Love. Art. Repeat.

painted_heart-t2

Welcome Summer!

We have a new process for the web page that we’re very excited about. We will have a rotating schedule of writers whose prompts will be more focused on the writing process, although don’t be surprised if you see a creative prompt now and then. We welcome your comments, and hope to inspire and/or prod the writer in you.

This my mantra: Love. Art. Repeat

Love and art can take many forms, including taking care of yourself and standing up for what is right over what is comfortable or convenient. It includes seeking and speaking truth: external truth, your truth, even existential Truth. It includes accountability for the consequences of our decisions, for we have a greater impact on each other than we recognize.

It is painting a landscape, sculpting movement in stone, scoring a concerto, yes. But it is also knitting socks, capturing the light, drawing a monster, plaiting ribbons, stringing words like beads or fish, carving a whistle, building a chair, making a puzzle, shaping pottery, sketching the profile of a beloved, cooking an omelet, stitching flowers onto cloth.

It includes every voice, from the barest whisper to the loudest roar. It includes every sense, from what can be seen and touched to what can be felt only with the heart. It includes every defiant act of creativity—and every act of creativity is, indeed, defiant. Perhaps wildly so, perhaps gently, but yes, defiant. Defying even death, with the heartbeat of I am, I am, I am.

Wherever the drive to create comes from, it carries our voices somewhere else: creating within the industrious din of a city or on the mountaintop of intellectuality; creating far out on the ink-black sea of contemplation or from the verdant fields of community; creating within the crushing void of overthinking or from the wide vistas of a spirit at peace. Every creation a lantern lifted high to carry its flame into the darkening sky.

It includes love for our country that calls for deep thought and considered action. It includes love for our fellow human beings who need our protection and support–including future generations whose world we shape with our decisions. It includes love for our remarkable, irreplaceable planet. It includes love for love’s sake and for all of ours. It includes hope and compassion and backbone and fortitude and a fire in our veins.

This we must do—over and over and over—or all else is meaningless.

Love. Art. Repeat. 

Darla Kennerud

Art

In pairs, groups, circles,

We

Sew, sculpt,  bake, build, paint, weave,

Listen—

Making

Trust.

Chalice, membrane, fountain, firework,

Our artifact

Breathes

Over, through, within, under, beyond

Us,

Begetting

Love

 

In pairs, groups, circles,

We

Sew, sculpt,  bake, build, paint, weave,

Listen—

Making

Trust.

Chalice, membrane, fountain, firework,

Our artifact

Breathes

Over, through, within, under, beyond

Us,

Begetting

Love

Emily Dietrich

Love. Art. Repeat.

I write poetry. I don’t write novels, short stories, essays, or memoirs because (to me) these genres all require plots and plotting. I don’t have a talent for plotting.

For me, a poem is an emotion and writing about emotion. No plotting required! I can write about emotions. And yet this is funny, because for many years, I did not experience emotions.

My mother was… let us just say that my mother should never have had children—or in fact never have been allowed around children. My youngest years were not conducive to being a happy, beloved child nor to producing an adult who could create and maintain normal, healthy relationships with other people.

My father was my source of loving and being loved, of feeling worthy of love. When my parents announced their divorce when I was seven, I was devastated. The one and only person who loved me was going away and I would not see him very often. Starting that evening and for at least the next twenty years, I was the epitome of Star Trek’s emotionless Mr. Spock, even before Star Trek existed.

As I passed through high school and college and went out into the big, wide world, however, I saw other people experience emotions as though those emotions were ordinary, everyday things. Eventually, with much work on my own and with the help of therapy, I decided that feeling emotions (beyond a general irritability for everyone and everything) might be something both safe and worthwhile that I could do.

Today I’m grateful to feel emotions: happy and unhappy, pleasant and unpleasant, mild to very intense. Having lived both with and without emotions, I am definitely in favor of living with them and fully feeling them. I find the intense emotions—whether joy or rage—are very scary, but I would still rather feel scary, intense emotions than feel nothing at all.

I love my emotions. I write poetry. Repeat!

Jules Dickinson ’77

The Mythopoesis of Love

For the past few days, hour after hour, I have been immersed in note-taking on Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan. Now what on God’s green earth would motivate me to do such a thing? Have I developed some kind of program of atonement based on utter boredom? Do I believe that the intricacies of Hobbes’s distinction between contracts and covenants is important to know? (By the way, you can’t have a covenant with a beast. Nope.) None of the above; I am painstakingly doing this because I am taking an online class called Revolutionary Ideas: Utility, Justice, Equality, Freedom.

