Sunday, December 27, 2009

MIDNIGHT WONDER

The last time I stayed in Aina's downstairs apt I was with my mother. I remember she couldn't sleep because she was too cold. So I plugged in a heating pad and put it under her feet. Soon she was sleeping like a child. She passed away Nov 14, 1996 and I still miss her. I used to think her death was my greatest loss and then we lost Brandon, too.
Mae Sarton paid a visit to her friends the Warner family and noted "that Esmeralda the donkey is dead." So I wonder if Esmeralda was the inspiration for the novel "Ulysses and Joanna".
Yogananda wrote, "Do not look for a spiritual flower every day." Not when life has provided a garden of spiritual abundance. Yes, I am often overwhelmed by the gracious Creator who heaps such blessings about us. Today I feast. But tomorrow I may go hungry searching for a single small spiritual flower.
Jenkinson worried "my poverty of culture must show like dandruff on a blue suit." When I find myself on the fringes of another culture I seek our commonalities and our shared humanity. In this way l embrace the other and the other frequently embraces me.
On my return from a frosty morning walk I saw the skid marks of a playful young deer on the icy road. Not one skid but a series of eight. So I fancied that I saw the youngster skating down the road. Not on silver blades but shiny black hooves.
Last night I saw six deer beyond the window. What a midnight wonder to behold.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

WE HAVE KNOWN COMETS

Annie and kids arrived about 7 PM last night. Lots of chatter followed. Cedar broke the Mary figure in the Mexican creche and broke her own heart as well. Children will have accidents but I was disappointed that our gracious friends would return to find a family heirloom damaged. I told Cedar we won't worry about what is past but in the future I would return with glue and profuse apologies. "I know I can fix it," I said. She believed, was somewhat comforted and we spoke of it no more.
This morning I left Annie and kids at the MSP air terminal and drove to Rosemount where friend Aina prepared a good breakfast. Later we got the downstairs apartment in order and I made myself at home. We were visited by many birds of various nations, including a single robin. We also saw one or two rabbits, a gray squirrel and at least nine deer. It's wonderful to look out the window and find a family of deer looking in!
We walked down the long drive to the mailbox exchanging tales of foxes and coyotes, comets and starry nights that we have known.

Friday, December 25, 2009

CHRISTMAS TRAVELERS

It happened on a Christmas Eve on the Oak Point Rd in the mid-90s that a certain home was visited by two travelers. They had abandoned their car in a snowy ditch and walked the icy road to my door! What does it matter that the woman was loud with good cheer or the man intoxicated on spirits? Here they were stamping their cold feet against the floor and blowing their warm breath into their hands. Soon they were drinking hot chocolate and biting into sugar cookies. I'd never entertained Christmas travelers before! Total strangers had come out of the darkness and into my light. They could have been the holy family seeking shelter and they had found it with me. My husband went out into the cold night, found the car and pulled it out. Then he returned for the couple and as they left the woman took my hand. "God bless you," she whispered with glittering eyes. She knew we were sharing a beautiful moment.
This morning I went for a slushy walk. So much wet, heavy snow. Some walkways were still unshoveled. At times I walked in the street. Some people were bent over their shovels muttering about "three more days of snow." But at the entrance to our building stood a snowman! He was no more than two feet tall but large with good humor and great with holiday grace.
Jenkinson wrote that from his mentor Mike Jacobs, "I learned to lie still under the wind and listen to the grass. I learned to befriend the wind. I learned the value of silence in wild places." Oh, what a splendid education.
Mary Oliver wrote of herself, "...though I'm not twenty and won't be again but ah! Seventy. And still full of beans." Now there's a goal! Hey, will somebody please pass the beans!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

THICKETS OF MEMORY

I dreamed I was walking in the snow. It was not dark but gray and gloomy. Narnia-like I came to a street lamp. It gave only a golden glow but the pole was ornate with intricate carvings. I circled the pole again and again as I marveled at the time and craftsmanship required to produce such a work of art. Then I saw a small piece of paper stuck into the pole. I pulled it out and although I could not read the name I knew it was for me. So I opened it and found a $20 bill. I had no pockets in my jacket or my pants. So I folded the paper around the money and put it in my shirt pocket. "Thanks," I said to the pole, "that's all I need." I went on through the snow and saw a tall woman walking ahead of me. Soon I was beside her. She was really much taller than me but took short steps so we could walk together. Without stopping she told me, "All men want to be heroes." I wanted to ask her, "What do women want?" But I heard myself say, "George Bush Jr. had every opportunity to be heroic but he did not choose to be a hero." She stopped walking and so did I. We turned to face each other. I saw that she was a black elder with white hair tucked under a blue hat. "Child," she told me, "he was not a man." Then we just walked along in a comfortable silence until I woke up.
"All my thoughts are decorating the Christmas tree of mediation with the rare gifts of devotion (for Christ)," Paramahansa Yogananda. I have read that meditation is good for the heart if it can be maintained for 20 minutes. So this can become a rare gift that we give back to ourselves.
Alfred Tennyson grieved at Christmas... like many of us do and he wrote: "...over all things brooding slept/ The quiet sense of something lost." Mae Sarton knew a certain man who climbed a certain mountain every Christmas Day "to pay his respects to the sacred eminence." Mae drove to a friend's house on this day in 1982. She said it was "a journey made through the thickets of memories."
On such a day in the long ago I gathered six grandchildren and promised to show them the beaver channel. In fact I said we'd follow the trail so we would see the world from Beaver's point of view. So like the pied piper without her pipe I led them along until we came to a great tangle of trees and brush. I wanted to go around but the children protested. Brandon persuaded me that if we went around we would not see the world as Beaver saw it. So I got on my belly and dragged myself along through the snow. On the other side I crawled out to wait for my loved ones. Brandon emerged laughing. One by one the others followed. We laughed joyfully as we brushed snow off each other. We continued on until we reached the river. We climbed up on the beaver lodge and I told them a story. Then we followed the river back to the road and walked home on happy feet. Mary Oliver has written, "I want to sing a song for ...someone young who had not lived his life and never would."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

LILY OF THE KING

I dreamed I was working in my gardens. I was making liquid fertilizer from manure. Then I started to transplant three plants from pots. I knew they were healing plants but I could only identify the echinacea before I woke up. I laid in bed a long time trying to remember the other two plants but I was unsuccessful.
When I stepped into the living room this morning I saw a flutter at the window. Looking out I saw a row of birds looking in. Six were robins and one was a chickadee. They took turns flying away, the chickadee was the last to leave. How gracious of the birds to greet me with such a beautiful display. Robins in winter! My word.
I am reading "Mary Magdalene: Bride in Exile" by Margaret Starbird. What a joy to contemplate the true and fully human Jesus and his beloved female apostle. John Shelby wrote, "MS continues her crusade to reestablish the holiness of the feminine, which has been so cruelly stolen by 'orthodox' Christian (men) leaders over the centuries. By doing so she also reestablishes the humanity of Jesus." These lines from Francis Thompson are included in the book. "O Lily of the King, remember then the timing/ That this dead mouth sang: and thy daughters,/ As they dance before His way, sing there on the Day,/ What I sang when the Night was on the waters."
Ann and Roberto have flown away to LasVegas. Annie and kids will be here on the 25th and fly to FL on the 26th. Then I go to Aina's for a few days. My plan is to write and read and walk.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

SEARCH FOR MASALA TEA

Mae Sarton wrote, "I feel like I've been climbing the Christmas mountain..." I think a lot of people feel that way when enduring the stress that comes with the holidays. Yesterday I was busy but not like a mountaineer. I steamed apples and made applesauce bread. I also baked another broccoli cheese pie. These two recipes get raves! Then I did the laundry. This took four hours as the person who was before me left his stuff in the drier SO loooong. At last Roberto went and removed the man's things and I was able to finish my job.
Today a new friend, Anna L, came for rice. She bought 3# and I gave her a 'thank you' gift. Speaking of gifts I received a package from Angeline of France. Lovely gifts of love from far away. Gift giving is inspired by the winter solstice which occurred on Dec. 21 this year. The longest night and the shortest day bring us the spirit of generosity.
Ann and I searched for Masala tea and found it in an International Grocery Store near the PTL where I got a pair of slacks suitable for Paris and the perfect mug for Justice. It will match the green tea pot I got for him.
Clay Jenkinson has left his breath on Bear Butte and writes, "Bear Butte, a lonely volcanic spur northeast of the Black Hills, is unquestionably sacred. My life has been made immeasurably more meaningful for my pilgrimage to its crest." Every day I think I will not mention Brandon today and on many days I simply cannot avoid it. You see, it was Brandon that accompanied me on many ascents of the Bear. He would hurry to the top and wait for me. His bright eyes shining... his smile so dear. I can still see him standing on the deck high above the plains a brisk wind tugging at his shirt and tossing his dark hair.

