Oddments

In search of story


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July 8.22: Coping, but barely

A tenth of a billionth of a second.

My brain spins without traction

to comprehend the transience

of such unknowable fraction.

How can such a measure

of time, that slippery eel,

have meaning to poor mortal

like me, the math schlemiel?

Or maybe it’s not numbers

that anaesthetize my mind,

but rather awe and wonder

at our need to seek and find.

Perspectives thus established,

we see our own existence

in terms of what we don’t know

and potential obsolescence.

Are we really that important,

such tiny human spatter,

in view of proton particles

and abysses of dark matter?

I tend to think we are

though I’ve no idea why;

we blow each other up,

and pollute the sea and sky.

Microscope and telescope,

bacterium to star,

but all we have are stories

to explain the way we are.

 

 

I’ve been seeing articles, dear reader, about the Large Hadron Collider and the pursuit of dark matter. It’s all dark matter to me, but I do try for some meager understanding. I cannot wrap my mind around such a thing as a tenth of a billionth of a second, but I can marvel at it. As I marvel, it becomes personal. My place in this universe? I’m working on that.

My thanks to Juliana Kim for her NPR article that reminded me of perspective.

 


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July 2.22: Coping, but barely

A puddle in a path

divides the population

in two distinctive camps

of opposite persuasion.

One must forge ahead

to know where this path goes;

the other shrinks from earth

that gushes ‘twixt the toes.

That second would be me,

uncurious when it comes

to mud or bugs or slithering;

my adventurousness succumbs.

I prefer the no-itch life,

sufficient just a look;

I’ll follow muddy paths

in air-conditioned book.

 

I may not be the outdoorsy type,

but I know beauty when I see it.

A salute to those who care for our green spaces.

Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve,

Fishers, IN.


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June 24.22: Coping, but barely

The seed speaks

in snowy mound

pledge and mandate:

life is round.

In revolution

measured, steady,

resurrection

at the ready,

turning, turning,

seed to seed,

to shade, to soothe,

to thrill, to feed.

In cycles spoked

by dark and light,

gardener’s sure

gemütlichkeit.

 

You may recall, dear reader, the tiny green shoots I spotted in the gravel — in the gravel! — my first summer here. Snapdragons? I so carefully dug them up and transplanted them. And now their descendants bloom like a petticoat ruffle, smugly cautioning me never ever to underestimate life.

 


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June 19.22: Coping, but barely

Back when television was young, as was I, a commercial played this ditty:

“You’ll wonder where the yellow went

when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent,”

which my dad sang as

“You’ll wonder where the yellow went

when you brush your teeth with fresh cement.”

Along in those same years, I asked my dad why we don’t have an A in our last name. We spell it O’Hern but a whole lot of folks spell it O’Hearn and are ever sticking the A in our name as though it belongs there. So what happened to it?

“Our ancestors, “said Dad, “were horse thieves. In an effort to evade the police, they dropped the A from their last name.” The moral of the story being, I assumed, that our ancestors were horse thieves and halfwits.

Apparently slow of wit myself, I asked Dad one day how he felt the first time he held me. “Wet,” he said. So sweetly sentimental.

To dads everywhere, I wish all good things. It isn’t easy to be a dad. But know this: when you see your offspring rolling their eyes and shaking their heads at your stories and jokes, you know you have achieved immortality. Dad jokes never die. Happy Fathers’ Day!

 

The dad in the photo is my son,

whose offspring have indeed been known to roll their eyes.

Good work, Dad!


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June 17.22: Coping, but barely

I grew up with parents who were obsessively, preternaturally, neurotically, vociferously adamant about language. Certain kinds of words were categorically forbidden, among them the so-called four-letter words. My parents maintained that such words were a sign of an inadequate vocabulary.

But of all the four-letter words I knew to avoid, the one they never warned about was “plan.” THAT is a four-letter word, and a totally useless one at that.

Some time ago, my California son made plans to visit in May, before June graduation chaos. His flight here was twice cancelled by the airline. As it eventually happened, he arrived around dawn the day of my granddaughter’s graduation. Meanwhile, she had contracted COVID. Then her dad, my other son, tested positive. Then my daughter-in-law and grandson. And did I mention rain and torrential rain?

The visiting son has celiac disease, so eating out was not an option, and that meant that much of the two weeks preceding his visit I was cooking and baking for a gluten-free stockpile.

I have fallen woefully behind in blogdom, neither writing nor reading.

So yesterday, in the throes of cleaning up and digging out, I came to WordPress with a plan (when will I learn?) to catch up. But no. Something had changed. You have no idea, dear reader, what a moral victory there is in the fact that I am writing this now. I actually found Susan Rushton’s two-year-old comment where she told me how to get to the Classic Editor. (Thanks again, Susan!) Whether this is a forever fix remains to be seen, of course.

