Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Harvest in Progress

It's late September, harvest in progress. I think I mean that metaphorically as well as literally. These are images of my dad climbing into and out of the red and green harvesting machines. Our neighbor is a farmer, the grandson of the farmer who lived there till he was 101. I say "our," but I haven't lived there for a long time. It was my childhood home.

This past weekend, my husband and I took a trip through the fields, harvest in progress, to Moraine View State Recreation Area to walk the wooded trails. Lots of corn, soybeans at the ready, and the wonderful tall white wind turbines of the windfarms. At the moraine, we walked around a finger of the lake and through a tent camping area with no tent campers; we saw black walnuts hanging from the trees, ginormous orange fungi like smashed pumpkins. It's been a glorious fall so far with summery weather. It was a perfect "self care" weekend after a week of stress.

These days whole scenarios play themselves out in my head. Practical plans line up as excellent mental outlines, then disappear. I wake up at 3:30 a.m., read the new issue of The Sun, want to contact all the writers in it to say how much I enjoyed their work, and set it aside, never doing so. Disrupted sleep patterns are my new way of life; it doesn't stress me out, as I don't resist it. In odd little bunches, I get enough sleep.

Somehow everything gets done. I have to write each thing on a physical weekly calendar, checking it off as I do it. Medical appointments, theatre meetings, deadlines. When I visit my parents, I bring this calendar with me, comparing it to the large wall calendar in their kitchen. I make sure the two calendars match. I add things, I erase things.

These pictures are out of order. In the one just above, he's grabbing the sides of the ladder of the steps to go up. With their arms open, this looks like a gorgeous greeting. Up I go, into the harvesting machine. Hello, hello! What a beautiful blue sky behind it all.

When he came down, my dad said it was sort of scary in the machines. Way up there, very loud. It reminded me of when my son was a toddler, and Gus (still alive!) invited him up into the combine. We almost did it, but I imagined my son up in the cab, the noise beginning, the terror, my son wailing, reaching out for me, unable to exit. I couldn't put any of us through that. Ah, I have a poem about this.

It's almost October. Later in the month, my kids are coming for a visit. I hope they'll be able to spend some time with their grandparents, looking over photo albums; if it's warm enough still, sitting in the yard, gazing over the fields at the windfarm horizon, the setting sun. 

If you look closely, you can see my dad on the steps of the machine.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Alexander's Bridge

The coincidences and connections continue in my reading. I forgot to tell you that, in White Noise, by Don DeLillo, "The time of spiders arrived." Like now, September. The webs are at every entrance and exit to my home, hanging from trees by the compost heap, decorating the front columns that descend otherwise useless from the cantilevered porch roof. Why shouldn't they be homes for spiders?

(I also noted the coincidence of spiders while re-reading and reviewing Marrow of Summer, by Andrea Potos, for Escape Into Life.)

And that is a cantilevered bridge in Alexander's Bridge, by Willa Cather. (Though, I actually read the Dover Thrift edition.) This is a slim novel, as they say, probably a novella. I was interested in Cather's preface from 1922, where she seemed a little embarrassed by the book, as something written before she had found her true material (pioneers, the Great Plains, Nebraska!). To me, it held together quite well and led to an interesting proposition about the "great man," about whom we can't know everything: "The mind that society had come to regard as a powerful and reliable machine, dedicated to its service, may for a long time have been sick within itself and bent upon its own destruction." Naturally, I connected this to Don DeLillo's White Noise characters' theories that Adolf Hitler and Elvis Presley held the seeds of their own destruction within the coincidence of their too close connections with their mothers... Hmmm.

Now I'm inside a Nancy Horan novel while reading outside in the glorious September days, and soon must move on to some Lydia Millett I got through interlibrary loan, realizing the book I found in the library sale is part of a loose trilogy... Reading is a way I am holding everything together in a somewhat stressful time of many, many details. Some sweet news is that I got together with photographer Ken Kashian yesterday to sign copies (in pencil on archival paper) of his latest small art book, in a box, with tiny images and tiny poems (by me!) tucked in pockets that fold up accordion style. Only 14 copies for special collections. Lovely!

Also hmmm: perhaps I am a bit of a spider myself. (Or two fish.)

Monday, September 6, 2021

White Noise

Here's another book I'd been wanting to read and happened to read at exactly the right time for me: White Noise, by Don DeLillo. I read this paperback edition, and will also show the cover provided by Wikipedia, presumably the hard cover edition. It was published in 1985, which shows how behind I am! And yet it fits our times re: consumerism, incessant "waves and radiation," and ongoing dangers from pollutants of various kinds. There is even some mask wearing, re: a "toxic airborne event."

