One of the Good Things

 

This is MacArthur, my dog from many years ago. I got him when he was about seven weeks old. Found him in a newspaper ad. He was one of four in a litter of pups. He was a tri-colored collie. I chose him because his sisters were all normal collie color. He was different and I thought quite beautiful. This photo doesn’t allow you to see that he had long gold and white hair that ran down the backs of all four legs and some of the same in his tail. I also chose him because he looked a bit like a wolf. And yet, he was the most gentle of creatures, glued to my side, my protector, emotional support, and my friend.

I just finished reading my favorite novel for the third, maybe fourth, time. It’s a dog story written by Dean Koontz and titled Watchers. It always reminds me of Mac and the very special bond we shared. Although the dog in Koontz’s story is a golden retriever, some of the things he does, echo my experiences with Mac. Einstein, the dog in the story is the result of experiments conducted in a lab. His genes have been scientifically manipulated to a degree that he actually understands spoken language, and later in the book, is taught how to spell out messages with the tiles to a scrabble game. Yes, he is Wonder Dog, with a delightful sense of humor. He is also the epitome of fantasy for anyone who has ever loved a dog.

When he was only about six months old, Mac got sick. The Vet said he had an infection and gave me instructions to feed him soft cooked hamburger and daily medication. He was still small, just a puppy, and I kept him close, holding him a lot and even singing to him. He recovered in about two weeks, but I believe that experience was what bonded us so strongly.

When I say that Mac was glued to my side, I mean that literally. When I went out to our  huge garden to weed or pick vegetables, he’d go with me and slowly move down the rows, lying down to wait until I moved on to the next row. Although he wasn’t trained to do it, he never left our yard, except to play for short times with the Australian Shepherd that lived next door. And even when he did, he would coax her over to our side of the property line.

Before the folks with the Shepherd moved in, that house was occupied by a family with five kids. They loved to play with my kids and Mac because he would always catch the Frisbee and return it to whoever threw it in the first place. Except when I was outside. Then he only brought it back to me. The kids were aware of that, so they’d knock on the back door and ask if Mac could come out to play, but politely ask that I not do the same.

Mac slept on the floor next to my side of the bed. Back then, I often had repetitive nightmares, moaning and crying in my sleep. Mac would wake up and come to gently lick my fingers in order to awaken me, whining softly as he did so. My husband, sleeping next to me, was never awakened from sleep by my turning and tossing.

One night, when I was experiencing some chest pain, my husband called for an ambulance. I was sitting on the edge of the bed, and Mac was sitting quietly on the floor next to me. When the attendants came to get me, he silently moved in front of me and simply stared both men down. Although I told him it was okay, he wouldn’t move and just kept looking silently at the two men. No growling, just a steady stare and neither man wanted to come near me. My husband had to come in, pick him up bodily and remove him from the room, before they were able to bring in a stretcher to take me out. Got a clean bill of health after being checked out, but when I came back, Mac stuck even closer to me.

He had a friend next door on the other side of our property. She was a full blood collie and her name was Daisy. An older couple owned the house and had two teen-aged children. They had a chain link fence that ran down the property line, but had separated that backyard space into two distinct territories. Half of it was back yard with grass, but the other half was garden. They had put up another fence with a gate to mark the spaces.

When the two dogs were out at the same time, they’d meet at the fence, nose to nose, and then on some private cue, known only to them, they would race down the fence line. Poor Daisy would have to cut away so she could get through the middle gate and back to her side of the long fence line. Mac would slow his steps, and they would dash together to the end of the fence. And somehow they always finished together, sit for a moment and then, again on cue, race back again. They were beautiful together and loved their private game.

For all of his beauty, Mac was clumsy on one level. When he wanted to lie down, he didn’t do what other dogs did. Which was sit down on their back haunches and then slowly stretch out in a prone position. When Mac wanted to lie down, he’d simply drop his entire body to the floor with a thump. I was a voracious reader, even then, and he’d come into the room, and drop down in front of my rocker, bouncing the rocker and me as he landed on the floor. If he wanted to go outside, or simply felt I’d had enough stillness, he’d get up, turn around and place his front paw across whatever I might be reading. And on occasion, would push his nose under the book, toss his head and flip the book out of my hands and over his shoulder.

