Monday, November 30, 2009


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


"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


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


"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


"...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


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


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.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


"It is because I now have a muse again and am writing poems that I am lifted above all this... (that I might perceive as obstacles to creativity). Even a long-endured sorrow can become an obstacle to discovering beauty in another lovely day. We must determine to take hold of it in the morning and wring it as dry as we can. We must give ourselves to the hours and make the most of every small but generous minute. It is quite true that as we struggle with our own quiet grief we become more compassionate toward others. We suffer and our heart becomes more tender. We have been made vulnerable by sudden and traumatic loss and recognize that crushing vulnerability in others. We can become "people whom the light shines through". Is this light visible? Perhaps only those with eyes made sensitive by pain can see us shining toward them. It is difficult to see a light when light shines all around but even a tiny candle becomes visible in the lonely darkness of the Soul's midnight.
Well, even now as the earth lies brown around us we know we have an appointment with winter. I go out to find small dry wood and drag it home. I saw it into manageable lengths with my bright brave blade and stack it in the shed. I need this kind of wood to get the big wood hot enough to burn. I think of this little stuff as the foot soldiers. Without them my battle against cold would be difficult to sustain. This warm house becomes a frigate within which I ride to Spring's safe harbor with all my twigs arming me against frost assault.
Of Thoreau it has been said that if shut up in the house all day he did not write. But after a long walk his pen would match the measure of his stride. I follow this creed as well. It is also said that he did not practice any vice. But he said that before he became a man he did smoke. What!? Yes, he smoked dried lily stems. Dear Henry; before I became a woman I smoked dry oak leaves and coffee grounds rolled tight in newsprint. Crushing the leaves, mixing the ingredients and rolling all into a paper bundle was the better part of the acrid event.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I lost $60 cash on Saturday. I will call the credit union as that is the last time I remember having it in my hand. Then I'll call Target. I entertain only a wee slim hope of finding it. I'm grossly ashamed of losing that money. I seem to believe that I have no right to do a wrong thing. Even involuntarily. Perhaps it is evidence of personal failure and elder incompetence. Who will be the first to say, "Mother needs a keeper"? Growing old can be like learning to breathe under water. Or it can be like leaving a familiar land and stepping into a new country. A daily adventure.
Last night I began reading Forester's "A Room With A View". I'm still sorting out the characters. So many voices and each one vital to the advancement of the story. As are our voices together.
Mae S. addresses violence and fear in her journal for today. Her thoughts carry her to public places where people are mugged and murdered. She considers home invasion, theft and destruction by strangers. Then she looks inward and finds violence there, too.
When Gladys Taber traveled to Europe she visited famous places. In "Stillmeadow Journal" she wrote that "(her) eyes swelled shut and (her) feet flattened out." I know the feeling. I hope she recovered. I don't think I ever will.
Last night I walked through the wild flower field and saw the steps of many deer. They were of great variety of size and depth. I could almost see them romping and stomping in the frosty grass. Later I discovered a tiny rut where water had accumulated and turned to ice. Winter has begun in that rut in our yard and will spread through the county, the reservation, the state...

Sunday, November 15, 2009


"Guests of my life, You came in the early dawn, and You in the night. Your name was uttered by the Spring flowers and yours by the showers and rain. You brought the harp into my house and you brought the lamp. After You had taken your leave I found God's footprints on my floor." (Rabindranath Tagore). November days grow short and the light goes quickly over the edge of the earth. Late last night I took a torch and went for a brief walk. I wanted to inhale the wet soil and the cold stars. Thoreau cried, "Let me have a draught of undiluted morning air" and encouraged all wo/men to drink their morning air at "the fountainhead of the day." I get my morning air while gathering wood, removing ash and dumping the pail. Dear Henry; Surely this is the undiluted air at the fountainhead of my particular day.
"As there are gates to open along the way so there are gates to close." (EM Forester). Someone has said that when one door closes another opens. This seems far too passive. Forester puts it into a more active voice. Yes, he tells us, get up and open the gate! The urge to migrate is upon me. Soon I must open my wings, lean against the sky and burst into flight. I follow the wild geese! But while the geese take no luggage I am packing bags and boxes of stuff I think I'll need. As I consider how the word 'home' applies to the Red Shed I find that it does not. I am a boarder here. A temporary resident. There is no sacred bond. Perhaps I am more a wild goose than I have ever suspected.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