But why am I doing that? I’m taking the class because I’m giving a presentation in a couple of weeks about the Mythopoesis of Alternative Justice at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association annual conference. Why? Because I’ve read a bunch of books in this past year about different areas of North America (that includes Mexico and Canada, folks!), and the roots of their immigrants, their belief systems, and the stories we all tell (books, movies, TV) that illustrate our anxieties and profound hopes about justice. That doesn’t explain it, really, though, does it?

Why did I pick that topic right now? Because I need to understand, like many, many of my fellow Americans, what is happening in this country. I’m scared, and hurting, so fundamentally confused, and can find no unity nor answers by talking. Even conversations I have with people with whom I agree feel tense and angry. But I don’t think yelling at each other or retreating to preconceived notions about what is important in “your” America is going to work at all. So, I did what I can do very well. I decided to love and write. (And apparently exhaust my brain to the point that reading an article in Popular Science seems frivolous.)

This is at the core of all my creative efforts: I want the fruit of my labors to be reflective of who I am as a person, and not what I believe. To me, if my writing, and my cooking, and all my other quests to create nice things isn’t rooted in this desire to understand and love, then it’s not worth making. I wrote a paper, and made a Power Point presentation, and got some awesome movie and TV clips, and thought of some funny ways to tell people about my paper. I’m not trying to change what anyone thinks, or make some self-important statement about right, wrong, and what people should be thinking about. I am trying to create out of love.

Liz Burr-Brandstadt ’91

SHOES

zinaida-serebriakova-put-on-one_s-shoes-farmer

Zinaida Serebriakova 1884-1967

Sometimes the simplest things in life can bring us the most inspiration. What better to contemplate those integuments for our feet. What if we didn’t have them? What do they symbolize? Have a good story about shoes?

SHOES

Ah, shoes! My secret passion! (My other passion is hats but they are out of fashion so don’t count.) But I LOVE SHOES. I have no idea why. But I can tell you that the first thing I notice about a person is their footwear. I’ve startled strangers and friends alike by sidling up to them and saying in an emotional, conspiratorial whisper, “I love your shoes!”

Besides a thank you” I usually also receive a wink and a nod and a “Me too! They’re my favorite.” And we smile the smile of a passion shared. Another shoe lover!

Sue

Florentine

Looming large in our living room in the home where I grew up were two oil portraits from the early 20th century, framed by thick, ornate, and gilded frames. Each pictured a formidable character, and I knew them as “Grossmama” and “Grosspapa.” They were my great, great grandparents who immigrated from Germany. Grosspapa had a handlebar mustache and kind of looked like Edgar Allan Poe, but I was fascinated by Grossmama. I always wanted to hear her story.

“Look at her earrings and her pin,” my mother would tell me, pointing to the very Victorian-looking bunches of grapes dangling from her ears and the high neck of her dress. “That jewelry was made from her baby Florentine’s hair.”

Even though I already knew, I would ask, “And who was Florentine?”

“Florentine was the youngest of Grossmama and Grosspapa’s fourteen children.”

“But only seven of them grew up, right Mommy?”

“Yes, that’s right. And one year, Grossmama lost her three youngest children to tuberculosis: first her six-year-old, then her four-year-old, and then her two-year-old, Florentine.”

“So Grossmama had the jewelry made from her long dark curls, right Mommy?”

“Yes, her long dark curls.”

Then my mother would produce a small pair of tiny black leather boots with buttons up the side. They looked almost new. “These were Florentine’s shoes,” she would continue. “Grossmama would hold them and cry and say, ‘If only I could bear looking at the shoes!'”

How thrillingly morbid! I loved this story. Couldn’t get enough of it. Unsuspecting guests who had never been to our house before would enter our living room for presumed hospitality, only to have me push ahead of them where I shouted out a “highlights-only” version of this story. I had to get there before my brother tried to steal the show and tell the story first. Mind you, my brother couldn’t care less about the story and was probably playing Atari in the other room, but I beat him, nonetheless. I’m sure our guests were very grateful.

Why the shoes? Why couldn’t Elizabeta Von Sturmer Hugo bear to see Florentine’s shoes?

I think it’s because they didn’t have the worn sole and scuffs of a child who played outside, or followed her brothers and sisters on adventures, or walked to market and church. They seemed too small not to be worn. They represented the steps not taken.

About ten years ago, my mother asked me what she should specifically leave me in her will. I couldn’t really think of anything. (For the record, my mother has approximately 438 pairs of shoes. Also for the record, my brother, when posed the same question, immediately asked which of my mother’s belongings cost the most.)

“I think I want the bible Grossmama and Grosspapa brought from Germany,” I said. I love old books, and I remembered the careful list kept on the first page of the bible detailing the births and deaths of their children, and the family to follow.

“And Florentine’s shoes,” I added.

Because every footprint we leave is important to someone.

Liz

Shoes

 

And my breasts—it’s better not to mention them at all except to say that

they seemed to be in a race to see which could be first to reach my knees.

