Sunday, October 31, 2021

Ghost Words

Today I put up the last chalkboard poem for the month of October. I've been going outside in my robe or a long sweater over my jammies to write in the mostly dark, but this morning I waited till closer to 7:00 a.m., and I like how there's a rectangle of light in the upper left, almost like a vertical postcard, of morning coming, and a light in the window at the corner/curve house, the house where two big trees came down over the past year or so, and where a widow lives, and now several of the poems tie together in very particular, neighborhood ways.

Because of the dark and the damp, I didn't always see my imperfect erasing. Yesterday, I noticed I was writing an "s" over the ghost of a previous "s." So these tiny poems have been layered over each other. Ghost words.

On Thursday night, I participated in the Patricia Dobler Poetry Award reading! What a (scary) delight! (I always get nervous before poetry readings and plays, no matter how many times I do them!) Jan Beatty hosted the event, and read a poem by Patricia Dobler. This year's winner, Shirley Jones Luke, read her winning poem and others. Denise Duhamel, the judge in my year, introduced me, and I read "Fox Collar," my winning poem, and other mother poems. Then Denise read a set of wonderful poems, including some mother poems. Sarah Williams was our fabulous Zoom stage manager. A lovely event!

I had practiced my poems by reading to my husband and kids, and then sent them off to visit my parents with carry-out dinner. Too nervous to have them all in the Zoom with me, probably especially because of the mother poems, that my mother has already read, so she's OK with them, no worries!! My sister and her husband were able to tune in for part of it while traveling to a family wedding in Wisconsin. Thanks for sobbing, Chrissy! And several loving friends were there, a sweet surprise. Thank you, dears. It has been a joy to share my poems with you all, in the various ways I do, and I am grateful, honored, and awed.

Postcard to the world:
you are beautiful, always,
even in sorrow.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Familiar/Scary Things

I'm reading Smile, by playwright/poet Sarah Ruhl, subtitled The Story of a Face. I love her plays, was in The Clean House, and would love to direct or be in Dear Elizabeth, her play based on the letters of poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. Smile is about her smile, specifically her experience with Bell's palsy, and I am learning all about when she was on bed rest with twins during the Broadway opening of her first play, In the Next Room, or the vibrator play.

Reading about her discovery of the slip of her smile, I recalled seeing my face in the mirror one early morning and noticing that my eye had fallen down. Did I have a stroke? I wondered. Later in the day, my eye had replaced itself, but still! Did I have a small stroke? A brief, self-healing version of Bell's palsy? Who knows? But it was scary/familiar to read about this in Sarah Ruhl's memoir, making it a Halloweenish Random Coinciday in the blog.

The face-falling incident in my own life occurred around the time my upper eyelid--on that side!--got an itchy, sort of a scaley rash. My doctor did not suggest shingles or Bell's palsy but instead asked if I had put anything on my face lately, and the answer was yes, some sunscreen made for the face, as I had been out in the sun reading. She said other patients had been reporting reactions to sunscreen on the face, and to wear a hat instead, so I've been doing that since, no further problems. But if it was a mild Bell's palsy/shingles, maybe I don't have to schedule the shingles vaccine everyone is telling me to get--mainly because 1) shingles is awful, and 2) it seems to be going around town. Sigh...  I got the flu shot--body wracked by shivers that night--and do not qualify for the Covid booster. (Too young! Don't get to say that very often anymore!) I dread the shingles vaccine because 85% of people get side effects, and how can I fit it into my busy schedule knowing I'll have to set aside 2-3 days to feel icky and not scare people with symptoms. What a blessing if I have already had this and my body cured itself.

Speaking of blessings, this morning I posted the second-to-last chalkboard poem for the month of October. I am hoping it comforts and resonates with my sister-in-law, whose mother died last night, simply and quietly, lying down after dinner. This was both expected and unexpected, but was a gentle and good way for her to go, and her family is feeling peace as well as sorrow. I send vibrations of love and comfort out to all who are sad and suffering right now, all who are grieving, stressed, or worried. It's been raining here, with dark and windy mornings, a true October, with sudden flashes of fiery red and glorious yellow trees through the mist of it all.

Everything has come
to me in its time, asked for
or not, as a blessing.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Invisible Woman

I was planning to write about my recent closet/paradigm shift dilemma, but then this happened, the Invisible Woman at the top of my stairs. This, in addition to candy and doodads, is how I am celebrating Halloween.

There is a connection. The skirt she wears is a summer skirt, recently moved from my closet to elsewhere (my daughter's closet) to make room for cold-weather clothes in the annual closet shift. The shirt is long-sleeved, so appropriate for the current season (and stuffing with tissue paper), but a man's shirt with buttons on the other side (from my perspective). The boots (in the shadows) will have to be rescued soon for seasonal use.

Here she is at the top of the stairs, like any scary thing. My husband and I still get freaked out by her, any time we exit the bathroom or bedroom. The kids are coming for a visit, and, if they don't read my blog in time, they are in for a surprise. She's right outside their bedrooms, too!