As I pick up the pieces of routine here, I can guarantee I will be thinking about an adequate vocabulary.

 

 


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May 31.22: Coping, but barely

Grit,

ground coal,

ash and lung gravel

paid the bills.

Grandpa wore it home

to match the grit

on windowsills.

His worker’s cap

marked him:

social scrap,

laborer,

tall, thin,

Cassius on the trolley,

morning, evening,

foundry-dusted

with other scraps

hollow, rusted.

Sometimes,

when there was meat,

he would get it

because he wore the cap,

carried the big black lunchbox

with the rounded top

and thick strap.

When we rode past

the fiery black mill,

we said,

Grandpa works there!

with pride.

Not knowing.

He was, I think,

smart.

I wonder what he wondered

in this brown, gritty life.

 

 

Writing is strange business. I had no intention of trying for another entry in Dan Antion’s Thursday Doors Writing Challenge, but this photo, also Dan’s, wouldn’t leave me alone. It is so reminiscent of where I grew up. Beautiful it wasn’t. Looking at this brought to mind my grandpa and his life there.

 

Thanks, Dan, for inspiring and challenging us, and for this photo.

 


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May 30.22 Memorial Day: Coping, but barely

You’d have to be as old as I am, dear reader, to remember the days of packing red geraniums into the trunk of a car and heading out to cemeteries. Every year at the end of May. It was boring. I hated it.

We’d clean winter’s debris off the graves and then plant the flowers. Guess who was sent for water. There were faucets in the cemetery spaced with the express purpose of making kids walk miles with sloshing, heavy watering cans.

There was always a moment of prayer. What videos play in our heads at such moments! I can only imagine the videos that played in my grandparents’ and my parents’ heads: wars, polio and flu epidemics, floods, heart attacks, cancer.

The video in my head had to do with my bike, waiting for me to start summer vacation.

My complaints, registered every five minutes or so, were roundly ignored; it was Decoration Day, after all, and this tedious, bleak trek to the cemetery was non-negotiable, as were many family dicta. Against my young will, I learned that it wasn’t about the geraniums; it was about lives lived. Real lives. It was about remembering.

Decoration Day became Memorial Day and a three-day weekend, honoring real lives lost in service to this country’s ideals. Remembering.

This Memorial Day comes in a bloodbath. Locally and globally we are awash in the blood of real lives. I hope those who lost their lives in service to this country, in service to ideals, aren’t sorry they made the sacrifice. And I wish all kids were thinking only about their bikes.

 

My family served, but none died in service.

I do not pretend to the grief this day renews for many.

But I do think of the graves and the real lives lost.

It becomes harder to remember peace.

 

 


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May 21.22: Coping, but barely

I have seen Medusa,

been turned to stone;

all I want

is to be alone,

relearn, perhaps,

to feel, and own

myself.

Ocean, wind

in husky roar

seem like whisper

to restore

some softening life

into my face

within a granite

carapace.

Bending low,

the clouds incline

to touch sky forehead

onto mine,

ancient seer,

patient, wise,

whose galaxies

miniaturize

my

 self.

I stood for years

insensate, still,

absent vision, soul,

and will,

while unseen chisels

from unknowns vast

chipped away

my body cast.

When I could move,

I didn’t much,

but cautiously

allowed the touch

of  breeze and mist,

permitted feeling,

holding back,

still not unsealing

myself.

 

 

There was a time in my life, dear reader, of concentrated loss including caregiving, illness, deaths. After the third death, but not the last, I found myself at the Pacific Ocean, utterly disoriented by the absence of walls. This photo brought to mind that moment.

Thanks to Carolyn Rogers at Wheat Salt Wine and Oil blog for the photo,

part of Dan Antion’s Thursday Doors Writing Challenge.

This post submitted to that same challenge:

Dan Antion’s Thursday Doors Writing Challenge.

Thanks, Dan!

(If you admire doors, dear reader, check out his Thursday Doors blog.

It will take you around the world.)

 

 


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May 7.22: Coping, but barely

This was me

and this was you,

our wings be-fuzzed,

mysterious, new.

Tipping, toppling,

learning where

we stopped and started,

unaware

of cliffs and quicksand,

Pandora’s box,

we braved the world

of thorns and rocks.

Or so we thought. The really brave

were those close by

who hovered and watched

with wary eye,

letting us learn

from life’s tough classes

even if we fell

on our little

ummm

grasses.

 

Tomorrow is Mothers’ Day here; I am not a fan. I think it’s become a national day of panic. But that does not mean I don’t value mothering. I absolutely do. There are many who mother even if they’ve never given birth, and I salute every one.

Please pardon the quality of the photo, dear reader. You probably, and rightly, guessed that I was hunched down behind Venetian blinds muttering to that baby to HOLD STILL. He didn’t. Mother Goose (so to speak) did not cast a benign eye on me.