Maya Angelou, Rainbow in the Cloud

 

Gravity has had its way on me, as on Sister Maya. And beyond the obvious effect of gravity, age has also affected my shoe size. I always had big feet. As a teen, I had to buy shoes at a tiny Rochester, NY emporium euphemistically called the “Tall Girl Shop.” Now, feet that used to be comfortable in size 11s need 11-1/2 or 12s. I’m lucky to live in Nordstrom land, where through the gift of mostly Munros my feet are comfortably clad.

 

And at the same time—when I think of my expanding feet, I think of the greater understanding they represent. That too, is a gift of aging.

Mary Ann

 

SELECT

For this month, instead of forcing a political discussion, instead of “ELECT’ we’re writing on “SELECT.’ We all make choices every day, and often we’re completely unaware of the far-reaching (or even immediate) consequences.

69f63f51fd8c26379ec5ccde2b01becd

Simone

11/11/16

When I asked Simone why she had acted to save the children at such great risk to herself, she shrugged in her European manner, and said, “Someone had to do it.”  She appeared fatigued with the question although kind in allowing me an opportunity to ask it. Earlier in the week at dinner, in the elegant dining room of her care facility, she had been chattily introduced to me as a French heroine. Again, kindly, she said to her Christian interlocutors, “These are not matters to discuss over dinner.”

Women of advanced age do not all look the same. Simone herself was quite beautiful. Her skin was pale white, her hair white, her eyes blue. The overall visual impression was of a woman of good health and intellect.

Too polite or too hesitant to delve beneath the answer she had given me and unable to find a ready answer in my cursory research on the Jewish Resistance, I began to ask these questions of my hypothetical 19 year old self.  Am I responsible for the children in my care when I am only a few years older than they? If I am not responsible for them than who is? If the parents of these children cannot bear to be separated from their own flesh and blood but I know the children will surely die, how can I summon the strength to wrench these children from loving parents who cling to them?

Of course I could not answer these questions.

(These children were hidden in the homes of French families, their birth names and parents’ names carefully concealed in the lining of Simone’s coat, so that at the end of the war, hopefully, families could be reunited.)

The concept of choice may not be a suitable framework for understanding why someone brave acts bravely. Most of us would wish we could. In times of peace we assume that we can select our course of action. Perhaps choice is a mystery.

I will never know more than I do now about how a young French girl was able to save so many children.  I am honored to have met Simone. I think of her at times when my hope is shaken.

Mary

A Select Number

Will reap the benefits of this country,

Will represent the interests of all,

Will be disparaged and banished,

Will embrace rampant intolerance,

Or inclusion, and

Will hope.

Liz

SELECT

Select? Choose? How do we make choices? Why do we select what we do? What goes into the selection? What is behind it? My guess is that the answers to those questions change over time as we ourselves move from our teenage years through our time as mature adults and finally into our time as seniors.

The problem is we often have to live with choice we made in our twenties that don’t fit us comfortably in our forties. Selections have consequences.

And so we select or choose again as life’s circumstances shift. Those of us who are able to change our minds as circumstances shift, who are flexible, seem to float more smoothly through life’s challenges. Perhaps these lucky ones have found the secret to happiness.

Sue

 

Select

When I was at a serious, life-changing choice point in my life, whenever I selected a Tarot

card, I often picked the Two of Swords. In the deck I used, a “blindfolded woman is seated

at the water’s edge, holding two swords in perfect balance. The blindfold indicates that she

cannot see her way through her present situation, so she steadfastly ignores the sea of her

emotions and the jagged rocks of hard facts behind her.”* That was surely the way I felt, so

terrified of whatever decision I might make, I could do nothing at all.

Once I made my choice, I never selected the Two of Swords again for a Tarot spread.

Just sayin’.

* The Complete Book of Tarot, Julie Sharman-Burke

Mary Ann

What’s in a name?

a-rose-by-any-other-name-loretta-fasan

“A Rose By Any Other Name” by Loretta Fasn

Recently, I read an article in the Washington Post: Another challenge for transgender people: Choosing a new name . It made me think, what would I name myself if I had the choice? Not just, “What does my name mean to me?” but “If I had to choose a name for myself, at this point in my life, what would it be and why?” So that’s our September topic: “My Name”. Because a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Chapter 2:  Lily

I do remember. I really do. Mom and I are traveling together. We meet at the Miami

Airport. The plane is late and we have to run from one end of the airport to the other

and I tell Mom that she can do it because I know that she is strong enough if it is

important and it is important because we are going to visit Papa. He is yours my

mother says. And I know that she means that he is hers.  Barbara will be there too.

Every year it is the same. Mom makes light of it, calls it a reunion, but Barbara

looks older every year. These trips do not help her.