Monday, December 21, 2009

WASTE AND FAILURE

Sunday was a full day and began with buckwheat pancakes, apple sauce, homemade yogurt and Leech Lake maple syrup. So we were well fueled. Ann and I went to the Self-Realization Fellowship. As I meditated I got that falling asleep feeling and saw spirit visitors. The first one said he was Duckman. His chair put him between me and the picture of Jesus that was placed at the altar in recognition of Christmas. Duckman wore jeans, a gray sweatshirt and a black stocking cap. I was wondering why he was there when he suddenly disappeared. I felt that I had become physically worn out so my spirit looked behind me and saw I was walking a long hill on a straight path. The path was clean, smooth and unbroken, a seamless material. It was not quite white and shown brightly behind and before me. I saw no end and no beginning. But behind me there was a collection of litter beside the path. What is it I wondered. A small voice identified it as "Waste and failure." Then a woman in a dark red robe came walking up to me and said, "Drink campion tea." What is it I wanted to know. "Ask Ann," was her response. When I asked Ann she said she didn't know. Afterwards the children enacted Mary and Joseph looking for shelter and the birth of Jesus.
Afterwards the congregation all went to the Ober Center in St Paul for a party and gift distribution. That was quite enjoyable, too. We had a wonderful black Santa. All the gifts were taken and appreciation was evident. A refreshment table was prepared. It was depleted and renewed several times.
In 1982 Mae Sarton wrote of a "blizzard that hit Washington and Philadelphia went out to sea and never came here (Maine)." There was a storm over DC this year, too.
Karen came over and purchased five pounds of wild rice. I gave her a 1/2 pint of high bush cranberry syrup.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

SAINT JEANNE

"Yesterday when I was young..." I walked to the Birchbark Books store. I thought Annie would be there but the event was cancelled. I had lunch with Heid Erdrich and visited Todd's gallery. Well, I can't go to a book store and not buy a few books. I came home with "Red Bird" by Mary Oliver, "Lines from a Mined Mind" by John Trudell and "Your Tree, Your Bird" by Jim Lenfesty. What a feast of words and a treasure of ideas are at my fingertips.
The mail brought a gift from Elizabeth of Scotland. She'd gone to Rome for the cannonization of Jeanne Jugan (1792-1879) and sent me a collection of Vatican memorabilia and sweets. Jeanne was a French woman who nursed the poor and housed the aged. She founded Little Sisters of the Poor.
Last night we went to Zoe's Posada. It was great! We sang songs in Spanish. Well, I tried. Song sheets were provided. Verna and I discussed the symbolism of dragonflies and lionesses. I met Liz B. and found her such a delight. Dar was wearing the Christmas star and three shepherds followed her to the party.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

THE RED BALLOON

Last night Ann and I met daughter Annie and Cedar (5) at Forest Lake. We had pizza and salad for supper. Annie had come to pick up a bunk bed for Cedar. I got a card from Chey and Gene, a magazine featuring Johnny Depp from Annie and a beautiful tiny treasure box from Cedar. The box is in the form of a male peacock with a gem encrusted tail. How good it was to see them again and how heart wrenching to watch them drive away. We haven't been separated so very long but I can feel the loss. Cedar is the river and I am the stone. She flows on while I am caught in the soil. She asked me to go home with them but I told her I would return in the spring. Before she sees her first robin I will be back in the Red Shed. I'll see the family in a few days. They will come on Christmas Day on their way to Melbourne, FL. Then I'll see them again on their return to Deer River. I'll get to talk with Geezis and Justice, too. That's a lot to look forward to. Still, I feel like a red balloon three days after the party.
They say talking about our loved ones is good medicine so I'm talking to you. Silence can be painful. I wonder how Wallis is doing at this time? She hasn't written. I hope she finds a way to celebrate Brandon in memories that will bring tears and laughter, too. It's all good medicine. Brandon would be 21 now. Mae Sarton has written, "What is there to do when people die... people so dear and rare... but bring them back by remembering?" In her journal she tells us, "It cannot be denied that it is these days a very good life for an old raccoon of 70."
Clay S. Jenkinson teaches about buttes on the pages of his book "Message on the Wind". The buttes are the high ground left behind by water and wind. They are the minerals that didn't wash away or blow away. Clay has a lifelong love of the northern plains of ND. "One wants landscape in one's soul and one's soul to dwell in a landscape somewhere." For each of us that would be a different location. Where would you find your soul's landscape? Where would I go for the deep personal healing of spiritual renewal? Under a tree of dreams heavy with fruit!

Friday, December 18, 2009

THE DREAMS OF TREES

This has been the first entry in the Blue Dusk journal from Janelle LaBlanc. So many crisp white pages to litter with letters! "What is more magnificent than stately trees with their roots clutching the depths of the Earth as their branches reach for the heavens?" Meghan Kennedy. Trees have been my companions for so much of my life that I can't imagine living in a treeless place. In fact, while driving along a road with trees in the far distance I get the dizzying sensation that I am going to tumble off the shoulder because there are no trees to hold me. Some trees have become old and trusted friends... we share our secrets. I have even come to believe that trees have dreams. Some want to build houses. Some want to warm houses. Some just want to be left alone. I once heard a song about a tree that didn't want to be turned into lumber. "I'd rather be a Louisville Slugger." You know and trees know there are still wood bats.
Now it's time for Christmas trees. Some are still cut down and carried into houses to be adorned in festive fashion. Some people celebrate around a plastic tree. Some decorate living trees. There is a deciduous tree near the A-frame decorated with red and black ribbons cut in short lengths and tied to the branches. There is one for every day that passed until M.S. was arrested for murdering Brandon. There is also a garland of tarnished stars, several plastic icicles and a selection of once colorful balls. Also hanging on that chosen tree is a snow bell. I think it rings on windy nights. I believe the owls are startled by it's chime. I think it rings by day, too. I believe that songbirds gather there to compare notes.
Rupa Mayra is a young physician-singer-musician-human rights activist. Her albums "Extraordinary Rendition" and "Este Mundo" are getting a lot of attention. Of illegal (?) immigrants she says, "Some people are really upset and angry with me for championing the rights of the people who support and sustain our society."
Last night I watched a movie entitled "Strangers in Good Company". When the bus breaks down and the young black female driver is injured seven elder women demonstrate their resourcefulness and open their hearts to one another. The group consists of a nun, a former belly dancer, a hypochondriac, a lesbian, a Mohawk, one hiding from her age and another recovering from a devastating stroke. They are upon a voyage of supreme personal discovery. The bus driver is blessed to be in their midst and she soon comes to recognize that, too.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

FROM DAWN TO DAWN

This will be the last entry in the Hogwarts Journal. All pages will fill today. Then I send it off to Sharon Saxton!
Last night I began reading the book Flo sent, "Message on the Wind" by CS Jenkinson. I discovered that one of the author's mentors was Mike Jacobs. It was the name of someone I knew, too. No, I thought, just a quirk. But reading on I found that Mike was married to Suzette. Now, I'm sure this is the same Mike who edits the Grand Forks Herald. I worked for the paper in the early '80s. The book is subtitled, "A Spiritual Odyssey on the Northern Plains, Essays From Beyond the Grid". He quotes Buck Ramsey, "We knew our way from dawn to dawn, And far beyond, and far beyond." Also Wright Morris, "In the dry places, men begin to dream. Where the rivers run sand, there is something in man that begins to flow." How wonderful to find new voices on a printed page. The author writes, "Coyotes are crooning at the vault of the sky... The air is dense with loneliness and mystery."
I've just returned from a 10-block walk. I aimed farther but I got cold. I should have worn the down coat instead of the jacket. "I will try to contend graciously and productively with this day." It was my own shortsightedness that led me to abandon my goal. But I am disappointed that my day is already less productive than my early plan. How will I spend my remaining hours? By savoring the moments. I will find my way from dawn to dawn.
One thing I've done is to put out three slices of bread to dry. From these I will prepare a broccoli-cheese pie for supper. As I separated the selected slices from their companions I was aware of the fragrance of bread, my fingers lingered upon their texture. I thought of the grace of sun and wind and water on soil. I thought of one grain feeding many. My thoughts turned to the future when the bread will be reduced to crumbs and cubes. When Roberto arrived with the broccoli he held it above his head like a priest raising a sacrament. I thought of gathers of many nations returning home from the abundant hills. Ann will be pleased to have help preparing the meal. I see us gathered around the hot dish so fragrant... so good... and I will savor it all again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

