the mere catch.

There’s another part to this. Another post, another day.

 


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Disconnections: July 14.18

Consider the grip.

You want to turn the outside faucet to get water through the hose? Grip. You want to hold the hose? Grip. You want to fill the watering can, pick it up, and tip it into the potted basil? Grip, grip, and grip.

You want to hold a mug of coffee? You want to pour more coffee into that mug? You want to lather soap, floss your teeth, scrape a bowl? Grip, grip, grip, grip, and grip.

How about squeezing the tube of toothpaste or sunscreen or the handle for a spray bottle? Grip to the nth power.

Thumb, fingers, palm, wrist and a ready back-up of arm muscles — with maybe an assist from the shoulder — pitch in.

Or not.

Some would argue that I’ve been losing my grip for a long time. Ha, ha. I’m not saying they’re wrong; I’m saying that’s not the grip I’m talking about. And I’m not saying I’m the only one with such problems — there are many, many people with limited hand movement — but I am the only one writing on this blog, my bully pulpit. And maybe I speak for others with my words.

I used to say “hold it with both hands” to my boys when they were little. Now I say it to me as I lift a glass of iced tea. My hands do not let me forget they are changing.

Yes, there are adaptive gizmos and techniques that help, and I use them. They don’t, however, unchange the change. This morning I turn to the alternative medicine known as writing. This, dear reader, is my grip gripe, and I feel better already.

 


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Disconnections: June 6.18

Summer afflicts me with memories.

Like family vacation. A surfeit of togetherness. Dad’s mother, our beloved Grandma O’Hern, sat between my brother and me in the back seat. Poor Grandma. My brother loved confinement as much as I did and we were not anyone’s first choice of traveling companions.

Our expeditions almost always started with a new comic book, a thing of beauty and a joy for…well…five minutes. After that the only thing it was good for was rolling into a tube and clobbering someone. (But that was only because he clobbered me first.)

There were, of course, no such things as seat belts. We could kneel in the back seat and look out the back window, trying to see if where we’d been were any more interesting than where we were. Nope.

Rolling the windows down (aka air conditioning) had nothing to do with pushing a button and everything to do with grabbing a knob and turning for dear life. Reverse to roll back up. A life skill we’d already acquired. Boring.

The view from the back seat had greatly to do with the back of my mom’s head and the back of my dad’s head. And sameness out the windows. Devoutly did we pray for Burma Shave signs, when there would be respite from sameness. At the end we’d all shout out “Burma Shave!” and then I’d lapse back into a comatose state of childhood on hold.

There were “guessing games,” of course. And singing. And coloring books. For some reason, though, my parents got touchy about melted crayons under the seat. Was it our fault the summer sun was hot?

The years distort, I know, but I’m fairly sure that’s my dad’s voice asking “Are we there yet?”

 

 

 


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Disconnections: June 1.18

I still haven’t figured out how to remedy this problem inserting photos in my posts. I haven’t yet turned to the folks at WordPress because I don’t even know how to ask the questions. I am darkly frustrated by the not-knowing.

Usually when I am frustrated I turn to my beloved outlets of baking or gardening or drawing or playing the piano or — I must admit — housecleaning. Doing is the antidote to stewing. But now I have something called CPPD. It goes nicely with my HHT, don’t you think, dear reader? If I live long enough, I’ll be a whole bowl of alphabet soup.

Many old people have CPPD but without symptoms. I have symptoms. To quote myself, PHOO. CPPD is incurable, its damage irreversible. Mine is deemed “erosive” because of the bone damage. How scary is that? Bone erosion? Now I cannot use my hands as I used to. This is as deep a disconnection as I can imagine. My hands have connected me to freshly baked cookies and fresh herbs and Bach Inventions and sketchbooks and fitted sheets tight on the mattress.

Taken with the osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, the CPPD gives me the image of a swarm of microscopic ants with my skeleton the picnic lunch.

When technology beats me up, when I hear of yet another school shooting or another holiday from truth, I want to grab a shovel or a spatula and DO something. Will the ants leave me anything with which to DO?