There's also this exchange about a guy seeking danger, which frustrates the guy wishing to avoid death:

     "He's asking for it."

     "That's right. Most of us spend our lives avoiding danger. Who do these people think they are."

     "They ask for it. Let them get it."

This is dangerously close to my own frustration re: the adamantly unvaccinated, and I have definitely heard this attitude voiced around me! "Let them get it," indeed. Alas, they infect others also or instead. I know some who resist the vaccine have legit reasons, and some have been misled but are true believers in what they've been told by non-legit sources. Sigh... But still.

What a gorgeous holiday weekend! I did my reading outside, and today is the Labor Day Parade. The blue sky is mostly lifting my personal blues, despite the simmering frustration and ongoing communal grief. I surprised myself by submitting some poems yesterday. Others are coming out this fall. But everything still feels suspended and slightly unreal to me. It helps to prick my fingers on coneflower seeds, sprinkling some on the earth for next year while tidying the flowerbeds. I leave some up all year for the birds. Next year, it's possible the blackberry lilies and coneflowers and wild violets will take over the universe of my back yard, while lilies of the valley march down into the shared valley between houses. In the meantime, I do hope walking and gardening will undo my crankiness. For now, it's a rare Cranky Doodle Day in the blog and an actually glorious day outdoors!

Saturday, September 4, 2021

The Death of the Heart

The Death of the Heart, by Elizabeth Bowen, turns up on so many recommended lists, and now, finally, I have read it and agree. What was I waiting for? Really, I had looked for it before at the library, and finally it turned up in the library sale, along with others recommended in The Writer's Library, exactly when I needed them. I kept picturing this girl on the cover as Portia, the main character, or my niece, keeping things interesting and personal. Indeed, it's all personal to Portia...but not to the others, until, suddenly, it sort of is. As it must be, I suppose, to avoid the death of the heart.

I also read Waiting for the Parade, a play by John Murrell, that takes place in Alberta, Canada during World War II. A cast of 5 women, 20s to 50s, so a good one to recommend to local theatres. I saw it at Steppenwolf in the 1980s and never forgot Rondi Reed's wonderful performance as Marta, the German woman. 

And now I am waiting for the Labor Day Parade, on Monday. I'll be walking in it as a Democrat, in blue, with a blue mask. Plus, I've been feeling a little blue. It helped to pull a lot of weeds along the fences, and hack away various branches from volunteer maple trees, if I could not pull them up by the roots.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Big Year

It looks to be a "big year" for birders in our area! Yesterday, as September began its beautiful weather, I took a walk with a friend* through a good set of trails for birds. We saw a serious photographer getting some good shots and keeping us from getting lost! I've been happy with my summer of back yard cardinals, wrens, and goldfinches, awed by the occasional hawk, and involved in the various crow conversations...

And, of course, there were birds in the various books of poetry I read in August! Crows, sandhill cranes, and whooping cranes, as mentioned, but others, too!

*the same friend I saw this movie with, as I recall! (My recall is sort of haphazard, so maybe she told me about it...but I think we saw it together! It was a thing we did sometimes, back in the days of going to movie theatres. I know we saw It's Complicated together, because I remember laughing a lot. Wait, both these movies have Steve Martin in them. Maybe we only went to Steve Martin movies together. This blog entry started out completely differently. Hmm, it has turned into a Random Coinciday in the blog!)

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Sealey Challenge Accomplished!

What a joy it was to read 31+ books for the Sealey Challenge in August! I feel grateful to have engaged with so many poems and poets, mostly reading outdoors, sometimes curled on the couch. Here is a picture of my stack of books. Not all the spines show, but 1) you get the idea and 2) you saw all the covers here, if you were following along.

Let me know if you'd like me to send you a little bundle of poetry books or chapbooks for next year. Send me an email (email address given on the Contact page above) with your name and address, and I'll put something in the mail for you at some point. We have a whole year! 

It might not be something from this stack, as I've formed connections with some of these, but don't worry, I have other stacks, last year's stack for instance (same picnic table, different stack!), stacks on the coffee table, on the stairs, plus baskets and shelves full of books...  Sigh... 

Another one came yesterday, Took House, by Lauren Camp, and I'll discuss that at Escape Into Life, along with other books by EIL poets that have waited patiently in yet another stack, inside a dresser drawer on the floor of my office. Creative organizational technique, sturdy out-of-the-box "box." And I picked up another in the ongoing library sale, The Clerk's Tale, by Spencer Reece, today. It's almost like an addiction.

Speaking of Escape Into Life, the Labor Day 2021 feature is up today, with poems that have work/labor in them. Go see!