SAFE HARBOR AWAITS

We had a wonderful gathering of good spirits last night. Good food, good stories, good company... good night. Gifts were exchanged. I received much and gave but one story. It was Tamarack and Chickadee. We think of this as an old tale full of universal values that remains quite fresh as it can still speak to us on so many levels. Thunder Lake News arrived today and on page 6 the same story appears, authored by Anne Dunn.
Paco Ibanez, "Poetry is a weapon loaded with the future." Rita Dove, "By making us stop for a moment, poetry gives us an opportunity to think about ourselves as human beings and what we mean to each other." Daphne Du Maurier, "You will embark on a fair sea... you will meet storms and overcome them. Never lose courage. Safe harbor awaits you..."
I must agree with Paramhansa Yogananda when he suggests that "the cradle of my consciousness" requires polishing. The cleansing will remove the rust of selfishness, indifference and sense attachment. This makes room for brotherly love, humbleness, faith, desire for God-realization, will power, self control, renunciation and unselfishness. So, what could be wrong with that? It certainly raises my personal spiritual standards. That's where I want to go on this brief journey to the end of my seventh decade. Aaaaaaaaa-men.
Mary Alice Harvey sent good words, too. "No ray of sunshine is ever lost, but the green which it awakens into existence needs time to sprout, and it is not always granted the sower to see the harvest." When Brandon was 15 he and I planted a row of cedars along the edge of the yard on the Oak Point Road. It was a father's day gift for John. Of this good deed John said, "I probably won't live to see them grown." Brandon replied, "That's all right, Gramps. I'll come out and visit them for you." Brandon is gone and John lives alone with a row of slow growing cedar.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

THE BRINK OF ETERNITY

Brandon had often come out to the A-frame to split wood but in my notes I have found that my number one boy was there on Dec 17, 2004. In less than a year he would be dead. But that day I wrote, "It's really a lot of fun to spend the day with a gorilla that used to be a boy." He wore me out! He split and I stacked. Eventually he'd put aside the ax and help me catch up to him. I remember a certain splendid moment when I stood admiring a quarter round of oak. He stepped to my side, examined the wood in my hand and said, "It seems a shame too burn it." He touched it with his ungloved fingers, took it from my hand and laid it lovingly on the growing wood stack. Perhaps we stood on the brink of eternity that day. Where nothing is forgotten. Not even a quarter round of oak long ago reduced to ash. But so real before my eyes I know that dragging my finger along it's golden grain will result in splinters too painful to endure.
Besides being an athlete engaged in body-building, football and wrestling, Brandon was a musician. He played drums and guitar. When he was young he danced with the family at pow-wows he also sang at the drum. But like many growing boys he deserted us at about 13. I think he would have returned to the circle when he matured a bit more. We still have parts of his small outfits. I can see him dancing around the drum or leaning over it with a group of singers. He was beautiful. I wish you could see him, too.
Today I didn't walk outside as it seemed too cold. I went to the roof and used the exercise equipment for a few minutes. Walking along the streets is far more interesting. I'd be out on snowshoes if I was at home. I'd be cutting a trail and making it longer as my stamina increased.
My friend Marian M is a Catholic and she sent me a rosary of robin egg blue beads. It has already blessed me with memories of friendship and the beauty of blue beads.
I called Myrna S last night and we had a terrific visit even though she had bad news. Her brother Julius is very sick and not expected to live much longer. She lost her sister Peggy last year. Life is hard. Heavy with loss. Despair covers the sun. But one day we look up and the darkness is gone! It is just as someone has written, "...joy cometh in the morning."

Monday, December 14, 2009

SNOW ROSES

"When despair for the world grows in me/ and I awake in the night at the least sound/ in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be/ I go and lie down where the wood drake/ rests in his beauty on the water and the great heron feeds./ I come into the peace of wild things/ who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief./ I come into the presence of still water./ And I feel above me the day-blind stars/ waiting with their light. For a time/ I rest in the grace of the world and I am free." Wendell Berry.
Today I went for a 10 block walk. I passed a flower shop and in the snow were many roses. Some had been pulled apart and multi colored petals were strewn along the snowy walk way. I stepped around the bruised beauties and walked on wondering if this happens daily. Farther along I saw a tiny woman with a yellow shovel standing aside for passers-by. I asked if she had shoveled half a block of snow. Her eyes sparkled above a full smile. "Yes," she told me. "Not all at once. I went inside to rest three times." I said, "That's a big job for a small woman!" We laughed together and then went our separate ways.
"We have given Gaia (Mother Earth) a fever (global warming) and soon her condition will worsen to a state like a coma." James Lovelock. He also said that Earth is self-regulating and will have to save herself however that might affect the rest of us. I know Earth will continue without us if necessary. Rich people don't seem to care because they believe they will be able to purchase tickets to new planets. But we must adapt to catastrophic change. Will the guardians who have witnessed our destructive conduct from another galaxy intervene? We can't be sure.
On Dec. 4, 2004, I had prepared a rabbit stew for my supper. When I sat down to eat I was surprised to find Larry Cloud Morgan seated across from me. He was sucking rabbit bones and burping. He told me how nice it was to visit me on a cold winter night and find a delicious bowl of soup waiting for him. He appeared to me by the power of fantasy and now the visit has grown into a precious memory. You see Larry had gone to the other side in June of 1999.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

THE STEELES

Last night Ann and I went to a pre-concert cocktail party in St Paul. Later we went to the Fitzgerald Theater for the last Christmas With The Steeles. The program has been on the stage there for 25 years. The theater will be 100 years old next year (2010). Five siblings from Gary, In, share the stage and "forge soulful melodies that ring in the holidays with foot-tapping, hip-swaying spirit." The children's segment gave the young family members a chance to strut, too. What a talented/gifted bunch of beautiful people they are. The Fitzgerald also hosts Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home companion. Jearlyn Steele is a frequent guest on the radio broadcast and appeared in a film of the same name. Jeveta Steele appeared in the movie "Corina, Corina". Elyssa and her boyfriend brought us home. He lives nearby.
I went to church with Ann who is a Sunday school teacher at the Self-Realization Fellowship. After chanting and meditating I went downstairs to help Ann complete the pinata. A child named Emma Rose was waiting for her father and she proved to be an excellent assistant pinata maker.
Today Ann asked me to choose some dolls from her collection. I now have four special creations standing on the window shelf. They stand on the cold side of the shade at night but all day they adorn the warm side of the window. I have purchased a lovely butterfly garland for Cedar to add to the family tree up north. She will find them stunning. I also made her a holiday necklace.

REDSTONE GRILL

I know it's Sunday and you think I skipped a day but I just got home and I haven't gone to bed yet so it's still Saturday for me. I couldn't bear to skip a day so I'm up at 12:44 AM thinking of YOU.
When My parents passed on I began to know them in different ways. It was as if we understood each other better. Even our love was enlarged and expanded. Yes, there was deep grief and great loss but something new rose up to meet me in their absence. We became more transparent. The relationship with our loved one does not cease at the end of the physical life. It is enriched! Our conversations need no words.
The sun has been blinking at me through the window plants. It has climbed above the roof line of the four story building to our east and leans down to sparkle in a collection of green and violet grapes of glass. It seems to be another cloudless day. Already the T is at +10F.
I found a ridiculous item in the news. Paris Hilton has been invited to perform at the Shooting Star, Mahnomen. Why don't they showcase native talent?
Paul Taylor came over about 3PM on Friday and took me for a car tour of the city. After many miles we stopped for supper at the Redstone American Grill, Chanhassen. I enjoyed a wonderful meal and an inspiring conversation. The highlight of the evening was just after sunset. The sky was still glowing brightly when a large banner of geese came flying up a snow covered waterway. Paul said Creator had sent the gorgeous display for me. I accepted it as a gift from Creator and thanked Paul for putting it so graciously.

Friday, December 11, 2009

WILL NEST IN ANY TREE

As Mae Sarton considered leaving her home to join a community of elders she wondered about her two cats, Tamas and Bramble. Would they be welcome? Would she find herself depressed by being surrounded by "old people"? I've lived in two pet friendly elder complexes. In Park Rapids I had sweet Sam. there were plenty of rules but we managed to stay out of trouble. Then Sam, my 15 year old mini dachshund got heart/kidney failure and was euthanized. At White Earth I had Max who was a bit on the wild side. He barked excessively and jumped on the other residents. So I had to give him up to a pet adoption agency in Grand Rapids. Now I have a very large dog named Cinnamon Bodacious Bodine.
As for having so many elders in one place there is a down side but it can be quite delightful, too. Many good friendships can be enjoyed and there's always something to do. I think I am the kind of bird that can nest in just about any tree.
MaryO, "Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Thursday, December 10, 2009