We lived out in the county at the time. The Petersen kid, from down the road was a bit of a punk, often starting fights and getting into trouble. After letting Mac out one day, I saw him throwing rocks at the dog. I shouted at him, while calling Mac inside. Months later, I was out in the huge garden with Mac, when he suddenly jumped up, snarling, and barking as he ran to the front of the property (just over of an acre). I rushed to the front of the house, to find the kid throwing stones at Mac, who was snarling and holding him from stepping onto the driveway. The kid started swearing at me and saying he’d kill the dog for attacking him. Everyone in the neighborhood knew my dog. I asked the kid if he’d like me to step outside and tell Mac to attack? He dropped the stones and ran for home. Mac wasn’t attack trained, but the kid left him alone after that. I was always amazed that Mac knew the kid was there. We’d been at the far end of the property when he’d leapt to his feet and ran to defend us. Furthermore he’d only done that with one person before.

I do have a startle response and those who knew me, would sometimes creep up and touch me, or yell just to watch me jump and yelp. They thought it was funny. I was sitting at the kitchen table and Mac was sleeping at my feet. Unbeknown by either of us, my husband had sneaked into the house and up the short stairway that led to the kitchen doorway. He burst through the doorway yelling. I jumped, but so did Mac. Lunging straight up from the floor, between us, teeth bared, and snarling. He was aimed directly at my husband’s throat. About halfway to his target, he realized who it was and started back pedaling, dropping in a heap to the floor. All of us were completely startled to stillness for a moment. My husband had gone completely white, and Mac went absolutely still on the floor.

Fighting the grin on my face, I turned to my husband and said, “Maybe you shouldn’t try to do that again?” He angrily left the room and I bent down to pat Mac and tell him he was a “good dog.”

You see, my husband wasn’t always a nice man. Before Mac was a year old, Marty had done something nasty to him, and Mac never forgot it. When it was time to go outside, if Marty stood between him and the door, Mac would refuse to go out. He’d put on his dumb dog look and simply lie down and wouldn’t move. No amount of coaxing could change his mind. If Marty insisted, Mac would go stiff and begin to growl softly in his throat. And for the almost seven years Mac was with me, the occasional slaps and shoving of my person, stopped completely. He was my protector and emotional support during that time and I needed him as much as he needed me.

I was about six months pregnant with our third child, when I let Mac outside for the evening. Brought him back in and sat down in the rocker to continue reading. My husband worked third shift at the time. Mac laid down at my feet, as usual. Within minutes, my eyes were watering profusely, and I realized that it was because Mac wreaked. He’d been sprayed by a skunk while outside. It was late, I was exhausted and had no idea what to do. My two older children were sleeping upstairs with the door up there closed. I put Mac in the back entrance stairway and went to bed. He’d whine, but I didn’t want the whole house to smell like skunk.

In the morning, when my two oldest came down, my nine-year old son, told me that Mac needed to be bathed in tomato juice to get rid of the smell. When I later called the Vet, I was told the same thing. I went downstairs and brought up two quarts of home-made tomato juice. My husband was outside replacing windows, and happened to be working at the bathroom window, when I brought Mac in and got him in the bathtub. He was very still as I began pouring the tomato juice over his body and slowly rubbing it into his fur.

He was very good about it, but when he’d had enough, he slowly stood up, put one paw on my burgeoning belly and leapt clean over my shoulder, running into the middle of the kitchen, where he shook himself out, spraying tomato juice all over the place. I was in shock. I’d barely felt him as he lifted off from my body, and meanwhile my husband was laughing uproariously from the other side of the window. Repressing my own laughter, I chastised Mac briefly and led him back to the bathroom. Got him back in the tub and rinsed him off, then toweled him dry. It worked like a charm, no more skunk smell, but it took two days to clean my tomato sprayed kitchen. And I just couldn’t be angry about it. I would see him sailing over my head and start laughing all over again.

