Oddments

In search of story


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Disconnections: September 11.18

 

Deep is the need

to fill a chair

emptiness

pollutes the air

dissonant echoes

raw and red

make sepulchers

in ashy stead.

 

Remembrance Day 2018

With thanks to the perceptive eye of photographer S.W. Berg.

 

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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 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: August 4.18

 

I’ve written tomato posts before

I hope another won’t annoy ya

this is, I think, but half tomato

the other half’s sequoia.

 

For many years I’ve planted tomatoes in memory of my Grandpa Mauck. The smell of the plant always brings him back for me. Alas, the smell was about the extent of my harvest. I just couldn’t grow tomatoes. Until last year.  Suddenly those Mauck gardening genes roused up, and I had actual tomatoes! I especially loved the pear tomato, so this year I tried another one, and, even though it was planted late and spindly, and in Someone Else’s Garden, it rallied and has taken exuberance to a whole new level, racing over and through the deck rail, and draping itself over the potted plants. I know that one morning I’ll wake up and find it wound around my ankle.

A pear tomato, marigolds, zinnias, dill…as you can see, dear reader, the garden is slowly, slowly becoming mine. (MINE, you wretched rabbits and Japanese beetles and chipmunks, MINE! Not YOURS!!)


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Disconnections: July 24.18

Some of us know it

from school days gone by

the rarified glow

of a holycard sky.

Angels and saints

no laggards allowed

canopied ever

by holycard cloud

its edges alive

with a peachy-gold hue

it had to be thus —

plain white wouldn’t do.

It all seemed marshmallowy

pretend, and ideal,

but I see it right now

undeniably real.

 

A word about holycards: they were tokens of acknowledgement given out in Catholic schools ever so long ago. They all depicted role models. Kind of like baseball cards but more flowy. And with lilies. In that time a coveted laurel.