AN OLD ROMANTIC

When Michael McNally arrived yesterday with soup and salami he also presented me with an Elvis magnet. On the first really cold day of the season Elvis was looking very warm in his red Hawaiian shirt and white orchids.
Last night Roberto, Ann and I watched a movie-concert-memoir of Edith Piaf with Raquel Bitton performing Piaf's songs. It was beautiful. They say she was the voice of the French people. She touched the common wo/man. I think Elvis was like that, too. He reached us in some deep previously untouched place. He found me when I was 15 so I was quite unable to escape. He was mesmerizing millions just like me and I had no place to hide.
At this time I remain loyal to that grand man of song. I live with a small collection of Presley memorabilia which includes an Elvis clock. When Cedar wants to know the hour of the day she will say, "Grandma, ask Elvis what time it is." Do you know she even wants to visit Graceland? Brandon was an Elvis fan, too. So EP reached well beyond his own generation. His music still affects me in a hopelessly romantic kind of way. I am unwilling to dismiss it as ridiculous. So I embrace it and hold it tight against my poor old heart.
Paul Taylor left a copy of "The Mystic Lake Declaration from the Native Peoples Native Homelands Climate Change Workshop II". Roberto loaned me a magnifying glass so I could read: We feel we must "demand climate justice now... to ensure our collective existence." Tamra Brennan has written, "Our sacred lands are all that remain keeping us connected to our place on Mother Earth, to our spirituality, our heritage, our lands, what is left of them. If they take it all away, what will remain except a vague memory of a past so forgotten." Oren Lyons said, "Someone must speak for them. I do not see a delegation for the four-footed. I see no seat for the eagles. We forget and consider ourselves superior, but we are after all a mere part of the Creation." There are many who have raised their voices on behalf of our Mother and all our relations perhaps they will be heard in Copenhagen where the great ones gather to discuss our degraded future. MaryO wrote of water, "Oh, gleaming generosity, how can they write you out?"
Today is very cold so I did not walk outside. I am a hopeless old romantic... not a reckless old fool. Instead I climbed to the fifth floor where a small room has been equipped for exercise. Before mounting the walking machine I examined the heavily frosted windows. I discovered a grassy hill covered with huge flowers. Many of the flowers had pulled themselves free and mounted to the sky. As they ascended they turned into birds then into butterflies and at last into stars.
Annie called last night and wants me to arrange a meeting with the family at Forest Lake on Sunday. Cedar wants to see me... and I want to see her, too.
Bruce Engebretsen and his friend Kathy stopped in for cake and tea. We had lot of good good conversation. They left some high bush cranberry jelly, chokecherry syrup and canned deer meat. I sent on a bag of things that Myrna can put on the free table at Biimaadiiziiwiin.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

LOVE IS FOREVER

Last night I dreamed that I shared a small log cabin with two men, a woman and a crocodile. We got along fairly well until one of the men began prowling about with a dagger. He seemed to be in charge of the crocodile. At first the croc was fun and friendly but he got surly, too. The dagger man said we must keep the croc well fed or he would begin eating us. Soon we were spending all our time finding food, cooking food and feeding the croc. I decided to leave but the croc became aggressive and dagger man forbid it. Finally I and the other woman escaped. We were walking in a beautiful forest when she turned to me and said, "You never really know who you can trust." She slid her hand into her pocket and pulled out a knife. I woke up before she could do me any harm.
"That magic moment, the first snow! In half an hour the field was white." Mae Sarton 12-9-1981 The snow began yesterday. Last night the sky was a rosy lilac field of blowing snow. This morning the sky is a great pearl and snow is stacked 8 inches against the window. A cold breeze caresses the trees and all the brittle twigs tremble overhead. A crow has gained a lofty perch, fluffed his sooty feathers and croaks a bleak monotonous harangue of surprise punctuated by dismay. He does not approve of winter for it brings daily hardship and challenges his ability to survive. According to the Tribune this cold air is coming to us from Montana.
Mike McNally came on the city bus today. He brought homemade pumpkin soup and hard salami. I had cake and tea ready for him. Then I made a grilled cheese and ham sandwich which we shared. Oh, how we raked up the old memories. I felt Larry Cloud Morgan in the room with us. I told Mike that Annie had purchased Larry's old barrel stove. That brought happy smiles from both of us. The idea that the same stove that warmed Larry has warmed us and will go on to warm others, too.
We talked about the long gone Mokahum Indian Bible Hour. Mike has copies of some of the tapes that were aired on the radio many years ago. I was well acquainted with the staff and many students because I had served as secretary to president Dan Wetzel before the school closed.
When I think of Larry... I think of love. His love comes sweeping up from the past and sustains us here and now. Just as the love of my grandparents Antone and Frances Roberts-Smith Vanoss transcends time and renews itself from moment to moment. The memories of love are forever.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

MINNESOTA MOTHERLAND

Mae Sarton received stuffed animals from friends and family. Of them she wrote, "Even (they) have little messages to give... and I listened to their silent messages this morning and felt lucky to be alive..." We are the fortunate. We have survived unto this moment. There are little messages of love for most of us today. But many survive unloved. Like the man who wrote to me from Walla Walla, WA where he is confined to a 'correctional' institution. He sent five carefully printed lines that end with the poignant word... homesickness. So brief the message that I know he does not expect a reply. He had read my stories and dreamed of his Minnesota "motherland". His letter found me yesterday. It bears two previous addresses. It has been patiently seeking me. Perhaps the faraway castaway is waiting for mail from the motherland. But I am not as brave as I used to be and it is a risk to befriend prison inmates. I am still considering what to do.
"April Twilight" also arrived yesterday and fell open to page three. I read what Willa Cather had penned on sorrow. "Sorrow keeps a stone house Builded grim and gray." I think it is a like a prison and wonder what kind of a jail structure the letter came from.
I walked to the store today (10 blks) to purchase things needed to make a nice cake for Bruce's visit tomorrow. On my return I found myself under a tree of withered fruit. The tree was full of robins! I could not believe my eyes.

Monday, December 7, 2009

SECOND CHANCES

"I've always thought of poems as my companions." Rita Dove. The poems of Mary Oliver have been my good companions for many years. I think I discovered her while gathering material for The Red Road Project. Today I was reading MaryO and found, "...everything, forgetting it's own enchantment, whispers: I too love oblivion why not it is full of second chances." I am too greedy to forget the old enchantments. They cling to me too closely to discard. Does this spell doom? "Anne Dunn is like a rabbit. She gets no second chance," the doomsters drone. But in the Black Hills I met a large blue rabbit with one red eye. I followed him to an intersecting trail. He chose left and I went right. I believe we went on to all our second chances and not a last chance yet for me.
Katherine Anne Porter has written of Willa Cather's short stories, "They live with morning freshness in my memory, their clearness, warmth of feeling, calmness of intelligence, an ample human view of things." What a breathtaking tribute. Yesterday I began reading "The Troll Garden" while I sat outside. I forgot how cold it was until my feet began to complain. This short story collection by Willa was published by The American Library in 1961. At that time it cost 50 cents. I purchased the pre-owned volume for $6.35. One of the owners of this book lived in NY state. Her name was Jean and she did not mark the pages. I plan to send this pocketbook classic on to Sharon S with this journal... the pages will be marked.
Paul Taylor dropped in for a brief meeting and has asked me out for supper on Friday. He has been a social activist for many years and is quite well informed on many critical issues.
After a wonderful supper prepared by Roberto, Ann and I went to Kitty's for a bit of yoga. I was not flexible enough for most of the moves but I was surprised that I could do some of the poses without too much difficulty.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

MERLIN'S REST

From The Diary of Anne Frank: "I have had a lot of sorrow, but who hasn't at my age?" She wrote this at age 14. I too turned sorrowful at an early age and with far less reason. I also turned to the pen and ink pot. I wrote many pages of woe. How I beat my pillow, sobbing over all my dismal days. Then I'd burn the poems and stories to begin again. Many times I've thought of youth turned to ash and wished I'd saved those words of yearning and despair... but I did not.
Ann is off to Sunday School and Roberto sleeps. My shadow falls across the room like a stranger. The large potted plants at the window lay their shadows over mine so I appear to be a menacing stranger creeping through the pane. Perhaps I am a hidden stranger after all. Alas... we're everywhere.
Do you remember how your life was shattered by a devastating loss? You picked yourself up bit by bit. You put yourself back together. But afterwards you were different. Sometimes I feel so changed by trauma, death and grief that I hardly recognize myself. I came this way because a murder imposed itself upon my journey. I visited places I did not choose to go. I wandered lonely through crowds of lonely wanderers. I was walking in my sleep. But I'm awake now. I'm getting acquainted with the person I've become but not without wondering who I would have been without the experiences that shaped this very day. Who I am today is not who I will be tomorrow. Oh, Stranger... you are everywhere. Mary Oliver wrote, "...I am so madly in love with each day's inventions..." So in love with change and renewal!
Last night we went to Katie and Abelardo's for yummy hors d'oeuvres. I ate two baked jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon. We also shared BBQ chicken wings. Verna and Mauricio were there, too. Later we regrouped at Merlin's Rest to hear Ann's cousin Dino play with the blues-jazz band. Joined by Oswaldo we squeezed eight into a horseshoe booth.
Today I made a pie with the last jar of the mock mince meat Flo and I made from her abundance of green tomatoes in 2007. Dar came for tea and pie. We played two games of rumicubes and I won once. I've never won with Ann and Dar before so I feel good. I also walked 12 blocks today.
I called Violet and she was on the road driving from Cass Lake to Mpls. Then Bruce called to tell me he is bringing Myrna for an overnite visit on the 9th. Hooray!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

