Oddments

In search of story


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July 11.20: Coping

2019

2020

Yesterday I read a blog that asked if the reader has any gardening disappointments this year. Is he kidding? “Gardening” and “disappointment” go together like echinacea and Japanese beetles.

This is my third gardening season here; if you are a gardener, you know the third season is the beginning of seeing the garden as your own. For me, two distinct garden worlds: a bit shady in the front, a lot sunny in the back. Yes, Indiana clay and nasty root systems, exuberant invasives, malicious rabbits and chipmunks. But gradually mine.

Problems with a contractor have made it impossible for me to plant anything in the back this summer. All I have is a struggling collection of gangly seedlings with no place to grow. Empty tomato cages. No frilly yellow blossoms morphing into reds and golds. Not merely disappointment: it’s loss.

Gardeners survive the winter because they know a garden is coming, so when the garden fizzles the gardener kind of fizzles too. She might even let slip an imprecation. Maybe two.

Not everyone is a gardener, of course, but everyone has disappointments. And losses. It seems to me they are all felt more deeply this year because isolation is fertile ground for deep feelings.

So we cope, best we can, with emptiness where there should be life, and watch disappointment become loss, but we should never underestimate the toll it’s taking on us.

 

 

 


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June 28.20: Coping

In winter

I dream of such greens/

in lazy pools and streams

of shadow,

indolent,

sleepy,

like deep breathing

of quiet ocean/

in yellowed splotches

of summer’s hooray,

warm with memory

of sprinkler jumping,

chigger scratching,

shrilling

ready or not!

from neon popsicle mouths,

like the clover-drunk

sun-crazed bees

in happy ferment/

until,

panting,

we fall into that shade pool

and the green seeps into

our dreams.

 

 


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June 26.20: Coping

Well, dear reader, here it is again: writer’s block/slump/wasteland — call it what you will. I’ve been a big blank for over a week now. Yesterday I spent hours on a thought, trying to transfer it to words. I think I wore out the delete key.

What a mystery writing is. Not that I’m telling you anything you don’t know. Why do the words come and why do they not come? Where do they go, for heaven’s sakes?

I’ve not caught a glimpse of my muse, except perhaps in a particularly muscular buzzard, a.k.a. turkey vulture, hauling roadkill into the woods. Usually she’s a hawk, but she could have morphed. Right now I’d happily call her a buzzard. Now there’s a word. Don’t you love words that mean something just by the way they sound? Have you ever seen the book “Sound and Sense” by Laurence Perrine? My tattered, moldy copy dates back to my college days in the 60s. It says it’s about poetry but I don’t think so; it’s about the way the sound of a word makes it the perfect choice. Meaning isn’t the whole of it. The word must sound with the meaning. That’s prose, too. Just ask Sam Clemens.

I hope you are well, dear reader, and can still cling to sanity.

 


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June 18.20: Coping

I see many references to isolation and aloneness these days. As an introvert, I’m comfortable with aloneness. Usually content with my own company, I do not crave the madding crowd. Aloneness isn’t always loneliness.

But I haven’t been with my family since March 6. No hugs for three months! There’s loneliness in that, as many elderly (and not-so-elderly) know.

It has recently occurred to me that there is another dimension to my aloneness. My close friends vary in age, but all of us have experienced family death in our parents’ generation. However, among my friends, I am the only one to have lost the sibling connection to the past; I’m the first to be The Last. This hit me as a revelation. Unaware, I’ve been grappling with a sense of aloneness among my friends.

I am an old single parent who is also The Last One of the family she grew up with — those are my particular circumstances — but I think most of us are grappling with some kind of aloneness, and maybe loneliness too, at this time. It doesn’t mean we have the same life experiences, only that we are in the same human condition. Human, but dangerously corrosive, all the more so swirled as it is with anger.

As I’ve said before, I think writers write about two things: what is, and what could be. Sometimes we can’t write about what could be until we write about what is. For me, this is what is.

 

 


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June 15.20: Coping

Upside-down-ness

above below

gives me doubts

and vertigo.

I fear my eye

misapprehends

if sameness is

my constant lens.

I can sometimes

see anew

when things are toppled

all askew.

From eye to brain

zig-zaggety:

what I think I know

from what I think I see.

 

 

Many years ago, while I was caregiver to Dad, I audited Beginning Drawing at a nearby university. I couldn’t finish it because Dad grew so much worse, but even in that partial semester I learned immeasurably more than I can tell you, dear reader. One assignment was to draw something upside-down. Life was upside-down anyway, so why not? It was for me an astonishing process. It is one thing to draw something as you see it; it is another thing entirely to draw something as you don’t see it. When I was forced to turn an image upside-down and draw it, I was also forced to think differently. It was surprisingly uncomfortable.

 

 


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June 9.20: Coping

Yesterday I had a moment in a paint store that sent me into laughter which almost suffocated me because I was wearing a mask. Afterward I thought about it.

A man was buffing the floor, likely enjoying the sauna behind his mask as much as I was enjoying mine while I maneuvered with my usual grace amid shelves and social distance markers. The COVID pas-de-deux.  As it happened, I ended up apparently in his path: my assertion that I was trying to not be in the way was met with his “Well, then, MOVE!” This hit my funny bone hard. Thus my suffocation.

We all have our gifts. Mine is to be in the way. My dad had variations on “you’re in the way,” the best of which was “go tell your mother she wants you.” The man with the machine yesterday would have fit into my family perfectly.

As I chuckled my way home, I reflected on the mask as a new wrinkle in such a moment (pun intended). He was wearing a baseball cap so all I could see was a bit of grey hair and his eyes. Maybe MOVE! was grumped at me. I don’t think it was, but how would I know? We did not see each other’s faces — this should be remarkable. It isn’t! What a weird world we have landed in.