Oddments

In search of story


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December 31.22: Coping, but barely

The table is set,

pristine and inviting,

the menu unknown

as of this writing.

I wish you, dear reader,

a stew of your choice:

a toothsome concoction

for palate and voice,

words for your writing,

health for your soul,

a generous helping

of vision and goal.

May loved ones and muses

fill all the seats,

your fingers and spirit

be ever sticky from sweets.

 

 

Thanks yet again to photographer S.W. Berg,

and kudos to The Baker’s Wife Bistro,

Hampton, VA, for the ambience.

I wish you a good year next, dear reader, with my thanks for your presence here, and I dig down to the very last remnants of depleted optimism to express some small hope for peace in our future. I do find our little corners of blogdom are places for peace. Plus a few laughs. Some nostalgia. A touch of snark. Communal sighs. The occasional coffee-spit on the keyboard. Thus is peace had, and I’m most grateful for it. Thank you for helping me bungle through 2022!

Maureen

 


19 Comments

December 24.22: Coping, but barely

The perfect world

isn’t real

except in goo

of warm pinwheel.

Perfection twice:

Christmas then,

and today rich air

savored again.

My wish, dear reader,

whatever your feast:

may memory and hope

be your yeast.

 

The other day I had the privilege of teaching my grandchildren about yeast dough and sticky buns, closely related to the brown sugar rolls Grandma O’Hern used to make, and also the Christmas breakfast of their dad’s childhood. Once again the kitchen was crowded, not just with teenagers, but with ghosts happily looking on. (They were happy because they didn’t have to clean up. Sticky buns are so named because of the state of the kitchen.)

I don’t think I look for a perfect world, though I think I’d like it; I do, however, look for a world with some sanity, and that seems completely elusive most days. Then comes a day to bake with grandchildren and I see perfect order in the universe.

There are many beautiful traditions at this time of year; whichever ones you treasure, dear reader, may they bring a moment of peace and wonder to your heart.


13 Comments

December 17.22: Coping, but barely

My tree is still in pieces,

the cookies are unbaked,

my cards still in the box,

Christmas mood cannot be faked.

I’m tired and feeling old,

I can’t pretend I’m jolly.

I’d like to arm myself

with Scrooge’s stake of holly.

Crazed, near-sighted drivers,

shoppers all phone-zoned,

news of inhumanities,

life bewailed, bemoaned

tarnish all the tinsel,

make carolers sing flat;

I need to find a rabbit

to pull out of my hat,

something made of magic

that laughs along with me

even though to others

we’re total mystery.

Aha! It’s just the thing

to make the dismals better:

  from my haute couture collection,

 a rousing Christmas sweater!

When I was in junior high, I wanted blue jeans. The in-crowd wore them. My mother would have none of it: blue jeans were not what proper girls wore. Wait. Did I say I wanted to be proper? I wanted to be cool! Mom and I had this divergence of opinion all the time, and thus did I learn to live with not being cool. Therein lies the explanation for my bewilderment at why Christmas sweaters are so much maligned. They are deemed ugly, uncool.  I like my Christmas Duck sweater! It’s my mother’s fault.

One may argue for a goose, and I grudgingly concede this might indeed be a Christmas goose, but you know my feelings about geese, dear reader. Ergo, it’s a duck.

 

With thanks to Susan Rushton for the photo of my mood!

 


15 Comments

December 11.22: Coping, but barely

Those of you who have kindly read along for a few years know that for Christmas I put together scrapbooks for my sons about some aspect of family history. That these scrapbooks hand down to them a history according to me is totally obvious — and satisfying.

This brilliant idea of mine has its flaws, however: it makes an infernal mess.

And it forces a reckoning. One cannot dig through boxes of family flotsam without some creeping sense of clairvoyance in one’s forebears.

Case in point: my mother carefully noted in my baby book that on 30 May 1943 I first stuck my foot in my mouth. How did she know?

 


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October 2.22: Coping, but barely

We sculpt, we carve,

we draw and write,

enfleshing awe

for our mindsight.

What we think we know,

what we know we feel,

elusive, taunting,

unprovably real,

we try to capture,

to see, explain,

for eye that seeks

in heart and brain.

That eye wants form —

it matters not

that form derives

from mythic thought.

Thus the legend,

myth and lore

that spring from deepest

human core.

Because we have

this itch to see

every invisible

mystery.

 

 

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg,

and to artist Jeff Savage, whose sculpture marks

the headwaters of the Mississippi and the role of women,

the Caretakers of the Water,

according to Anishinabe (Ojibwe) belief.

Thanks also to the Minnesota Percent for Public Art and the Mary Gibbs Mississippi Headwater Center at Lake Itasca Minnesota State Park.

 


19 Comments

July 25.22: Coping, but barely

A garden in a kettle,

what enticement to know more;

no ordinary flowerpot

hints so of family lore.

Kettles are like aprons,

remnants, scraps and shreds

of kitchens gone to dust

except inside our heads.

Replaced by kitchen jewelry

gleaming, digitized,

its plump and stolid air

is yet unbowdlerized.

Something in its roundness

brings noodle dough to mind,

vegetable soup with barley,

doughnuts cinnamon-brined,

children up on tip-toe

to watch and sniff, content,

the world in proper order

as it was surely meant.

Today its storied depths

give rise to happy greenery,

rooted, like our memories,

in distant kitchen scenery.

 

 

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg,

and to gardener and family preservationist D.J. Berg.

 


11 Comments

July 1.22: Coping, but barely

In crowded company

of musicians through the ages,

I’ve fumbled in attempts

to play while turning pages.

More than once I’ve chased

sonatas to the floor,

twisting off the bench

to nab the fleeing score.

Flagrantly contrary,

it always had the knack

to land so I’d dislodge

my sacroiliac.

To keep the left hand going

and play at obtuse angle

crossed Mozart with aerobics,

performance art fandangle.

Now comes a pageless music,

no flip and fumble here —

what a total wimp-out,

musicianship veneer.

What kind of ease is this?

It seems somehow a cheat

to keep your fingers focused,

turning pages with your feet.

 

 

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg.

 


19 Comments

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.

 

 


15 Comments

May 22.22: Coping, but barely

A machine that makes ice cream cones?

How could it be?

I thought they materialized

from some alchemy.

They simply appeared

from a summery haze

by a wave of the scoop

on tropical days.

In colorful turbans

turned quickly to goo,

they left us goatee’d

with sugary glue

while teaching hard fact

under brilliant hot sun

that time and fudge ripple

wait for no one.

Speed was the essence

of masterful lick;

neat slowed us down:

it had to be quick.

Racing the drips,

maneuvering the cold,

to push it all down

into cone’s hold

was no easy victory,

the skills were hard won,

but practice made perfect

and we’d hardly begun.

Like all childhood magic,

a part of it lingers

as we lick chocolate chip

from between grown-up fingers.

 

For me, dear reader, the only cone worth the drips was the “sugar cone,” which was the ultimate in crunch. It did not, like those flat-bottomed would-be’s, turn to flab in my hand and chew like rubber. No. The sugar-cone had character. It also had the tiniest hole at the bottom so that only the most skilled could come away with clean clothes. But the crunch held. What else mattered?

 

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg,

and to Doumar’s Cones and Barbecue, Norfolk, VA.

 


9 Comments

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.