CALL DOWN JOY

Mae Sarton: "Now I see that the inner life must be kept going under all the clutter." Yes, I have filled my life with debris, too. It can be difficult to lay the finger on clutter when we swim in it all the time. I remember a movie where Meryl Streep's character said, "More is better". For me, at this time, in this place "Less is better."
In all of us we find weakness as well as strength. I want to be strong but find myself growing weaker by the moon. In these declining years I can accept certain physical limitations but as an elder I want to see myself gathering spiritual and emotional strength. They say we take only our memories to the other side. So I've tried to make as many good memories as I can. I do not want to degrade my future with self-contempt or loathing. While I know I must carry some remorse let it not cast a heavy black shadow over joy. For they also say it is joy that endures. Not the good times. Not even happiness. So call down Joy and let her be your most loyal companion.
When Aina brought me back to Ann's yesterday we lunched at Bachman's again. I tried the Monkey King Jasmine green tea. We also stopped at the American Swedish Institute. I got a Carl Larrson calendar (total tender $15.08), she got a table runner. Then we had coffee and cookies in the Kaffestuga Coffee Shop in the lower level. The 33-room Turnblad mansion was completed in 1908. This French Chateauesque-style structure is built with Indiana limestone and looks like a castle. The ballroom is located on the third floor. By the time I'd made the climb I was too tired to dance. We left under a soft falling of new snow with flakes dancing all around us.
Later Ann and I watched an 8-minute film clip from www.soulbiographies.com. I was reminded of how in a roomful of strangers some are offended when they first see me at the podium with my broken teeth. They have to get beyond what I look like so they can hear me. That first minute of judgement is a brief barriar. They have to see that one can be truly and humanly beautiful even if we are not physically perfect. It's wonderful! Most children leap past that first glance with ease and grace. It's a lovely moment when they all accept me as I am and we go on from there together. What can be disconcerting is to discover an old friend that still has not found the grace to forgive me for my broken teeth and accept my decision to continue my journey in this manner. At least until I find a way to pay for all the work that goes into repairing teeth so I, too, can enjoy a lovely smile.

Friday, December 4, 2009

LIVING DIRT

Last night Aina and I attended a Friends of the Mississippi River gathering at the Empire Bldg in St Paul. We met many river conscious people. There were several who were very excited about meeting Aina. I felt like I was with a celebrity! She has a reputation for conservation and being a friend to animals... except the ground hog. I met Ed and Sue Merket who remembered me from a Great River-Great Prairie project. They knew Annie, Too. I lost Aina but found a perfect place to sit and made the acquaintance of a 3-yr-old lad named Theo. I received a free bag upon arrival but gave it to a bagless pair before I left. When we got back to Rosemont Aina gave me her bag. Then she made sandwiches and tea. Into the dark we ventured. climbed the hill to the sheep pasture, built a big fire and enjoyed a late picnic. The sparks flew high and floated south on a north breeze. We stayed until the glow of the embers began to fade. Then we went to the house and watched Carol Burnett.
Today we didn't get up until nearly 9 AM! The birds were waiting in the lilac branches. The juncos so patient, the blue jay so ruffled... but the chickadee flitted about for he cannot waste the morning watching windows. Aina took out bird seed but her offering was snubbed. When will they descend in droves I wondered. They arrived at 9:30.
Dolly Bird has written, "...there is a tall cottonwood I know and sometimes I go to see the leaves and this morning I heard a meadowlark... to die is not the end... he said." She also wrote, "...I was just thinking,.. of the plains where the dirt is living..." They say the Cherokee were forced from their homes by military terrorists of the US government wielding bayonets. They tell me these desperate heart-broken people went into their orchards and said good bye to their fruiting trees... they wept and kissed the leaves. As they walked their trail of tears they were greeted with abuse but also compassion. I am told that while some reviled them others consoled them, gave them clean water, warm clothes, bread and human comfort. We must remember that there was kindness even in those horrible times.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

ONLY A DREAM

Aina has made a pool for the deer. She said they messed up the garden pools so she made one just for them. Of course, the gardens are no more than dried arrangements of summer's blooming abundance but they are still attractive. The waterfall is no longer in operation but the beautiful stones so artfully placed are silent reminders of how it must have been. Her three very old apple trees are coming down and some of the fallen wood is stacked near the cedar gazebo. We got a dusting of snow last night and the chickadees were first to arrive looking for breakfast.
The holidays can hit you like a steel bat. I am particularly concerned for Wallis. She is most vulnerable at this time. I can only trust that she will find the support she needs now when old wounds are new again.
Yesterday Aina purchased an African violet. It is a deep purple with bright yellow centers. The double petals are etched with white. The leaves are not as hairy as are some violets. It does remind me of my mother. She loved these little beauties and managed to keep 3 or 4 alive all winter. When the fire went out in the wood stove at night it got freezing cold in the house. To save them from a frozen death she covered them.
I slept like a lost mitten and dreamed: Laura Fadden, Annie, Cedar and were with a crowd of strangers. Laura and Annie left abruptly. I thought they would return shortly but soon it was dark and cold. I was holding Cedar to keep her warm. I didn't want to leave the area but Cedar needed shelter so I picked her up and carried her away. There were other people around, there were no street lights and the walkways were unpaved. Cedar slept in my arms but had lost her shoes. I sat down on a stone bench and wondered why we'd been left behind. Then a young woman saw my distress and said her home was nearby. She offered us shelter and I accepted. I followed her to a small stone house. Inside were 4 beds covered with matching floral bedspreads. She said her husband and child would return soon. Almost at once the door burst open and the happy pair entered. I'd laid Cedar on one of the beds and sat close to her. The little girl covered her with a small quilt. Then there was a knock at the door! We all turned to see who was trying to get in and I woke up on Aina's sofa. I was glad it was only a dream.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

BIRD WATCH

Mae Sarton returned to her journal on the 1st of Dec. and yesterday she was already thinking of the Christmas spirit. I thought of baby Jesus being wrapped by Mary. My elders swaddled infants, too. I was not allowed to loosely wrap my babies. I was told it was a comfort to the child to be held in the firm embrace of the womb and upon exit the little one needed to be slowly released. I think this is true. Now I wonder if we should swaddle our elders, too. I could use a tight hug from time to time.
Willa Cather has said that "the novel is a form of imaginative art, it cannot be... journalism." So out of the vast stream of possibilities the writer must select the "eternal material of art." Her work is classic and alive because she chose her material well. Willa even called the art "a game of make-believe." As I read her "Critical Studies on Writing as an Art" I feel something being cut from me. I feel it falling away. She is trying to give me freedom... a gift of literary liberty.
The bit of morning light that has found the poinsettia has lit it with a scarlet flame.The crimson birds have not yet appeared and I feel lonely for them.
When Ann and Sharon have returned from swimming at the Y Roberto and I were watching "The Rose Tattoo", a movie based on a play by Tennessee Williams. Burt Lancaster is a perfect buffoon and made us laugh. But he raised Anna Magnani from the dark depths of a hopeless depression. He helped her find the grace to set her daughter free and the courage to offer her heart to love again.
Aina Wiklund came at about 10:30 AM today and we went to Bachman's for lunch. I had the gunpowder green tea and she had the lemon mint green tea. I think they left out the gunpowder because I failed to explode. Later we walked around her gardens and I measured myself by the tall grass in her restored prairie at the old farm in Rosemont. Later we relaxed on the recliner sofa. Then I did a bird check from the dining room window and identified: cardinals, blue jays, goldfinches, woodpeckers, juncos, and chickadees. We then enjoyed a cup of tea from her home province in Sweden. A large hairy woodpecker looked in on us at the window. Later Aina and I walked in the woods before supper and she burned a bit of waste while I worried about burning down the forest.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

THE FABRICS OF LIFE

I awakened a bit late and still tired. I dreamed too much and was busy with at least two projects. Ann and Roberto were building something out of wood so I was trying to help. But Roberto rejected the wood I brought and Ann kept changing the plan. I didn't know what was going on and no one spoke at all so I left. Then I was at a pow-wow. It was absolutely silent. No drums, no bells, no songs but the dance went on. I noticed an older woman in a yellow dress. She wore dark blue leggings and carried a dark brown shawl. I knew she was a first time dancer so I decided to help her coordinate her outfit. Soon I was going through fabric and found a piece of gold for her leggings and a light bright turquoise for her shawl. She redressed and went on dancing but she was not happy. I asked myself why I'd replaced the leggings and the shawl. "It was easier than making a new dress," I said. "Well," I replied, "the dress was the problem. You know yellow is the kind of color that can make some women quite unhappy." Then I opened my eyes, heard Ann in the kitchen and got up to journal.
"The rich fabric of family and friends holds me safe and grateful" during difficult times. Martha Whitmore Hickman. What do I fashion from the fabric love provides for my life? Louisa May Alcott said, "...time and suffering strengthened and clarified (her) mixture of truth and fancy" until it all flowed together in pleasure and profit. So at 50 she would look back and find "her dream beautifully realized, her duty done, her reward far greater than she deserved."
Willa Cather wrote, "The longer I stayed in a country (AZ and NM) I really did care about, and among people who were part of the country, the more more unnecessary and superficial" some stories seemed to be. She was was there for six months and did not write at all but she "recovered from the conventional editorial point of view." When she returned to Pittsburgh she began a new book, "where everything was spontaneous and took its own place, right or wrong." She was writing "O Pioneers". It was placed in Nebraska and peopled by farmers.
Karen Schulz came for supper last night. It was good to see her again. She's a lovely person. Deeply caring, kind and gentle.
By 10AM today I had returned from a 10-block walk, sat on the bench outside to rest and saw an elder man coming up the street pushing a bicycle and pulling two carts. The front cart was heaped with black plastic bags. "Good morning," I chirped. He frowned in my direction but said nothing until he had passed me. Then he turned and said "Hi". I waved my mitten and he went a few mores steps before turning to say, " It's a beautiful day." "Yes, it is," I agreed raising my voice a bit so it would reach his advancing ears. After several more long steps he turned to me again and said"... for Dec 1st." "It certainly is," I shouted and we laughed together. Then he mounted his bike and pedaled off to make his life from the fabric of recycled cans.