Then came the evening when I walked in from a meeting in town, and looked up to see Mac stand up from the bed where he’d been sleeping and jump to the floor to come and greet me. But his legs caved out from under him and he landed in a limp pile on the floor. I rushed over and it took some time to get him back up on his feet. He was trembling and breathing harshly. I took him to the Vet the next day. She ran some blood tests and told me that his lymph nodes had almost completely disappeared, something we wouldn’t have noticed because he had so much long hair. She called the next day and said the tests revealed that he had something akin to canine leukemia, and didn’t have much time left.

Those last few days were difficult. Mac couldn’t navigate on his own, so I had to carry him outside, and we’d sit quietly in the sunshine feeling the breezes moving around us. He’d lost a lot of weight, and wasn’t heavy. I kept my hand on him and he’d stare into my eyes. I sang to him often and he’d fall asleep with his head resting on my lap.

The Vet had made an early morning appointment and had come in to the office with her assistant. I carried Mac inside and laid him carefully on the examination table. The Vet picked up the syringe and her assistant moved to hold Mac down, but the Vet said softly, “There’s no need for that, this one is a gentleman.” She put out her hand and Mac gave her his paw. She quickly gave him the injection and the two women left the room telling me to take whatever time I needed. I stepped to the front of the table and Mac lifted his paw and I took it in my hand, while I watched the light fade from his eyes. Bent to kiss him one more time and softly whispered, “You go now, and fly free for both of us.”

I walked quietly out to my car and just sat there for a time, not thinking just feeling the emptiness inside. Finally started the vehicle and began the ten minute drive home. When I turned onto our road, I looked up to check the rear view mirror and for one moment, I saw Mac, racing behind the car like he’d race Daisy down the fence-line. Then he was gone.

My kids told me that their father had told them not to mention Mac to me. I supposed that was his attempt to help me through my grief process. But, they would come and tell me when they would hear the click of his dog tags, or feel him brush against them in passing. And I told them of similar experiences as well. Years later, long after the divorce, they told me that at one point, their Dad said that he thought that he and Mac had a very special relationship and that Mac actually loved him more than anyone else. They all just laughed out loud at the idea and he never mentioned it again.

Which reminds me of a favorite quote from another Dean Koontz novel from the Odd Thomas series:

Lots of people rewrite their past
rather than face up to it.

Writing daily has forced me to be honest as nothing else could. But it also has helped me to cherish the good things, like MacArthur, that happened along the way.

Elizabeth Crawford 6/16/2019

 

 

 

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SpiderInk

Posted for Sunday’s Whirligig
http://sundayswhirligig.blogspot.com/2019/06/whirligig-217.html

Words: kind, bridge, starshine, something, model, except,
clay, kill, made, myself, hand, failed

SpiderInk

Want to make it clear, right here at the beginning. I have never killed anyone. I have done away with some flies, and far more mosquitoes. And yes, my share of spiders. Spiders, for me, are an exception, in a singular class of their own, something different from those other pests I have mentioned.

I believe they are an excellent totem (model) for anyone who creates. They make their beautiful webs from the juices of their own beings. The original definition of the word “create”, meant to “breathe life into”. When we create, we bring something, an idea, a single impression, to live in this world, be that in words, clay, stone, or any other medium.

Have you ever stepped outside in early morning sunlight and caught sight of a bush, or some other object, covered in a dew dappled cobweb? It appears to be wearing a blanket of starshine. It should remind us that we all come from the stars, and that creative light dwells in each of us.

When I was a young, stay at home Mother, I tried to put on a practice of meditation. It didn’t go well. At least I didn’t think it did. It led me to create a Personal Mythology peopled with wild animals that represented pieces and parts of my own personality, or psyche. They came in spontaneous imagery, instead of the stillness I was seeking. Each one tested me, but then gave me their name and the lesson they had come to teach.

Years later, after completing college with two degrees, I became the General Manager of a bookstore. It was there, while taking a break, sitting on the steps leading down into the basement, that I once again experienced a spontaneous imagery encounter with a huge black spider. It wasn’t an altogether pleasant kind of experience, but I got the message, she had come to deliver.