When I consider my range of moods I feel quite blessed. I realize that many people live more restricted lives. I also recognize that some people have extended their range far beyond mine! How wonderful for them. When I listen to Elvis sing "Flaming Star" it makes me remember that Brandon didn't have much time for making his dreams come true. Perhaps his dreams will be realized in Lamaya. We are under a gray sky heavy with rain... again. The overcast of dark clouds cause the red willow to shine along the fringe of dreary sticks thrust up from sodden ditches. Mae S. wrote about fan mail she'd received concerning her ANGER. "Writing it I learned a lot about myself... and it looks as though the readers, too, are being led to self-realization." The house has a nice smell. The wood stacked against the wall waiting to warm the Red Shed first fills the room with perfume of cedar. Outside the blue smoke of the wood stove offers another good smell. I went out to gather sticks to dry for kindling and the fragrance of old leaves rose up to greet me. A lovely sky smiled over me in the early evening and invited me to enjoy a rose-lit stroll. I almost declined the gracious invitation. But soon enough I'll be shuffling down the hall at the old folk's home in shoes with sticky soles. Today I will pull on my socks and slip into my boots for one more walk into another glorious sunset.

Friday, November 13, 2009


It's been raining for hours. The rain fingers have coaxed some incredible music from the rain piano. Like Mae Sarton, on this day in 1982, I've learned to "float instead of struggling against intolerable pressures." The rain helps me visualize myself riding the waves of November and not tumbling under them. She also declares the mystery "that suddenly opens the door into poetry. A face, a voice, two hours of rich communion and the world (is) changed. I am back to my real life again." She adds, "Seventy feels very young." I can't go quite that far as the rain has made my joints hurt a bit. Rain has a way of reminding me of grief. I think about my loved ones moving on and wonder how I can possibly catch up to them. It will require divine intervention. When they come for me will they fill me with clues and keys then hurry away leaving me to my journey? Or will they gather me to themselves and hasten me forward along paths already familiar to them? Is it possible that we will be as strangers? No! that would be too cruel. Cedar has arrived to spend the day. It's her day off from K. After breakfast she wanted a fire so one was quickly provided. We left the stove door open and watched the fire spread. She saw tiny people chasing tiny deer. I saw faces smiling out at us. Thoreau wrote about abandoning the fireplace for a stove. It was more economical wood-wise. But "it concealed the fire and (he) felt as if (he) had lost a companion." So with our fire in the stove and our box of warmth around us we have created a bit of summer in November. The rain roars on the sturdy roof trying to beat it's way inside then, running down, splashes into the muddy earth beneath the eaves. So we are safe and warm today.
I have begun reading EM Forester's "Howard's End".
I skipped through Tennessee Williams. His was a tragic life and ended with him self-medicated in his bed... a bottle cap wedged in his throat.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Before going to sleep last night I promised myself to be more aware of how I'd awaken today. Therefore, I was aware that the house was chilly but not deeply cold. It was very dark but for the small night light at the far end of The Red Shed. I listened to the silence until the refrigerator stirred and began humming it's morning song. Then I flung myself from the warm bed, put on a long fleece robe and a fleece jacket. I didn't make a fire and I endured. But somewhere in my spirit I was disappointed because I almost always awaken into dreams.
During my long life I have raised enough hair to fill a large mattress but it has been lost on the winds of three continents. Imagine that! Little bits of my DNA trodden into foreign fields, woven into nests of unknown birds, blown about like songs without wings. It continues to grow when I sleep, leap, drink, think... (Cedar is learning to rhyme words). It grows without my knowledge or consent and it is lost in the same way. I am convinced that hair loss leads to baldness. If I live long enough I will become a bald-headed lady beneath a funny-looking wig. I'll weave it myself. However, at that time I may begin boasting about my fine mustache and excellent beard.
I have also decided that I've betrayed my own body. Yes, this body that loves me. This body that has carried me to the mountains, to the sea, to the plains, to the rain forest. This body that yearns for strawberries and cheese. After so many years of abuse this body goes on loving me. (From an old journal).
I've been reading "The Kindness of Strangers" the life of Tennessee Williams.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Several days ago I dug up the last of the garden carrots. Cedar and I are eating them raw. We share them with Bella the horse and Theona the piggety-pig. Theona gets the greatest share because she rewards our generosity with grateful enthusiasm and puts on a big-pig-show when she sees carrots. Her eyes sparkle with ecstasy, she shows her teeth in a piggish smile, dances on her dainty pink hooves, whips her uncurled tail excitedly and becomes utterly irresistible.
Prior to living here in The Red Shed I rented a house in Ball Club. The area was called "The Last Village". It seemed I'd chosen to live in an obscure community on the edge of civilization. It was there I began to write a journal entitled "Voices From The Last Village". I'd moved from White Earth in two convoys. The friends I left behind have not been forgotten. Nearly every day brings pleasant memories of spontaneous tea parties with Marian, jig-saw puzzles with Sis, long walks with Betty, Yoga with Joyce, and free elder day dinners at the Shooting Star Casino with Myrna. Here in Deer River I have no social life and no friends. I often feel isolated and alone. Therefore, I must purposely seek and find ways to enrich my life. I open myself daily to the possibility of finding joy. Mae Sarton wrote that she "felt pulled down, buried under tons" of expectations. But she had a "rare friendship" with Janice. "We were able to give each other, in a very easy way, all that has been happening to us inwardly and outwardly. It was good to have someone to share some of my experiences..." Thank you for reading this blog and sharing my inward and outward experiences.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