My friends think I am off on holiday. They think I will be lying by the pool,

sneaking drinks at the swim-up bar, fooling everyone about my age, flirting with

guys.  I would but there won’t be any time for that.

I never felt a hundred percent safe. I heard the stories so many times. About how I

was left on the beach. About how my mother couldn’t swim. About the trip on the

river even if I wasn’t there. You hear a story so many times and you think for sure it

happened and you can see it in your mind how the day unfolds.

I do remember riding on my mother’s hip, our cold swimsuits stuck together, how

she trembled when she put the key into the lock.

“ ‘Where is Papa? ’ I asked you over and over again but you didn’t know and you

started to cry. I put you on my hip and I started to search for him.” This is how my

Mom begins the story each time.

Last year when we landed in Montego Bay I was 14.  Like always the Jamaicans

clapped when the plane landed. I don’t know why but that part is always is exciting

to me.  I helped Mom with her bags. She always carries way too much on the plane.

The plane lands right on the tarmac and you have to walk down this metal stairway

they roll to the door. It’s so hot. Steamy hot. Sticky hot. Mom has these big

sunglasses and  she looks like a celebrity. Sometimes I feel so awkward standing

next to her.

“Lily,” Mom says, ”Hurry up!” She loves the sound of my name. So do I.

Mary

Fleur Jersey-Cowgirl

I’ve never had to think much about my name: it works, I like it, and most people can pronounce and remember it. But now that I am halfway (I hope) through my life, if I could pick any name I wanted, I would jump at the chance to change it to something else that reflects my historical, personal, and imaginary identities. Family is important, as is self-identity and one’s own vibrant inner world, after all. Fleur Jersey-Cowgirl, for example. When I was born, my father wanted to name me “Fleur” after a character in The Forsyte Saga, but my mother said that “Fleur Burr” would be her child’s name over her dead body. “Jersey” makes me sound both tough, as in “New Jersey,” and worldly, as in the island in the UK off Normandy that has awesome cows” (Get it? “Cow-girl. And for “Cowgirl”?) I think the fanciful is important.  I was in no way raised a cowgirl. But I have always, at one point in my life or another, wanted to either be riding a horse, own cowboy boots, or be ravaged by a cowboy (later in life, mind you). But you know what? I’m happy with being “Elizabeth,” an East-coast transplant being ravaged by an aerospace engineer (who sometimes goes to Texas), so I’m good. I’ll pass on the name change.

Liz

 

“Name”

I didn’t grow up hating my name, or even disliking it.  My name just was, like air or my heart beating.  If I stopped to think about it at all, it was to wish that “Julie” didn’t sound so ruffle-y and frou-frou.  I did not want to be associated in any way with frilly, elaborate female clothing.  To me, that kind of clothing was antithetical to how I perceived myself and the type of woman I wanted to be.  Having spent my young childhood years with TV presentations of Wyatt Earp and Roy Rogers, I wanted cowboy boots and pants (and preferably a pair of six-guns).

 

As I grew older, the desire for six-guns and boots – but not pants – abated.  I would wear dresses if I had to, but I always would have preferred to wear pants.  When my high school finally changed their dress code to allow girls to wear pants, I was an enthusiastic celebrant.

 

Years later, when I discovered science-fiction conventions and the companies I worked for had Netnews readers, I noticed that many people had made up “fan names” for themselves.  Many people were known primarily by their fannish name, even out in the Real World.  I started thinking about my own name and whether I wanted to create a fannish name for myself.  Again – or still – my sole objection to “Julie” was that, to me, it sounded too frou-frou.

 

Eventually I recalled an old nickname that had been used amongst the family when I was small – “Jules”.  I considered this name carefully for many months and it met my requirements: It sounded a little mannish and not at all frou-frou, adopting it would tie back to good childhood memories, and it was a widely-accepted diminutive of my real name. So one day as I started a new job with a new company, I started using “Jules” for all except Very Official Purposes.

 

I am now Jules, but if you’re an old friend you can still call me Julie – as long as you don’t try to make me wear a dress.

 

Jules

 

SUMMER

It’s that time of year when day-to-day schedules aren’t always predictable, so we’re going to have choices for June, July, and August. Reflection, however, is always timely. With that in mind, here are the three topics:

  1. HEAT….just the word: respond!
  2. Final reflections on The Angled Road.
  3. Take a gander at this Guiseppe Arcimboldo painting, entitled “Summer”. Respond!

Giuseppe-Arcimboldo9

HEAT

She grew up outside of Philadelphia and as May morphed into June and the school year drew to a close Ella welcomed the humid heat of the classroom. Today’s heat and humidity stuck her tee shirt to her back. Wonderful! It meant that summer was right around the corner and she would finally see the end of Miss Jones and the boredom of third grade.