She gently let me know that I had failed myself. Had let go of the potential that had fueled my college career, where I had found that I had a gift for writing. And although I had put on a daily writing regimen, I wasn’t using it to reach out to others. She let me know that I was intended to be a bridge for others who doubted their capacity to be creative.

I sat quietly and thought about what I had just experienced. And it was there, that I began to think about creating a small writers zine. And to honor that very unexpected experience, I titled the zine SpiderInk. And that eventually led to my being invited to write my own column in a magazine for about four years.

I also went home and made a deal with any spiders that might be lurking within my personal space. Told them that I wouldn’t bother them unless they happened to, in any way, consider it okay to crawl on my physical being. Then all bets were off and I’d revert to my more primitive instincts. And for the most part, that has worked well over the years. Until just recently, when in the last two weeks, I’ve had three black spiders, suddenly land on my right hand. And yes, I’m right-handed.

I think I understand the message in these visits. At least I hope I do. It remains to be seen if I have any more close encounters with black spiders.

Elizabeth Crawford 6/8/2019

Process Notes: The twelve word Wordle was taken from a poem by Lucille Clifton, who happens to be my favorite poet and the reason why I actually started writing poetry. I saw her in a video in one of my Creative Writing classes and suddenly, finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was almost forty at the time. And the poem these words are taken from, happens to be one of my favorites.

When I first came here today, I was intending to write about my self-published writers zine. But somewhere, in the course of events, I clicked on the Whirligig Wordle and decided to see if I could use Lucille’s words to write about that subject. I believe her words added a great deal to my subject matter. I did use all of the words and thank you, once again Lucille, for fueling my store of inspiration.

There is a myth about Spider Woman in Native American mythology. It is believed that she climbed her way into the night sky and built her web around certain constellations that allowed the People to know when it was time to move their encampments in order to take advantage of the seasonal changes. It is also believed that within those lines of her web, the People eventually found language.

The image is the front cover of the zine, which I typed into my computer, then printed up and bound with a stapler. It was mailed out about once every three months for three years, until my computer crashed and couldn’t be replaced for over a year. It was during that crash that I was invited to write my own monthly column.

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In the Roundness of Things

In The Roundness of Things

Have often wondered if she, this woman who comes to sit, leaning back against my trunk, knees bent so that she can write her words, knows how much we have in common.

She wonders, at times, what it must be like to be forever rooted in the same place, perhaps ignoring her own reality of always breathing within her own skin. And thinks it might be sort of nice to grow a ring in circumference each year of existence, like me. Unknowing that I have watched her grow in that steady flow of words she is always writing.

She often looks up and is grateful for my branches and leaves and how they give her shade where she finds moments of quiet and relaxation. Is unaware that I have watched and listened when she brings a friend, offering her wisdom and knowledge, soothing momentary distress and giving the same. Loves the squirrels and birds who often perch here seeking nurture, sustenance, and a safe place. Something I have seen her give freely to sister, daughter, friend, and even a stranger simply seeking direction and receiving much more.

Doesn’t know that I know she calls her words her soul’s songs, even though she speaks to the wind as it rustles through my tresses, and thanks it for the subtle music it creates. She loves the blue of the sky, and sometimes opens her mouth to catch a random drop of rain. Calls herself a sister to trees, yet still sees herself as no more than a kind of sapling. Only wish I could tell her that I know her as my walking sister, far more akin to a stalwart oak.

Elizabeth Crawford 5/4/2019

Posted for Pantry of Prose at Poets United
http://poetryblogroll.blogspot.com/

Note: Prompt was to write prose in the voice of a tree, or trees. This was taken from a poem I wrote many years ago. I thought it would be difficult, to speak as a tree, but the poem helped me to remember and I simply had to lean in and listen.

Image is a pen and ink sketch done years ago.

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A Theory

What is a theory? I went to the dictionary and found six different definitions, but all of them similar. So, I chose two to use here:

A wordy one: “proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.”

And a simpler one: “contemplation or speculation.”

Unaware, I have been building a personal theory about a set of particular circumstances being played out, here in the U.S., as well as in other places around the world. Although I have written about the Matriarchal and Patriarchal realities in past posts here, I wasn’t really aware of how much that writing was affecting my own sense of things. In affect, changing the way I viewed what was happening right in front of me. So much so that I have been hesitant about coming here and writing about all of it. Until a few days ago, when I ran into the word theoretical.