Monday, November 30, 2009

BLACK JACK GUM

We got to Mpls about 5PM yesterday. It was a good road and not as much traffic as anticipated. Ann drove us around Lake of the Isles to see lit up houses then we entered the bowels of the Kenwood Hills Condominiums. We prepared a turkey casserole, cleaned up kitchen and put away the stuff we'd brought with us. After enjoying a delicious supper we all got into our pj's and watched 2 movies: "Monsters and Aliens" and "The Gathering Storm".
Yes, if I could have chosen what we would lose it would not have been my grandson. It would have been my right arm... my left eye. But we did not have that option. Suddenly he was gone. Our beautiful boy... the generous one... the gracious one. It changes ones perspective. It enlarges our capacity for grace. Relationships become more important. We embrace others in their grief and loss. Life can be a painful journey and we don't know what others suffer so we must be kind to all. We recognize our connection to all living things. "We see eternity in a grain of sand." Walt Whitman.
Willa Cather wrote, "The higher processes of art are all processes of simplification." I think the art of my life is to simplify. You'd think living in the one room that the Red Shed provides would be simple enough but I want less. I am learning to peel away the layers. What is most difficult to drop from my life are those things that have moved from my mother's life to mine. Things I recall in all my childhood homes. They cannot be simply discarded but must be passed on. I'd like to visit them from time to time because they have been so long cherished by my mother and myself.
Louisa May Alcott told her father, "I am trying to turn my brains into money by stories." She didn't know then that her pen would soon place her among the stars. Later she would write, "...scribbling (has become) a very profitable amusement." In her December 1859 journal she wrote, "The execution of Saint John the Just (abolitionist John Brown) took place on the second. A meeting at the hall, and all Concord was there. Emerson, Thoreau, Father and Sanford spoke, and all were full of reverence and admiration for the martyr." Her mother said Louisa had been an abolitionist since she was 3 years old.
Ann and I meditated together before she went to work. While Roberto slept I walked to Burch Drug for postcards. I selected 10 cards and 5 sticks of Black Jack gum (69 cents plus tax). Then I walked down the avenue chewing a memorial stick for my long-legged grandfather Antone Vanoss who used to live on Franklin during the late 30s and early 40s.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

ON THIN ICE


It is a gray and misty 48 degree day... so far. Snow has fallen over the Crystal. The sheet of white can be deceptive but one can see dark puddles of thin ice. Many deer have pressed their hoof prints into the sandy shore. I haven't seen any deer this time but the last time I was here Dar and I saw two drinking from the Crystal. Ann saw three right outside this window one day and has photos to prove it. Yesterday Karen S, Ann and I saw a beaver under Marlys' dock and when Karen moved toward him the little fellow dived to resurface under Katie's dock. Karen pursued it and the beaver disappeared.
Today Ann and I got up to find that John Dobbins and son Andrew had left on their 12-hour drive to Culver, IN. Ann and Roberto are leaving, too. So I must pack and be ready to flee.
Jean Whitney's 15-month-old grandson Heath learned to walk yesterday on his mother Sarah's 31st birthday. Another lovely T-day weekend memory. John had brought birthday cupcakes from Madison. They were supremely delicious. The food shelf produce showed up in our breakfast fruit salad. I found three wine cork s for Annie's herbal medicine bottles.
"How could she resist the moon's pull, blooming each month with a scarred and broken face." Freya Manfred.
"Many women have loved the moon. On dark nights we hold our cold hands in her glow and she sends warmth so intense that tears drip from our frozen fingers tips. Do you know.... do you believe? It happens to me all the time." A Dunn.
Yes, it's true the sudden traumatic death of Brandon murdered at age 17 has reshaped many lives, including mine. I know Jean continues to struggle with personal grief and loss, too. As does friend Flo Hedeen who lost her son to a devastating illness. Holidays are especially difficult because these are times to gather with dear ones. The place they vacated does not simply disappear. In fact, there are times when the emptiness looms large and formidable. It claws away at our defenses until we feel very small, emotionally naked, vulnerable, devastated and lonely for that one who has gone on.
The expanded feeling of the cabin-house has changed as friends depart to resume lives in other spheres. But I think a residual presence continues to warm the walls with long gone laughter even after the door is closed behind the last to leave.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

PRISMATIC LENSES

The plate of ice has grown. While we slept it crept to the warm side of the Crystal. The beaver bay did not freeze over and the shore is fringed with black water. It will not support a large dog so we will not be on ice today. But I do want to do something to celebrate the arrival of the cold spirits. Last night we went to Walker to see the parade. We gathered the candy that was flung into the street. Ann will take it to Emerson School where she teaches second grade students. My favorite parade personality was the H1N1 woman. She was so enthusiastic as she distributed small bars of soap. Her sandwich board warned us to wash our hands, cover our sneezes and stay home if we don't feel well. The Lucky Moose gave caps but I didn't get one. Then Ellie gave me hers. Later I found that it had been Ann's cap. Karen Schulz was denied a gift because they were reserved for kids. Ellie Slette and Karen Wilson left us at Walker and went home to Crosby. Ann had her picture taken with Santa, we picked up two more pies and hurried home to what we would do. Some played cards, others games and I watched "Casablanca" on the pc.
In the morning we gathered lakeside for African tea, Roberto made a fire and we took glamor photos . I made an ice lens and we all posed with it.
Then we gathered pine cones to dip in wax. I started the project but decided I didn't really have much to do so I went inside to write my blog. Katie Trotzky invited us to a hot tub event but I declined and watched "Into the West" with the guys.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Life is a train of moods and as we pass through them they prove to be many-colored lenses which paint the world their own hue and each shows only what lies in its focus." Surely it is somewhat like the magic glasses that Cedar likes to look through. Those prismatic lenses change the world into slices and hues of lights. However small the glow it transforms them into the magic that can carry a child into those true mysteries too deep for a grandmother cannot explain.

Friday, November 27, 2009

THE FROZEN MUSKRATS


Louisa May Alcott was born November 29, 1832, in Germantown, PA, the second daughter of Bronson and Abba Alcott. They are considered "Two of the more remarkable characters in the annals of 19th century American parenting." Louisa was only 22 when she published her first book "Flower Foibles", a collection of fairy tales. "Little Women" was published in 1868 (age 36). Different parents would not have given this particular Louisa to the world of literature. Who would I be without her? Was your life changed because of her life? Of her mother Louisa said, "...a good deal of it (philosophy) happens in the kitchen, where a fine old lady thinks high thoughts... while she cooks and scrubs."
The lake is half iced over. Now I see that we occupy the colder side of the Crystal for there is no ice on the other side. The bright sun skips over the ice, runs up the hill, laughs at the window and dazzles our morning with bliss. Wendy Wright might see this as "an invitation for the divine and human to meet halfway." Yes, any relationship requires mutual participation so let us all try to have a conversation with God today and see how it goes.
At breakfast I tried to organize the group into the Frozen Muskrats Band on Tour but we recognized our limited talents before we made any commitments. I went for a brief walk and returned to participate in a digital tour of China with Ellie Slette Ni-hao (knee-how) is Hello in China. I think I will become a ni-hao girl for awhile.
I then tried to organize the Frozen Muskrat Philosophical Society. There was no enthusiasm for this either. Therefore, I must proclaim the Frozen Muskrats dead.
Dino called and Ann told him I would be in Minneapolis for the winter. She said I wanted to try the flush toilet. I shouted, "I want to try the plush and flush toilet." I am still gathering rhyming words for Cedar. Hooray! as she would say and clap her hands in glee to discover two more verbal companions that dance over the tongue with quiet grace and hiss through the teeth together.
They say it was Willa Cather's deep moral sense that allowed her characters to discover the detail that opened their closed lives for a moment or for a lifetime. She wrote that the art of story writing "is no good at all unless it is let alone to be itself." I'm afraid I still want to guide my characters into self-discovery. My hand rests too heavily upon their souls. A good parent knows when to let go.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

