Oddments

In search of story


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May 26.19

Words alone

beg,

gaunt and fleshless,

insensate.

Paintings,

entrapped in stillness,

hover,

inchoate.

But music

pulses,

quickens,

in soul’s vaults

resonates.

One red poppy,

one

lone

 soaring

 voice

Dulce et decorum est

exsanguinates.

 

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg.

And a salute to Symphonicity, the symphony orchestra of Virginia Beach, Virginia, for this poignant vignette, arranged for their 2018 performance of Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Pastoral Symphony, a solemn work commemorating World War I. Their guest conductor was Air Force veteran Daniel Boothe.

 

I wish us all a thoughtful Memorial Day.

 


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May 21.19

I grew up in northwest Indiana, just outside Chicago. “Da Region.” Steel mills and oil refineries, cinders and soot. And earthquaking freight trains. Charging, bellowing behemoths, lifeline of thriving industry, they snarled traffic with sadistic impunity.

Mindful that then our phones were back home, attached to a wall, you will understand that life stopped when those behemoths blocked our ways. So there was nothing like the excitement of spotting the caboose. Life could resume! What cheer to the soul! What revving of engines! Until it stopped in the middle of the crossing, taunting us with half a road.

The caboose had the power to make people happy or homicidal.

If you were a kid and lucky, you got to wave at the man in the caboose, and he would wave back. To be noticed by the genie in the caboose was high living tinged with envy: who wouldn’t want to live in a caboose?

Every once in a while, a caboose would show up in some incongruous place, like someone’s yard. Here was mystery. How did it get there? Is the genie still in it?

It was my early introduction to garden art. A caboose in a yard was never mundane. Nor was the occasional non-red caboose, like the jarring countercultural yellow.

As symbol of time and place, the caboose is nonpareil. And when the train is gone and the caboose stands alone in the quiet of clover and vine, what does the caboose tell of the old time and place? Since I am the caboose, I must ask and answer that question.

 

Many thanks to photographer D.J. Berg.

Part Three

 


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May 9.19

To me, walls were all but invisible

they merely made space divisible

it was my feeling

they just held up the ceiling

now I see that perspective as risible.

A wall has its own eloquence

bare, or with embellishments

art has perdured

lest we be immured

by blinders and old habits’ fence.

 

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg

and to the unknown muralist who made us look.

Have you, dear reader, seen the new stamps commemorating Post Office murals?

I like them a lot.

Furthermore, I actually remember Post Office murals!

 


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April 2.19

I’ve been in California. Did I have fun? Was it a good time? Well, it’s complicated.

Both my sons, my daughter-in-law, and my grandchildren stood with me at my brother’s grave near a sun-crazed bloom of osteospermum. It was a beautiful day. As I walked away from the grave, I impulsively turned and said, “Bye, LB.” (He was LB and I was BS.) I felt awful. (Full disclosure: my brother and I spent our childhoods trying to kill each other. I do not wish to give the impression of lifetime sibling bliss.)

Then to his house so I could see it one last time. To our astonishment, the insides were being ripped out; it seemed the new owner had been granted permission to start renovations before closing was official. I think we scared the daylights out of her, a bunch of strangers led by my 6’5″ second-born. But then came explanations and introductions and a heady dose of her infectious excitement. Lots of hugs.

She invited us to go through, but I declined. I didn’t resent the changes but I wanted to remember his home in all its beigeness the way it had been. Everyone else explored the gutted insides. I visited his stalwart rose, that would live, no matter what he didn’t do.

The new owner commented on the sense of peace she felt in the place. The grave was still with me, but now also a happy sense of renewal. Complicated.

IMG_2018

Then legal and financial complications. All confusing to me, but, fortunately, not to my younger son. I leaned on him heavily. And on my new cane. I did not feel young! In the midst of it all, he took me to two art museums. My brain, entangled in the mesh of practicalities, struggled valiantly to adjust to the abstract and erudite. Complicated.

LA traffic was worse than ever. I’ve never been a city person, and the way of the city is but dirty mayhem and claustrophobia to me. It wears me down and depresses me. I felt mechanized.

My son’s friends invited me to dinner. A group of 40-somethings on a rooftop in the hills overlooking Los Angeles with — yes! — Emmy! I got to meet Emmy! I could see that the future is in good hands — and what wonderful calm amid the treetops away from the city!

Late in the week, as we sought the Santa Monica Post Office, I spied the Pig Jig. It hit my funnybone in a most unexpected way. As a usual thing, I am not particularly drawn to pigs, let alone when they’re dancing, but these three seemed to insist that they had a place in my week.

 

Life goes on? No, I don’t think so. We search for words to band-aid the loss, but the loss remains. Each of us feels it and fears it in his or her own way. It’s human. And there’s nothing more complicated than being human.

Our homecoming was marked by a bracing faceful of snowy air. Ah, spring in Indiana! What a finale!

If you have read to this last, dear reader, you have my thanks. This is by far the longest post I’ve ever written. In part, I wanted to explain my absence. But, as you well understand, I also turn to words to help me.

 

With thanks to photographer Patrick Mesterharm for the photo of me in the Kusama sculpture at the Marciano.

And thanks also to photographer Kelley Wilson Mesterharm for the official photo of the stalwart rose.

 


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March 3.19

Millennia ago

a poet thought

“Why a word?”

and then she wrought

on desert stone

“Here am I”

knowing we’d

be passing by.

 

 

Thanks to photographer Mary Jo Bassett, who claims these are

two-thousand-year-old directions to Starbucks.

I leave to you, dear reader, all degrees of credulousness.

 


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February 17.19 (yesterday cont’d)

I’ve been thinking about “me too,” and how it is used. The photo of Emmy in yesterday’s post helped me with my thinking. “Me too” had come to suggest pretense to me, pretending someone else’s shoes fit.

Don’t get me wrong: in no way am I disparaging the MeToo movement, whose voices have given the strength of the many to the one. As depressing (if unsurprising) as MeToo truth has been, it has also been affirming; the one person who comes forward now has the voice of the many behind her or him.

But if you tell me about a worry or fear or grief you have, and I respond “me too” or some variation of it, aren’t I slamming a door on you? Dismissing you and changing the subject to me? Aren’t I saying “enough about you”?

Once I was talking to a dear friend about a problem in my life. She responded, “I can’t even imagine.” It was the most supportive thing she could have said. If she had said “me too,” she wouldn’t have helped at all; she would only have been pretending to walk in my shoes, pushing me out of them.

When is “me too” genuine empathy, and when is it just upstaging?

And that, dear reader, is how yesterday’s post came to be.