That’s when I realized that I was creating a theory about certain present day occurrences. One that at first surprised me, but then began to make a whole lot of sense. A year ago, I wrote several essays about the Patriarchy and its need to discredit any notion that a Matriarchal system might be a better way, thereby doing a disservice to both genders, never really allowing them an equal partnership. And let me be very clear at this point. I do not think a Matriarchy would be better. Power does have a tendency to corrupt.

What I do prefer to consider is that both genders be given equal rights under a law that clearly states they are, in fact, equal. Yes, I know that we “say” they are equal, but nowhere does that prove more false than in the matter of sexual abuse, assault, and rape. I grew up knowing that I was prey, that my body was up for grabs, simply because I was female.

When, as a child, I complained about a family member touching me, at first I was not believed. Not until my younger sister, by thirteen months, stepped forward and said that she didn’t like it either. But then, we were taken aside and told two things: we were never to allow that to happen again, and we were never to speak about it. In other words, we were on our own, and it was our (at the ages of 9 and 10) responsibility. The man continued to be welcome in our home and it was totally up to us to prevent further contact.

Many years later, I learned that my Mother had been through the same type of situation and was only repeating what she had been taught. With three daughters of my own, I let them know they could talk to me about anything. And they did. We spoke openly about sexuality and body responses, and about the freedom to choose what they wanted. Eventually, that led to my becoming a divorced, single-parent advocate for abuse and incest victims. I wasn’t officially “trained” to do such a thing, but life as a curious female individual had taught me a great number of things. At the age of 45, I graduated college with two degrees: one in History, the other in English with a concentration in Creative Writing.

One of the most important lessons I learned was that life, for a female living in a Patriarchal society, no matter how democratic it proclaims itself to be, is never easy or simple. There are rules (silent rules), one set for men, another set for women. Men are encouraged to go out and have ‘experiences’ that will help them in later life. Women, on the other hand, are told  that they must restrain themselves, especially in the sexual sense, so that they can ‘give’ themselves ‘purely’ to one man for life.

Does that even begin to sound “equal” in any sense? What is most chilling about all of this, is that it is done for only one reason. It is meant to allow men to know that her body is his sexual turf, and only his. And it has been handed down through the centuries in numerous ways. If the Patriarchy can control her body, he retains ultimate control.

Please take the time to watch this very simple video about how myths can and do sometimes work, or not. I found it when I first decided to write this essay. I am a sucker for synchronicity. A myth can be mistaken for a theory, or even become just another reason for unjust actions that soon become a cruel and senseless inequality.

 

 

 

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Something About An Ongoing Affair

I write both prose and poetry. When I was in college, we were often warned that a writer must choose the manner in which he/she might explore that skill. We were told that we must choose to write either prose or poetry, but never should we attempt to write both.
It was important, especially to our Instructors, that we understood, that if we tried both, we would lose something from one or the other, and perhaps even the ability to write at all.

But, I have days when I really want and need to write poetry, and others when my only desire is to make prose. Even back there in college, I noticed something important. When I wrote poetry, I did really well. But my first major was in History, so much of my classroom experience was written work. And I received many of the same accolades in those classes, even though I was writing prose.

It might have been because I was almost twice the age of my fellow students. Or maybe the affects of the Women’s Movement, or even the fact that I owned a rather definite rebellious streak that ran through my system and occasionally raised its head even in polite social surroundings. But then I took a few friends to Palatine, Ill. to hear Robert Bly read.

And although he did speak of his prose book, Iron John, he also read his poetry while playing an instrument. I was mesmerized. His energy was all about getting personal with his audience. And he did that well. I understood his poetry because he offered it as a gift, several times asking if we’d like him to repeat a few lines. And we’d nod our heads and he would do just that.

That one evening changed my entire view about writing. All of it. This was a well known poet, breaking the rules, asking us to join him in whatever manner we might choose. I doubt that I was the only one present who accepted that invitation.