CAGE OF BONES


Albert Einstein once said that curiosity is sacred. When I awakened here at Crystal Lake I wondered if it would be cold enough for ice. On soft quiet feet I opened the bedroom door, stepped to the big window and found the lake in a fluid state.
Yesterday was difficult for Cedar and me. She came over early for breakfast. Later we talked about my departure and return. "I'll miss you." she told me several times. "I'll be thinking of you, too," I replied. "My eyes will be red from crying," she said. "I love you, too, Cedar." Then she said "April is a long time." She asked for a plastic bag, walked about putting things in it and went outside. Soon she returned. "I'm home," she shouted. She did this several times and with each return I greeted her with an eager welcome and a warm hug. I told her I would send cards during my absence. I must not disappoint her.
The sun has burst from low gray clouds and an explosion of gold has flung itself over the water. The great full spray of a white pine hangs between me and the far shore. It makes me think of how we cross over to the other side.
It was "My Antonia" that endeared Willa Cather as another literary mentor. Now I have read all her novels and "Obscure Destinies". I am looking for "April Twilights" and "The Troll Garden", her poetry collections. I have been encouraged by her promise that "shapes and scenes that have teased the mind for years" can be caught and penned to the paper page at last. How exciting for me. But I also recall that Harriet Doerr wrote her first novel "Stones for Ibarra" in her seventh decade.
After breakfast we had teatime with readings. I selected "A Meeting" by Mary Oliver. Several more of Mary's poems were read. Dar read a poem from Freya Manfred's "Swimming With a Hundred Year Old Turtle". We can all hear Freya's breath "flying from it's cage of bones."
I am in the midst of a gathering of good hearts with good minds. Here is the feast I have hungered for... and soon there will be turkey, too.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

THE SOULESS BOOK

Some say that Louisa May Alcott wrote two perfect poems; one to her mother and the other on Thoreau's flute. She referred to him as a "large-hearted child". He was her botany instructor. Can you imagine exploring the wildside of Concord with "the genius of the fields"? In November of 1862 at the age of 30 Louisa volunteered as an army nurse in a Civil War hospital. She wrote, "I love nursing" and "I want new experiences." But she contracted typhoid fever and was returned home after 6 weeks of service. She never fully regained her health due to the deadly mercury compounds used in those days to fight fever. Native people used a natural and harmless remedy found in the inner bark of the willow to fight fever and reduce pain. Too bad no one consulted them. As a result her short life was full of pain. Louisa praised the prose of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Her father wrote of her, "I press thee to my heart, as Duty's faithful child." Born in 1832 she died in 1888 (56) with many more stories still stewing in her brewing mind. One that she spoke of was "The Philosopher's Wooing" which referred to Thoreau.
I can certainly understand her head full of stories and a strong desire to write them out. I don't want to carry my stories to the grave either. Although there is no crying public demanding a feast of Dunn tales I go on writing. I'm just another starving artist.
When I visited the Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial at Red Cloud, Nebraska, March 2000, I purchased a collection of her short stories and "Willa Cather on Writing". Willa is able to reveal the deeper significance of her subjects and characters without grabbing me by the collar and dragging my nose through it. She doesn't always make me happy but she moves me deeply. With her there is no trivial event or emotion because she valued the humanity of her readers. Stephen Tennant warned us to beware "a souless book - a vigorous circumstantial record of worthless people who have lived in vain." Willa prefaced Sarah Orne Jewett's short story collection with warm words. Her admiration of Sarah glowed in her prose. "(She) wrote of the people who grew out of the soil..." She once told Willa "that her mind was full of dear old houses and dear old women..."
My mind too is a beautiful old country peopled by dear ones who want to get out on the pages before it is too late. Why? One might wonder, do you believe that you have anything significant to contribute to the enormous body of modern literature? I believe I can present a perspective that is unique to me and will be valued in the future. Perhaps even prized and lavished with praise. Pilgrims will visit my grave and leave their velvet gloves on my tombstone. Perhaps.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

POTATO RIGGS

After considering his grief and loss Albert Camas said, "The fall is brutal, but we set out again." Time passes and that empty place will be filled. I still hope to transfer my time and energy into a memorial of Brandon. It will be entitled "Thunder in His Wings". I have a lot of material but have not found the best way to organize it. Therefore, I am at a standstill. Perhaps the upcoming change of location will inspire me toward resolution.
In a casual manner son Tom recently told us that he'd harvested a few potatoes this year. I was not surprised. One of his childhood nicknames was "Potato Riggs" because nearly every day he'd put on his potato hat, fill his potato bucket and carry it next door to my mother. I have a photo of him leaving our house with the bucket of spuds. His innocent smile crowned by that old hat gave him a shine of achievement. He was a working man! Annie remembered how we used to sit near the wood pile to peel potatoes for supper. Soon a few healthy potato plants sprouted and by late summer we hand dug a boxful of good spuds. Tom said, "That's all I did. I planted peels." Missy was proud of Tom and pleased that they had grown food together. It can be bonding.
Thoreau has written "that husbandry was once a sacred art." He suggested that we need more festivals, processions and ceremony instead of "heedless haste". In a scolding tone he wrote, "...the landscape is deformed, husbandry is degraded with us and the farmer leads the meanest of lives."
Historian and educator Howard Zinn said when he was a boy there were no books in his home. But one day he found a book in the street and that lost volume became his great treasure. It was soiled and pages were missing but he read it again and again. It was one of those early Tarzan novels (I forgot the title). Zinn's splendid mind fed itself on those 10 cent words and he grew into a man of conscience and extreme courage. The first novel I remember reading was a western by Zane Grey. But it did not nourish me so well as Tarzan nourished Zinn.
As a young child I was allowed to select one book from the dusty shelves of a musty used book store on 4th Avenue in Minneapolis. It was in good condition. I'm sure I was attracted by the art. There were wonderful black and white illustrations on nearly every page. Now both covers and the first 10 pages are gone. So I don't know the title but it is a delicious collection of readable poetry. The selection of my first book is stuck in my memory like wild honey. My second book had similar illustrations by Paula Rees Good. It is a 1931 edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's "A Child's Garden of Verse". I still love those small tattered volumes and sometimes I gently turn their brittle yellow pages to wonder again with that child I was.

Monday, November 23, 2009

ON A THUMBNAIL

"Writing is always a voyage of discovery." Nadine Gordimer. It is also a joyage.
My cousin David Macck gave me a little white Elvis bear some time ago. He sports a black wig worn side burn style and a pair of over-sized TCB sunglasses. One day I embroidered a rosy smile beneath his black button nose. This past weekend I sewed strips of red and silver craft gems along his arms and legs, around his neck and across his waist. Now he sits aglitter on the table to oversee today's entry in The Hogwarts Journal. I also stapled a row of red pom-poms to the Burger King crown of my Reese's stand-up Elvis which was given to me by Alice Holz. This is the kind of thing one does when she gets up early or stays up late.
It's been warm for late November and when I step outside I almost expect to be greeted by a chorus of sunny daffodils. "Good morning, good morning and how-do-you-do; Good morning, good morning we're glad to see you!" Of course, there is no snow to cover the ground so the sleds are still wrapped in summer spider webs. I find that snowshoes have short memories and mine do not recall our long winter walks through snow. A few chickadees are coming to the feeders. The pig has discovered the delicious sunflower seeds that have fallen below. She winks and says, "It's manna to me!" So I feed the birds and the birds feed the pig.
Last spring we burned a sick old rose bush and I thought that was the end of it. However, up came a healthy stalk that produced a single bud. In mid summer it opened into one perfect rose. Cedar loved the rose and visited it daily. Then on a certain morning she pulled the petals one by one and carried them in her small sweaty hand. She'd cup her hands over her nose and inhale the fragrance. Then she held them under my nose, too. At last she sprinkled them within the circle of a fairy ring. The fairies that dance by night were blessed by a child's offering of simple beauty and honest love.
Thoreau did not want a single life to be "frittered away". He urged all people to simplify and reduce. He said, "Keep your accounts on your thumbnail." But we are predators and parasites. We seek and destroy to feed our perceived needs and live off the death of others. Wendell Berry wrote, "I think an economy should be based on thrift, not on theft, usury, seduction, waste and ruin.
When I lived at the A-frame on the Oak Point Road the outhouse would be spider-infested early in the year. Over time the spiders disappeared until there remained only three large wolf spiders. They didn't bother me so I let them live there. But they had devoured all the food around them except one another. So I would sometimes think of them at night stalking and hiding. In the morning I'd look for them... or did they look for me? My grandson Saige said he could feel them watching him.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