In recognition of another birthday for this old one Justice baked a cake and Cedar frosted it. She also adorned it with three packages of candles. It took two people to get them all lit. By that time some of the candles had melted down almost into the frosting! Quickly the lights were turned off, the traditional song was sung and I made a hasty wish. I wanted to blow out as many as possible with the first blast so I gave it my best. To my surprise the room was plunged into darkness. I had blown out every candle with a single breath. Everyone was amazed! Afterwards I checked my e-mail and discovered that many congrats had arrived on the breath of another cold night. A couple of days ago I'd boiled a batch of mixed commodity beans in the slow-cooker. Cedar wanted to see what smelled so good. I raised the lid and she looked into the simmering pot. Then she shuddered and looked at me. "Gramma," she declared, "there are eyes in your soup!" She referred to the black-eyed peas. I tried to persuade her that they were not eyes by eating one. She was not convinced. Because they were quite small she decided they were frog eyes. Some of the beans went into the freezer for future soup and some became a savory chili-like soup. This soup is guaranteed to chase the November chills away if you can ignore the little frog eyes that watch you from the bowl of the rising spoon. Cedar likes to help me and often brings in light sticks of wood. She also carries out the ashes. Now she has begun bringing water for me. She can carry two milk jugs to my door with several rests along the way. I offer to assist but she insists that she can do it alone. I admire the large spirit in the small girl.

Monday, November 9, 2009

NOVEMBER 9th, 1940

It happened at the IHS Hospital, Red Lake Reservation, Beltrami County, Minnesota, USA that I left my mother's womb. It was 9:30 AM. The great and terrible Armistice Day blizzard was on the way and when it hit on the 11th Mom and I were still in hospital. I was put into a warm safe incubator with baby boy Graves who did not survive. My Grandparent's always said that I'd been born "the winter of the great storm". So when I got to St Stephen's Parochial School in Mpls that's what I told the teacher. She was upset because I didn't know my birth date. I went home that day to ask my Grandmother when I was born. She said "the winter of the great storm." So I had to wonder what was wrong with the teacher who didn't even know about the great storm. My Grandmother explained that the date of my birth was November 9th, 1940, but I was "born during the winter of the great storm". They never let me forget the baby boy who died. He was like my little lost brother. This journal will be my attempt "to meander (my) way through fields of the future" (Jim dale Huot Vickery). To help celebrate the arrival of my seventh decade I will be following Mae Sarton's journal. On Nov 9th of her 70th year she wrote, "I am fully aware that the presence of a muse literally opens the inner space, just as November light opens the outer space... The clutter falls away." She promised herself "to make every effort to live in eternity's light, not in time."

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Cedar loves to visit the cemetery so yesterday we went strolling among the tombstones again. This time she took a bag to gather discarded flowers. We never steal off the graves but when new flowers arrive the old ones are dumped in the woods. We pick our flowers there. But when we reached the far end of the cemetery I found four cans of Pepsi. They were unopened and undamaged so I put them in my pockets to carry them home. When we got to the stone bench Cedar wanted to open one. I told her we needed to clean them with alcohol just in case they were covered with terrible germs. We wondered how the pop came to be waiting there for us. I suggested that the ghost of Elvis had had them delivered there for us to find. It seemed logical since Pepsi was his all-time favorite beverage. She agreed that it was so. I also suggested that the person who carried them to the point where we discovered them probably didn't know why the Pepsi had to be there at that time on that day. When we got home and I swabbed the containers with a lot of alcohol we sat outside and drank together. Cedar said she tasted the alcohol so we swapped cans. I raised my can to the sky and shouted, "Thank you, Elvis!" And Cedar did likewise.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Two cards with gifts have arrived to celebrate my birthday! The Long Hairz Collective sent a gathering of beautiful words and a braid of sweet grass. From Sue I got the movie DVD "Cross Creek" and a nice card. Brian wrote: "I recall your stories like prayers of thanksgiving and sacred calls to action." Joe penned: "You continue to bless us with your fierce healing spirit." Oh, such generous lads! Sue, Laura and I visited Cross Creek and also dined at The Yearling Cafe when I was in Florida so seeing the movie was almost like returning. I don't think the movie was filmed at Marjorie Kinnan Rawling's home but the location was near Cross Creek so it was lush and green and wet. The movie was made in 1980 so perhaps the Rawling's house had not yet been renovated but it didn't look like the house I'd visited. I had read Cross Creek, The Yearling, The Sojourner and a book written by her former housekeeper. The movie doesn't sugar coat Rawling's alcoholism but I was disappointed that we never saw her big yellow car. Now I can appreciate how difficult it really was for her to find her voice and write her great novel. Perhaps I will find my voice, too. And did you know that the elder man who gives her directions to the hotel was really Norton Baskins, her second husband! A very small part. Yesterday Cedar and I returned to visit the local cemetery and walk among the tombstones. She watched Peter and the Wolf several times on netflix. I sat out under the moon before going to bed. Then got up and finished reading "Women of the Silk". The famous movie star Esther Williams and my old friend Cathy Clark appeared in my dreams. I was leaving a school building where I'd been telling tales and my arms were full of coats. Cathy was lying on a towel on the gym floor and didn't want to talk. I carried the coats down dreary city streets. Then a big black limousine pulled up and a man asked if I wanted to ride. I declined. Esther Williams leaned out the back window and asked why I didn't want to ride with her. I said I always refuse to ride in a limousine. So she and the man got out. He took a large syringe from the boot, stuck the needle under the hood and the car got smaller and smaller. When it was a just right I got inside and rode away with Esther Williams. I suppose we were riding under water as I was unable to see the street after that.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