The thing I was realizing is that I haven't fully made the paradigm shift from isolation to...less I will not be prepared for the possible lifting of the state mask mandate in time for the holidays, which is the gossip in the news right now. We were sort of shoved into the isolation paradigm with the "stay at home" order in March 2020, and I got used to all that, even when I went back to work. I don't think I will be able to go into public places without a mask for a longish time... Talk about scary things!

The chalk board poems continue. Perhaps this one fits the Invisible Woman! In fact, my phone often tells me "fingerprint not recognized," and, indeed, my fingerprints seem to be fading away due to years of work with paper and plastic and/or aging. Sometimes the parking garage touch screen rejects me, too. It's weird to be slipping away. One day a man in my workplace asked if my husband was still alive. It gave me pause. (Turns out he had met my husband in another context, alive and well!!) My kids see me as looking younger than my age, but they haven't seen me for a while. Wonder what they will think?

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Seasonal Reading

I'm reading The Ghost Variations, by Kevin Brockmeier, perfect for the season. They're ghost stories in a way, but mainly a kind of speculative fiction--philosophical, psychological, addressing the space-time continuum as something ghosts as well as living humans have to contend with. And might have the power to change. Or not.

Meanwhile, I have decorated my house with dishes of candy everywhere and Halloween doo-dads going up the stairs, getting ready for an October visit from the kids (who will be working remotely from my home; I love their jobs!).

Chalkboard poems continue. Yesterday I saw this on my way to the homecoming parade:

The heron standing
quietly in Sugar Creek

turns to watch the dog
crossing the bridge.

I was crossing another bridge, the one the street and sidewalk take over the creek, and it was a wonderful parallel moment, perhaps like something to be found in The Ghost Variations, the heron as still as a vision until it moved, very, very interested in the dog! This is the same creek and crossing where I saw a Siamese cat in the grass and a fox in the playground. I love my path to and from town!

Just finished Magic Lessons, by Alice Hoffman, my book club book, and returned it to the libary. It is the "prequel" to the famous Practical Magic, which precedes her book just out now. Must get caught up. Magic Lessons takes us back to Salem, Massachusetts, tying in the notorious witch trials and other bits of history. 

Also getting in the mood with spooky movies lying around the house: Donnie Darko, with a time loop of the sort 1) I get lost in and 2) that's like a "ghost variation," and Ghost Town, with Ricky Gervais, which is like The Sixth Sense as a heartwarming comedy.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Deer Blind

My husband built a deer blind for a friend many years ago, and it needs some repair after years of weather, so the friend can hunt one more season before he sells the land. We went out to see the damage and measure the panels and boards and door that need replacing. Tony measured, and I took notes, and, of course, wrote a tiny poem at the bottom of the page. 

Beside the deer blind,
three abandoned honeycombs,
branch of black walnuts.

It became this morning's chalkboard poem. On down the road is the Parklands Foundation Merwin Preserve, so we walked the woods there, witnessing leaf fall and more black walnuts, the U-shaped tree and the bending tree near the Mackinaw River, and hearing a deer (?) or some large animal (!) clear its throat...!

On the trail, I wrote another tiny poem, having brought clipboard, paper, and pencil along. On the road back, I noted the irony of the road sign: pictorial leaping deer + "next 2 miles." My heart split, sending out the warning, Stay where you are! to the deer in the preserve, and wishing for Bill his last venison sausage. Alas, we did see a small deer dead by the side of the road.

The deer blind needs a new door. We have one sitting in our back yard, leaning against the tool shed, left over from another project. I hope it fits!

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Fairy Lights

We keep two strings of fairy lights up year-round now, in the kitchen. It's a soft and magical light, all that's needed in the evening if we drift in and out of the kitchen for water or ice cream. And exactly what we need on a dark day, to cheer us up and light the way.

We needed this rain. I've begun my small poems again, one a day on the kids' battered chalkboard (easel for painting on the other side), previously stored in the basement, leaning on a fireproof file cabinet. I haven't done this in October before. So far, it's going fine. It's fun, and it makes people happy. 

I stand the chalkboard up in the dirt beside the front stoop under the eaves. I take a little stool out to sit on and write. Then I take a picture. This morning I had to figure out how to turn off the automatic it would still be dark around the edges. (I didn't know how yet on October 1st.) It was easy. Why am I so technology illiterate? I am so competent at many other things.

My parents are visiting my sister in Nebraska, to see her production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Opening night was a great success. On Saturday, there was no show because it was a game day. Football takes precedence over theatre in Nebraska.

The plan was to walk in the local Women's March on October 2, but it was postponed till next weekend, due to storms predicted by radar, that never came. (Came modified in late afternoon, and gently overnight.) A thousand people showed up in Chicago, where the weather was still fine. Some showed up, chatted, and walked here, as the word had not got out, but most of us will try again next weekend. In the absence of what I had planned, life happened. And it was good.