BAREFOOT IN THE BEANS

Gladys Taber had a generous friend named Helen Beals. They were neighbor so when Gladys was depressed she'd call her on the phone (they had party lines at that time). Helen could sense when Gladys needed more than a few kind words. "Come over," she would say, "I'll put 44 beans in your cup." Gladys would begin to feel better at once. Gladys also wrote, "After Thanksgiving it will be winter." That's what oldsters think but youngsters think, "After Thanksgiving it will be Christmas."
It is said that Thoreau once had a bean field and cared for seven miles of plants. He wrote that he loved the plants that attached him to the earth. They made him strong. In fact, he wrote, "I cherish them." Oh, to be a cherished bean! He learned from them and wondered what they learned from him. He hoed from 5AM to noon, often in his bare feet. He became intimate with his beans and walked along the row playing his flute for them. He also received a lot of free advice from his neighbors and wrote, "I came to know how I stood in the agricultural world." When he paused in the shade at the end of the rows he leaned on his hoe and deeply appreciated the lovely lively world around him. It made him pity the people who lived in town. He'd paid 54 cents for his hoe and $3.12 for the bean seed. It had cost him $7.50 to get the field plowed and 75 cents to rent the horse and cart to get his crop to market. The harvest yielded $16.94. I don't know if this was his profit or the gross earning. After all of this he found that selling the harvest was the most difficult part for it entailed giving up the beans he loved. I believe he did not plant beans again, for he was amazed to meet a man who had raised beans for 70 years.
When I went out to sprinkle yesterdays coffee grounds around the raspberry canes I discovered a balmy breeze caressing the land so I stood for a long time thinking about the beans that I have cherished. I love to raise the Scarlet Ladies in their flaming skirts and the Painted Ladies that burst into bloom with a thousand tiny pink ruffled bonnets.
Annie Dillard has posed an interesting question. "If I fell in the forest would a tree hear?"
I have decided that I will return the journals to those who gave them. They will then have a hand-written book of words put down by myself with generous portions of ideas from my literary mentors. So this first one, entitled "The Hogwarts Journal", will go to Sharon Saxton. She will also find a bit of black beads taped to the previous page and will be amazed when she touches them and finds a parade of my ancestors coming to meet her.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

LOUD AS CHILDREN

"Only that day dawns of which we are aware." Thoreau. I have embarked upon another 24-hour journey through beauty, splendor, love and joy. In short... an adventure. What does this day offer to me and what do I bring to this day? "It isn't life that matters, it's the courage you bring to it." Hugh Walpole. "The least brave act, chance taken and passage won, makes you feel loud as a child." Annie Dillard.
My friend Doris gave me a red hat she'd crocheted. I keep it at my bedside. When I get cold in the night but it's too early to get up and make a fire, I put on the vivid beret and go back to sleep. Now it seems that my hair has taken the curious shape of the beret! It now parts down the middle and is swept back like gull wings. What an amazing little hair-dresser resides in the friendly hat! She is at work while I am at sleep and she never leaves a bill.
Not long ago I was talking with a friend when his pleasant smile turned to alarm . He lifted his hand to my throat and exclaimed, "Your beads are falling!" Yes, another string of my black cut glass granny necklace had severed and a jet bead shower was dripping to the floor. "Excuse me", he said as with carefully inoffensive fingers he knotted the threads to retain the beads that had not yet escaped. I stood stork still. It was an incredibly intimate moment. Not erotic but deeply caring. Then he knelt before me and began picking up the tiny scattered gems. I joined him in the harvest. Later we continued sitting on the floor while I told him how all the significant elder women of my childhood had been adorned with these kind of necklaces. I named the women and one by one they joined us. It was a lovely moment. I wore the necklace to the Forest History Center telling and remembered how Budd and I had gathered the beads of memory.
I also remembered how, with much groaning, he got himself upright. Then he pulled me to my feet and we laughed as loud as children at all our aches and pains.
"I (must) continue to create (blog) because writing (and blogging) is a labor of love and also an act of defiance, a way to light a candle in a gale wind." Alice Childress.

Friday, November 20, 2009

RIGHTS AND DELIGHTS

"...if you decide to (travel or) make your home elsewhere, the Spirit of tenderness, of love, will not desert you, rising from within yourself; and because of it you are no longer fearful of loneliness..." Daphne Du Maurier. Andrew Wyeth did not travel much because he said, "The familiar frees me." Thoreau wrote, "I live alone in the woods." Although many think of Thoreau as stern and unforgiving he has also written, "...we do not treat ourselves nor one another... tenderly." From Edna St Vincent Millay we read: "It's little I care; But out of this house, lest my heart break, I must go, and off somewhere." Gladys Taber adds, "I can fancy taking sixpence in my pocket, a loaf of crusty long bread and a wedge of fine Cheddar and setting off for the world's end to see where the wind comes from." Yes, I too am ready to off!
Yesterday I was busy with stories. In the AM I told at the Grand Rapids library and the Forest History Center in the PM. It was a pleasure to share and swap with other tellers. The audiences were small but gracious.
Today I awakened strangely unstable so it looked like the beginning of a dizzy day. I've had them before... not often but they do unhinge me. I'm like a loose door on a windy day. I recovered in two hours and am now as steady as a star.
Cedar and I went to laundromat then Wallis and Michael came over to enjoy a brats and beans cook out with Cedar and me. I fired up the Mexican fireplace and Michael cooked while I hung laundry. A soaring eagle blessed our gathering. It was all such aching loveliness.
Cedar has told me that she never tasted Hawaiian Punch so I got her some to share with siblings. I don't want her to be deprived of one of childhood's primary rights and delights.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

PROPERLY AMAZED

When I was visiting in New Mexico I was told that Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd) had bought his girlfriend a beautiful ranch with many acres of grassland. I suppose it was an engagement gift. The deed was in her possession for just a short time when she ordered Boyd to hopalong off her property. He was restrained from returning. She quickly moved another man into her house and lived hoppily ever after.
Mae S found her life "rather like a gold mine" full of unexpected delight. Her days had been "nourished by" an undisclosed experience. She expressed concern for the homeless, too. "What if all the violence (unprovoked war and other criminal acts) in the world could be absorbed into building people houses?" After this entry she did not open her journal for 10 days. Perhaps she was out building houses, railing against crime or protesting war. She put her money in her mouth and $upported a hospitality house for elders in distressful circumstances.
But did you know that there are more people over 60 living in Itasca county (%wise) than anywhere else in the USA? We are above the national average! What a power we could be for change. An army that reports for service in their wheelchairs, leaning on walkers, stepping out in their orthopedic marching shoes, brandishing canes and pushing O2 tanks before them. In Eagle Butte the elders organized a group called The Gray Eagles. What could WE be?
Fred Buechner has written about "the family worrier whose purpose is to free other family members "for more spontaneous and joyous purposes." I am a family of one so I get the worry and the joy. However, I refuse to sustain my mission to worry because it will only wear me out and I don't need that.
Of Thoreau it is said he "dedicated his genius with such entire love to the fields, hills and waters of his native town..." He spoke of the river "as itself a lawful creature."
The ornamental crab in front of Annie's house is transformed by rain. No longer dark and naked but encrusted by a million crystals. The broken branch I planted in a rusty bucket stands before my door and hung with heavy glass balls becomes a poor imitation of nature. But I can say that every morning my bauble tree steals light from the sky and gives it to me in those shining orbs while Annie's crab must wait for rain.
I had an avocado sandwich yesterday and saved the stone for Cedar. She was properly amazed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

LIVE FOR THE DAY

Cedar and I enjoyed a bit of candle time last night. In the gentle glow I told her how Brandon found foxfire. She wanted to hear it again. I also told her about the dark mountain and how Brandon climbed Bear Butte. He'd go quickly to the top and wait for me. I would struggle on and catch glimpses of him through the trees. That was before the big fire that destroyed so much of the forest on the mountain. How we'd laugh when I finally arrived.
They say of Thoreau "he lived for the day, not cumbered or mortified by his memory." Dear Henry; I am often under the burden of memory. While I too live for the day old times drift through my thoughts like the memory of Mother's bread fresh from the oven can waft it's way to me across the gulf of time. The smell of rain can carry me to the long ago when I was 8 years old. I can see the old cars reflected on black asphalt, hear them splash through greasy puddles and find Cathy McCord smiling down on me. Her gray eyes full of kind affection.
When Gladys Taber found her home on a dead end road on a stormy day she heard it say, "I've been waiting for you. What took you so long?" Does a home wait for me? Will we recognize each other when we meet? What kind of neighbors will greet me?
Mae S. wrote, "If there is not enough space in a life... for the soul to breath (unrestricted by frustration and exhaustion) something is wrong." She also wrote, "I am giving myself this morning... I have three poems buzzing around..." What buzzes in me this morning is a 9AM appointment at the garage. Then the wood must come in and the ash go out. Buzz-buzz. I brought the water last night but the bucket must be spilled and cleaned. Buzz-buzz. Ah, the 1995 Oldsmobile. The loyal and dependable Juliet (never call her Julie). She nearly never gets a bath and is blemished by rust. Her bumper boasts an assortment of fading stickers so she is quickly found in a crowded parking lot and easily identified on the road. She tells me maintainance is everything.
I finished "A Room With A View" and have begun "Memoirs of a Geisha" by Arthur Golden.