Summer’s heat meant that her mother would drop her off at the pool where she would spend wonderful lazy days with Kathy and Janis playing games in and out of the water to stay cool and watching her blond hair slowly change color until by the time September rolled around it would be a dull chlorine-green. Ella gazed out the schoolroom window imagining herself with Kathy and Janis in the shade under the trees by the shallow baby pool eating their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made delightfully soggy by the heat. She couldn’t wait.

After lunch as Miss Jones droned on about the times table Ella’s attention was riveted by the sudden change in the sky. Dark, ominous clouds flew across the window and the leaves on the maple tree outside the classroom window shivered as gusts of wind warned of a coming storm.

The nines table was forgotten by the children as a summer tropical storm dashed rain hard against the windows. The maple tree disappeared behind thundering sheets of water cascading down the window panes. And then, just as suddenly as it had begun, the storm was over, the maple tree reappeared and a tentative sunbeam peeked from behind a lingering cloud.

But something had changed. The heat was gone with the storm and the crisp cool of a late spring day had returned. “Ella!” said Miss Jones firmly breaking her reverie. What is five times eight?

Delicious summer heat and days at the pool would have to wait. “But at least next year I’ll be in fourth grade,” thought Ella. And there was comfort in that.

Sue

Heat

Chapter I    Watching

It was the hottest she’d ever been. She went into the aquamarine up to her neck, backing

into the water, her heels sinking first into the fine sand as she watched the figures on the

beach grow more and more distant and less and less distinct. Charlie was there on the

beach somewhere. He was watching Lily. Putting sunscreen on her baby skin, great

globs of it—more than she would—making a game of the banana smelling goop.

Except she didn’t see them as exactly as she wished. More like silhouettes on the beach–

dark ones, whitish ones dissolving as the film recedes and the wavy mirage hovers in the

middle distance.

Yesterday was like today. They’d taken the baby to the Falls, a tourist trap. Sunburned

white people hooted and screamed. She’d slipped on the rocks and cut herself. “No

problem,” she said and meant it. Then again at dinner, when there was a mix-up and the

waiter brought shrimp, not what she had ordered, and what would, if she had eaten it,

close off her airway—“No problem,” she’d said.

“I don’t understand you,” Charlie said. Lily was playing with the roly poly pasta and

popping it into her mouth. Because the child was beautiful the other diners looked their

way and smiled with indulgence and forgiveness. Or so it seemed to Renee, Lily’s mother.

In French there is a phrase that conveys that a matter is of no consequence. The matter

is trivial. It is to be forgotten. Expressed as an algebraic formula both sides would be

equal.

“And I don’t understand you,” Renee said.  Her fork skidded alongside the plate and

made a screeching sound.

Lily opened her mouth, scrunched her forehead and raised her spoon in the air. Renee

grabbed the spoon, pretended to be a friendly monster and Lily went back to playing

with the fusilli.

Charlie smiled. “You’re a natural,” he said. And Renee would have to agree because

she does know how to anticipate Lily’s every gradation of baby emotion.

She’s watching the shore again. She’s wet through and through and weighted down with

the heaviness of heat and water. She moves from the dog paddle to walking, raising each

thigh above the level of water. She’s not making enough progress. Her breathing peaks

with anxiety.

She makes the child out on the sand. Lily’s toddler bottom is in the air. She’s an inverted

triangle over her shovel and pail, fascinated, riveted by her own efforts. She’s safe.

But Charlie is gone.

“Lily,” Renee says. “Where is PaPa?”

Mary

How to Walk in Hot Sand

 

My personal preference: wear socks to and from beach

Downside: looks dorky; sand collects in socks

Tried and rejected by me, but still widely used:

-dip feet thoroughly in water and run all the way up

-thrust feet deep to cool sand with each step

-run or walk until feet are unbearably hot, then stand on towel until they cool down. Repeat.

-get carried

-endure pain until boards and skitter up boards as lightly as possible

-wait until sun goes lower

-shoes (worst! So much sand! So not cool!)

-sandals (2nd worst—they flip hot sand all around!)

-walk in footsteps of the person ahead of you

Downside: first person screwed. Worth trying alternating, like bikes or geese.

Possible, but untried:

-Use Super Soaker to spray the sand ahead of you as you go

-personal tunnel?

-tow rope/boogie board combo

Emily

 How to Be a Bad-Ass Blogger

I will answer all three questions in three sentences (not counting this one). Guiseppe Arcimboldo was a late-Renaissance artist from the school of Mannerism, which sought to express the connection between humans and nature, and this  self-portrait does; the fresh and ripe fruits and vegetables form the face of the artist and the colors most certainly reflect the hot and sunny summers in Milan, Italy (which averages in the 80°F range). Arcimboldo, however, got quite a bit of heat from other artists at the time, as they feared he was mocking the portraiture style of the Renaissance painters. On another note, last night I finished the final editing notes for our next version of The Angled Road, and I am ready to send them off to our design guy after one more check, so the heat is almost off of me!

