Saturday, September 16, 2023

Mother Tree

I guess this is what I am doing in the way of poetry lately: a Mother Tree. Visual, 3D poetry--a small branch anchored in a vase with glass pebbles, hung with ornaments from her life: earrings, baby bracelets, a nostalgic love pin nestling in the tree as if K-I-S-S-I-N-G. There are two tiny skulls to represent her parents, who lived with my parents for a time in their old age. So did my dad's grandfather, at one point. My folks were very generous people, also taking in a high school student, whose parents moved his senior year, and a young man from Mali. They are living now in a retirement community, in independent living but with lots of home health care, and I am slowly but surely clearing out the family home while it is for sale. Lots of laundering, donating, recycling, redistributing, and rearranging. I feel like my mom! 

There is a silver chain with an apple on it, from when my mom retired from teaching, and a silver gavel, probably from her years with the local teachers' union. My brother's blue baby bracelet hangs near the latter.

My sister and I have pink baby bracelets, and near them I have hung one of my own earrings, a favorite, the mate lost, pink stones, one in the shape of a heart.

There is a found earring (like a found poem!), a sort of mask, chosen for the Mother Tree because of her work in the theatre. Her mother's hospital bracelet, or her own (?), hangs around the vase itself.

I loved making my Mother Tree. I did it instead of church last Sunday morning. It was a way to relieve stress, honor my mom, and felt spiritual, to be sure. It was a way to rest, after all the cleaning. It was a way to take things from tiny boxes and let them live again. I thank Connie Shannon for the inspiration. She made a "tiny beautiful things" tree this past spring when Heartland Theatre was doing the play Tiny Beautiful Things, based on the Cheryl Strayed book. It became part of a library display for the production, and then library workers loved it so much it became part of ongoing displays all through the summer!

Here is my Mother Tree where it lives now, on a stand at the top of the stairs, with a stack of books, under a painting by my husband. He knocked it over this morning, coming out of the bedroom, but I was able to restore it (and slightly reposition it, to avoid this in the future!). It's fragile but able to be rehung or added to, as needed. There might be more mateless earrings to come....

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Furious Cooking

If I were doing the Sealey Challenge this year, I would embark on a re-reading of the Maureen Seaton books in my possession, having just learned of her death. I met her in Chicago and took a seminar with her, and she was an inspiration. She encouraged me to send some prose poems to Quarter After Eight, where they were taken. It became a favorite journal of mine, full of the challenging and unexpected. 

I would probably start with Furious Cooking.

Sadly, I am not doing the Sealey Challenge this year--voraciously reading a book of poems a day in August--because daily life has gotten a bit too complicated by caregiving, though resting with poetry might have helped. The heat wave did not. Now I think of throwing my ivy comforter on this wooden glider, putting the stack of Seaton books beside me, and at least leafing through, pausing here and there to concentrate on a poem. But the afternoon is spoken for.

Yesterday morning, I tabled for the local Democrats at the annual Sweet Corn Circus, having many great conversations with people who stopped by, and giving away a lot of children's sunglasses, pencils, pens that are also styluses, and buttons. We heard the whistle that meant the sweet corn was cooked and ready for eating. Gammi Phi Circus performers stopped by our booth for candy. On my way out, I saw their performance space, with young kids rolling around their pool inside giant blow-up plastic balls. It was a delight. Then I took my mom to Urgent Care, as when I went to change her wound dressing, I found the wound was infected. Sigh....

That's kind of how each day goes now.

Here, at least, are some random poem titles from Furious Cooking, to give you a sense of, well, everything. And its pertinence:

"After Sinead O'Connor Appears on Saturday Night Live, the Pope"

"A Constant Dissolution of Molecules"

"Self-Portrait with Disasters"

"The Man Who Killed Himself to Avoid August"

Saturday, August 5, 2023

My Midge

My Midge doll is not pregnant. She is simply Barbie's best friend, and my case is a (pink) Barbie & Midge case. She has freckles and brown hair. Here she is with a book hedgehog in the background, wearing fairly sensible yellow heels (sturdy squarish, not spike heels; and they are also square-toed. The kind I myself might wear, if there were a yellow opportunity!) Yes, we saw the Barbie movie last night. Went with my sister, visiting from Nebraska, and my husband, who enjoyed it a lot. It was not what he was expecting. Thank you, Greta Gerwig!

It turns out my sister had no Barbies of her own, just played happily with my handmedowns. I sort of remember being asked about that and saying yes, of course, and of giving her Skipper outright at some point. Where is Skipper? My daughter had Barbies of various sorts; some were sold, some may still be in the house, but she/we did a lot of responsible cleaning out, so maybe not.

My sister was here to help with some responsible cleaning out of the family home, and progress was made, and good things happened this week--medically and with home health care, etc. Joy and relief! But care and stress continue. All shall be well. 

And today shall be a Slattern Day....

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Where's Home Now?

My family home went up for sale this weekend. So if you live in the Midwest, or want to, there it is. (It's in corn and soybean land now, but, given global warming, this could be the tropics soon.) I loved growing up there. So many good memories, including my daughter's wedding in the back yard; so many holidays; so much love, so much change. I'm simultaneously teary-eyed with love and nostalgia and realistic. It's the right time. My parents are safe and sound in a retirement community, and it's time to let someone else love this dear, dear place. (It will haunt my dreams.)

I sat at two booths yesterday at our local Pridefest, put off for a month but hugely popular and well-attended this beautiful, beautiful Saturday and night. The dangerous heat had lifted, there was a breeze, there were rainbow capes and braids and a rainbow tutu (on our new lesbian pastor) and plenty of temporary tattoos. I saw a snippet of the glorious drag performance in front of the Bistro, and then left, pooped. Today, I met a new caregiver for my mom, and she had attended Pridefest as well, an excellent omen.

When I first arrived, my parents were not in their apartment. I looked in the usual places--and I had brought fresh-baked cookies, left by the door as I searched--but we kept missing each other. Finally, I found them and we took the elevator and headed down the hall, my parents walking at their different paces, using the convenient handrail, as I walked at my mother's side.

"Where's home now?" she asked. It was not in regard to the sale of the family home. It was a polite question she asks people she knows she knows...but can't quite recall. It's the first time this has happened to me, but the timing is so perfect, I can let it be.

Later, she knew me. (I think.) I changed the dressing on the wound on her leg, almost healed! We taught our favorite card game to the new caregiver--who loves theatre (yay!), who played volleyball in high school (yay!), who was at Pridefest yesterday (yay!). So much to be grateful for, as my heart keeps gently breaking.

Saturday, July 29, 2023


I had to nudge myself into another poetry submission and discovered it was a full two months since the last. Sigh... Busy, stressful times continue, but with beauty, joy, and moments of sweet downtime, plus, alas, dangerous heat. But the heat has lifted, and I am soon to volunteer at two tables for our annual downtown Pridefest, itself delayed by a full month but now fully supported by the city. I've got my Pride hat, my Pride flags, and two shirts--one for each organization, plus a water bottle, travel tissue, a cell phone for a ride home, and a Walt Whitman tote bag. I feel strangely well prepared! I hope I am coherent, as I had a little anesthesia yesterday. Nasturtiums I planted from seed, and the above marigold, are blooming! There was welcome rain and, sadly, some unwelcome damage from recent storms. Let's hope we all repair.