We all went to see the Michael Jackson show "This Is It" which documented the last few months of his life. From March to June, 2009 he was in rehearsal for the world tour and it was recorded. Even his reflection on the movie screen was full of electric energy. I was so into it that I applauded at the end of one of the songs. I sat 3 rows behind the rest of the family so they wouldn't bother me. I watched as Justice raised both arms to wave at the great image of MJ. What we saw, in addition to the energy, enthusiasm, dancing and the fireworks, was a warm and gracious human being. He was polite and considerate of all. He also gave a brief but emotional message on the destruction of Earth and how we must get together in an agreement to demonstrate our respect for all forms of life by saving Earth for future generations of children, trees and other living things. Now he is gone but the memory of his incredible gift, genius and compassion is turning him into a modern myth. The power of myth is the power of one.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I went to sleep listening to Andre Rieu performing The Strauss Gala and it inspired a beautiful dream. When I got up at 4AM for my scrawling session I wrote a poem which included three of my dear old friends and a person I think may have been Gordon Parks.
I stood near the carousal, a carnival of making merry
In full voice around me. Two old friends hurried by,
Selected two painted ponies and mounted with grace.
I called and waved slowly. Then someone had my elbow.
I was propelled forward and seated in a gilt carriage.
The person released me to mount the wild horse
That pulled my chariot. I removed my sweater and shoes.
I let down my old white hair. The man let down his hair, too.
Soon we were moving to calliope din. Faster! Faster!
Ann's lavender skirt billowed over the rump of her rosy mare.
Roberto's red silk bandanna whipped the sky behind him.
Jim's blue shirt filled with air, water ran out of his sleeves.
His long white hair rose and fell over his shoulders.
I saw a stern black man with white hair watching.
His fists thrust deep into the pockets of his red plaid pants.
"Turn right!" I shouted. Jim laughed and turned left.
The black man scowled as we galloped past.
When I saw him again he was leaving on long strong legs.

The carousal disappeared. The calliope was silent.
Around me a field of wind-whipped wild rye.
Before me the rusted hulk of my carriage.
At my feet a horse skull staring into the blushing sky,
A heal-all growing from the eye.
I covered the head with my sweater, put on my shoes
And walked east on long strong legs
Toward all my waiting dreams.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Michael and Wallis took me to the New China buffet for dinner on Sunday. We over ate and I got light headed when blood rushed to my stomach to begin churning away at the huge supply of food I had ingested. Then the fortune hidden in my cookie left me breathless. It declared in red letters that I needed more adventure and excitement in my life and recommended that I take a vacation. That is exactly what I am going to do. I have already begun to pack!

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Halloween is come and gone again. No one tapped their bony knuckles on my door. No childish voices called for treats. I spent the hallowed eve with Cinnamon. He slept while I watched Johnny Depp "Finding Neverland". Several days ago I watched "The Painted Veil". I'd read the book so I found many changes from page to screen. Some changes did not appeal to me but others improved on the book. The book, however, did allow readers a closer look at the inner workings of the characters. One thing I didn't see in the movie was the monument to the virtuous widow. I think it could have enhanced the screenplay. Also the movie doesn't express the deep emotional loss Col. Yu and Mr. Waddington felt when Dr. Fane died. While watching 'neverland' I saw the dark shining eyes of a small boy fill with amazement at the astonishing grandeur of the theater. A little breath of awe escaped his rosy lips and plunged me into grief. It struck suddenly. Without warning. For it was something Brandon did when he stood awestruck before beauty.