Liz

MAY

Maurice-Prendergast-xx-Maypole-xx-Allen-Memorial-Art-Museum

                  Maurice Brazil Prendergast,  1858-1924

“May I?”

Genevieve was enjoying her ninth birthday party immensely! To wake up as nine instead of eight this morning was a tremendous step forward in Genevieve’s mind. She was already deciding what she was newly empowered to do now that she was a whole year older. She had put one of those things into effect five minutes ago when she had announced that before ice cream and cake they would play games, games that she had chosen.
“Alright, everyone,” she said in her new nine-year old voice, sounding uncharacteristically bossy, “Line up behind  this line. We’re going to play “May I?” The children lined up obediently all except Jason which was no surprise. Jason, the class bully who particularly enjoyed tormenting Genevieve every chance he got, was not about to do anything she suggested. Against Genevieve’s protests her mother had insisted that Jason be invited to the party.  Their mothers were best friends. Genevieve had no choice and had reluctantly given in. Now Genevieve gave her mother an imploring look.
“You too, Jason,” her mother said. “Cake and ice cream at the end of the game.” Jason frowned but slowly stepped behind the line.
“Red light, green light rules,” Genevieve announced and the game began. “Green light!” she shouted and the children dashed forward with cries of “May I?”
“Red light!” Genevieve said and the kids slid to a halt. “Jason, go back to the start, you didn’t say, “May I?” Jason looked annoyed but the kids all pointed him back to the starting line and he reluctantly retreated.
“Green light!” commanded Genevieve and the children ran for the finish line. Jason ran his hardest, knocking several kids down in his mad dash for the finish but he was too far behind to catch up to the winner. “Back to the start, Jason!” said Genevieve with relish. “You forgot to say, “May I?” Jason slunk back to the start.
“Nine is going to be a great year,” Genevieve thought with delight. “Ice cream and cake everyone!”

Sue

 

 

Flower Moon Day

 

We went to Volunteer Park on Saturday.

It was Moon Day, the day each month

we give to each other; the May Flower full moon

waited in the wings to rise that evening.

 

Crossing the lake, curving around 10th by St. Mark’s,

we turned left at Prospect

then left again by the tower,

and headed for the conservatory,

where flowers can be counted on all year.

 

A hundred-year-old glasshouse,

the conservatory bristled with life last Saturday—

orchids, maidenhair ferns,

hydrangea displays, artists sketching them;

an ancient Euphoria fanned its succulent frills,

carnivorous pitcher plants dangled sacs

secreting nectar that can attract, kill, and digest

a mouse.

 

The flowers were dazzling.

Bright red splashes of orchid cactus flowers

coughed thin tendrils and one perfect star

from their throats, Chilean Firebush

outside abuzz with scarlet blaze

and hummingbirds.

 

But it was the small cacti

that drew me this day,

the ones

you could easily pass amidst

the showier glories of the greenhouse:

 

Mamillaria Bocasana, fuzzy balls of gauze

and prickles; Mamillaria Parkinsonal,

owl’s eyes with spirals of spikes;

Rebutia Neocrumingii, a croquet ball

dotted with barbs, a miniature mace.

 

When I stopped and studied them, I gasped.

Many of them were blooming too!

Petite red dots expanded to dainty white blossoms

half the size of my pinkie finger nail,

yellow flowers so tiny I nearly missed them.

 

Stunned, I moved slowly,

noticing, simply noticing,

paying attention to the miracle

of beauty among the thorns.

 

I’m not sure if the message here was to stop and look,

to notice beauty wherever it can be seen,

or that just because I haven’t discovered it

doesn’t mean there is no beauty, no life, no creation,

to be seen and celebrated.

 

I do know my heart was lifted

on Flower Moon Day

in the glasshouse, there among the cacti;

that I left feeling blessed.

 

© Mary Ann Woodruff

 

Mary Ann

 

It’s May, it’s May! The Lusty Month of May!” (you’re welcome, Camelot fans)

Once again, the linguist in me has emerged! Let me tell you a bit about the origins of“may” (as a noun) which I find fascinating and you may find readable. Many thanks primarily to the Oxford English Dictionary, as well as my 4 years of Latin and one course in Old English in college. Oh, and I taught The Canterbury Tales and did some stuff with Chaucer’s original language, so I’m practically an expert. Actually, I’m rusty, and to be honest, I only looked up, like, 5 words. But I did the research!  Please feel free to argue with me in the comments.

At its first appearance (says me) “may” appeared as mæg as a Germanic derivation, and it meant “a male relative”; this is how it’s used in Beowulf. Ic eom Higelaces mæg ond maago ðegn (something like, “I am from Higglesbottom, as I am his kinsman and his soldier”).  Similarly, the word could also be used to mean “parent,” as in Þa bearn arisað ágen hyra magas (Bible quote: “The baby arises from his parents”). I just love Old English, so I was throwing some at you.

Here’s some more…On the Julian/Gregorian calendars, the fifth month is May (Old English calendar jargon for the 15th of May: on Þære fiftan nihte on Maies monð). By the way, the Julian and Gregorian calendars are both solar calendars, but Julius Caesar said that there are 365.25 days in a year, but in 1582 Pope Gregory said there are 365.2425, which evidently makes a big difference when you’re trying to decide when Easter is.  But I digress. “May” is named for the Greek deity Maia who was a goddess of fertility, which makes sense, because the beginning of summer is when it’s time to reap what has been sown, and you always want that to be a lot. Or, at least, enough. Unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, where the equivalent would be November, which means “9”. You’ll have to ask someone Down Under about that symbolism.

May became a month that implied fertility for both agriculture and human beings. A poem from 1568 reads, “In May gois dammosalis and dammis In gardyng is grene,” which clearly means, “In May those damn kids get busy in the green gardens.”  Hooray for Middle English! Those crazy French; they made English more recognizable to those who speak English. So from here on out, “May” tends to be synonymous with optimism, vitality, being in one’s prime, and all that is blossoming and fruitful. Starting in the 13th century, “may” also meant a maiden, virgin or young woman. It stuck for a while, though, since in 1870 William Morris wrote in “The Earthly Paradise”, “Amid these latter words of his, the may/ From her fair face had drawn her hands away.” Also, in England, some educational establishments refer to the post-Easter exams as “Mays.”

One last thing: ever wonder why June is the month for weddings? Because Ovid wrote, mense malum Maio, nubere volgus, which loosely translates as “Only the vulgar crowd gets married in May.” Considering the colossal effort I put into the research, I end on a sad note of mystification. Seems the perfect month to get married to me. I got married in February. Now, February refers to the Latin word for “purification”…

Liz

 

 Eager

 

Jehovah sent two women to our door.

One had a mouth outlined in plum,

her eyelids heavy with lash.

The other woman had brown skin and a kind smile; she lagged behind.

They carried literature, tracts of comic paper.

Six hundred and sixty-one languages contained their message, a number of great pride

meant to impress on me the effort of translating to the World

what only one hundred forty-four thousand could obtain.

(So few of us would meet our neighbors and loved ones in their heaven.)

I hoped I said the right things

about Freedom and Belief– recalling my mother’s attempt to rebuff–

so long ago, calling herself just a poor sinner, only to whet the appetite of eager Witnesses.

I meant to wish them well and see them on their way, my Island neighbors.

I may have done so, if I recall, eager, if not equally, on my part,

not to offend or bruise what I might.

The plum-mouthed lady drooped, I thought,

in the heat, or through some other internal current of emotion or thought.

 

Mary

 

 

April’s Umbrella

Metaphor, literal….poem or narrative. UMBRELLA: GO!

Judy Cohen’s Umbrella

Lawrence collected umbrellas. He was nine years old. His teachers didn’t know what to do with him. He did not act out in class. He did not hit or yell out or wander around the classroom. No, he sat quietly at his desk watching the sparrows in the trees.

When the children left for the day, Ms. Asp opened Lawrence’s desk. Inside the desk she found her own yellow umbrella and another white polka-dotted red umbrella. She thought she remembered Judy Cohen opening the umbrella during the rainy field trip to the Natural History Museum last month.

Almost all the children in her class had permission for that field trip. Even Lawrence.  He did not bring in his signed permission slip until the morning of the trip. He handed it to her silently. It was crumpled up but when she spread it out the signature looked authentically adult.

She’d drawn up a seating chart for the bus trip, separating the troublemakers and placing them in the front of the bus where she could keep an eye on them.  She’d paired Lawrence up with Ta’nae, a shy child from Somewhere in Africa, who wore a miniature hijab. She thought she could rely upon Lawrence not to taunt the girl.

The trip was a huge success. The dinosaurs never disappointed. The sun came out. Umbrellas were collapsed, dripping, stashed under the well-worn seats of the yellow bus for the ride back to school.

A few days later Ta’nae came up to Ms. Asp at the end of the day. Her English was perfect, if formal. She said, “ Teacher, that Lawrence is a thief!”

Ms. Asp bent to the child’s level as best she could.  “ Did he take something of yours Ta’nae?” she said.

The little girl shook her head no, “ Umbrellas,” she said.

“I know,” said Ms. Asp. “ Thank you for telling me, Ta’nae. You did the right thing.”

Ms. Asp did not know what to do about Lawrence. Collecting umbrellas did not interfere with his schoolwork. It did not interfere with his classmates who never used umbrellas.

The teachers forgot about their lost umbrellas.

She was not surprised to open the desk today to find her own yellow umbrella. She took it out of the desk and put it into her tote bag. She removed Judy Cohen’s red polka-dotted umbrella, grasped the handle and slid the latch until the elegant parapluie opened tulip-shaped in the empty classroom.

Mary

 

The rain it raineth….

“The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust hath the just’s umbrella.”

~Charles Synge Christopher Bowen, Baron Bowen

This little verse was written by a British judge in the 19th century, who was actually regarded as a very fine public servant and all-around witty guy who once stuck his foot in his mouth in front of Queen Victoria (which is something I definitely would have done had I ever had the audience of a monarch). The reason I know it is that about 10 years ago I did a water color of umbrellas and then scrawled these words across the painting.

The reason I did that was because I wanted the theme of our guest room to be umbrellas. Looking at plenty of model homes before our final decision, I happened across a room set up as a child’s room with a vibrant comforter and pillows: bright white splashed with colorful umbrellas of different sizes and patterns. So I went over to the bed, checked out the tag (the stuff was from Garnet Hill), and then went on line and ordered a comforter cover and pillowcase set for our future guest room.

When we finally got our home, I painted the walls of the third bedroom a color called “Stormy”, made up the new bed, and scrawled some quotes on the walls. “Come over the hills and far with me, and be my love in the rain,” suggests Robert Frost. “The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night,” observes Langston Hughes. But this quote was my favorite, so I made a little painting for its backdrop where it hangs to this day.

I like it. Because it’s funny, because it’s quirky, and because it has a tragic truth to it. While we all adhere to such happy horseshit like, “Life isn’t about avoiding the storm, it’s about learning to dance in the rain,” I rather enjoy the ornery observation that you’re more likely to get wet if you’re a nice person because people are crappy and steal your umbrella. But hanging adjacent to that framed gem is another.

My husband and I only had been married a year and a half before this, and every year we buy a piece of art to celebrate our anniversary. This particular year we were strapped for cash, with a new house, new job, and graduate school for me. So we just bought a small watercolor at Pike Place Market by a local artist that depicts a man and a woman walking against the rain with a rainbow umbrella protecting them. And that painting is better than the Bowen quote. Because THAT frame will always remind me I have someone to share an umbrella with in the storm.

Liz

Pluviophile (Look it up)

I am a native of the Pacific Northwest (PNW; in the U.S., this means Oregon,Washington, and Idaho), born in Portland, Oregon. People born here grow up breathing rain; it’s how we get our oxygen. Rain is as necessary and essential to life as air and sunshine, and we (Pacific Northwesterners) interact with it the same way – by going outside and walking in and through and with rain as we do with sunshine and air. I’m convinced non-native PNWers can never understand how native PNWers truly embrace rain. When other people express a distaste for rain, I always want to laugh and ask if they think they’re related to the Wicked Witch of the West.Native Oregonians may wear hats in the rain but we never carry umbrellas because umbrellas are for sissies.

Jules

 

In Paris an American feller
Was glad he had brought his umbreller
He could dance in the rain
And sing love’s refrain
Only getting a little bit wetter

Sue

Umbrella. An on-the-spot writing assignment.

Umbrella. Protection. Class. The tall, thin woman in black on the Paris boulevard carries an umbrella as part of her ensemble. Parapluie, we learned from Mlle Dreyer as sophomores in high school. And God knows that woman may need it before she gets home. Out of the blue, one day in the Marais, the heavens opened and I mean really, the rain dropped as though hurled from heavy buckets somewhere in the ozone. Umbrella-less, we ran to a café, wrapped our cold hands around cappuccinos, watched rain fall in sheets off the outside awnings. The staccato of drench danced off the paving stones, puddling and pooling and finally flooding the streets, a river running downhill, sending people scurrying for cover into small doorways. Impressionist paintings of Paris before our very eyes.

In Seattle, proud of our Gortex culture, we eschew umbrellas. Just wrap up and go or you’d never leave home some parts of the year. California émigrés have the toughest time with Pacific Northwest winters—all that staring out of windows waiting for clear skies so they can go enjoy the evergreen.

Then there’s sub-Saharan Africa where they would kill to need an umbrella. Month after month, and now, horrible to relate, year after year, not enough rain to do more than sprinkle the dust around. Planting seasons go begging because the last one yielded neither grain nor seed for the next crop. Wizened faces, swollen bellies, a crisis of hunger with no end in sight—and not nearly enough charity in the world’s weary hearts to make a dent in it.

Mary Ann