I’d like to leave you with a trail of breadcrumbs to follow. I’ve tried many forms of writing, enjoying most, knowing I didn’t have the patience for others. I would like to ask you to take a look and then come back here and tell me how you feel about those rules concerning not crossing genres.

  1. Poetry: https://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/2009/01/18/at-fifty/
    https://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/2009/01/20/down-beneath-the-roots-of-things/
  2. Prose: https://1sojournal.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/the-affair/
  3. Mythopoesis (making myth from personal experience) : https://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/the-call/

    Elizabeth Crawford 5/14/2019

 

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Writing and Memory

Swept Away
Manipulated Pen & Ink Drawing
by
Elizabeth Crawford

Writing and Memory

 

Although I was looking for an image to introduce the topic about which I wanted to write, this is the one that made most sense to me. I hesitated to use it because I’d used it just last month for a poem about memory. So, I went and looked up the poem I had written. It may be found here: https://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/2019/04/23/healing-of-memory/

After reading it and the comments that were made after posting, I decided it was the very best image for this entry as well. I have been engaged in writing about a past experience in which one of my poems was selected as the anchor piece for an anthology about men and women growing old together. The anthology was very popular and was made into a set of tapes in which twenty of the written pieces were read by actresses and actors. My poem was again the anchor piece for the set of tapes, and was read by Ed Asner. And the set of tapes was nominated for a Grammy Award in the “Spoken Word” category.

No we didn’t win, but that brush with celebrity changed my life on an incredible number of levels, including teaching at the University from which I graduated and most of the Fine Arts Schools in the area where I lived. I was also nominated for and became the moderator of the longest established poetry group in Southeastern Wisconsin. And was asked to write my own column in a local magazine.  To say that my life was impacted by the experience doesn’t even come close to all of the doors that opened up afterward.

Within the telling of the story, I also found myself writing about an experience I had in college. One that impacted me almost as deeply as that other experience. You see, I made a decision back there, that I would never write poetry again. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I never spoke of it to anyone. I simply closed the door and walked away. And never realized just how painful that whole following year had been. I’d had a dream and it was totally shattered by an Instructor at the end of the semester. A man who gleefully told me that I’d never write really good poetry. That I was a middle-aged woman still raising kids, and yes, I’d probably, on occasion, write a poem or even two, much like other women knit socks.

I did tell the man exactly what I thought of him before leaving his office, even laughing as I did so. But, I walked away knowing that I wanted nothing to do with anything that might contribute to my becoming anything like him. Circumstances intervened and I did find myself writing poetry again, and found a Mentor who actually supported and helped me dust off that small dream which still energizes my existence. But in writing the story, I realized that I had never really done the work of healing that long ago memory. So much so, that I found myself questioning every word I was writing.

This incident happened before I made the conscious decision to keep a daily journal. Normally, if I get foggy or indecisive about something, I can go back in my journal and find the details there. But for this one I can not do that. What I am finding is that it is sorely testing my ability to finish writing the story I have been working on. All the feelings come flooding back and I can and do feel the pain and rage that was never worked on back there, but still remains in my memory. It is murky at best, just like the flooded element in the image. Mainly because the same man created another incident that almost had me quitting College in my final two years of study. I refused to let him win, back there, but I’m afraid that he might win now, after all the years since then.

So, it’s back to the drawing board. For me, the healing of memories most often includes writing. It also includes Forgiveness. At the moment, I don’t want to forgive. But, I also know that I must do that for the equilibrium of my own soul and spirit. I do know that I can ask for the willingness to be willing to forgive. So that is where I will begin because if I don’t, I might never be able to finish writing this current story.

And, as I’ve said before, story is good medicine. I truly want others, especially women, to know that the impossible is possible. If I’m not proof of that, I don’t really know anyone who is. I got myself out of an abusive marriage, I created a life centered around the thing I most love to do, and I’m a fairly good story teller to boot. That alone tells me that I am more willing than not.

Do you have memories that interfere with your ability to write? Do you allow them to block that activity?

 

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Marking the Space

 

Marking The Space

 

Okay, I’m back here again because I promised myself that I would write prose at least once a week, instead of thinking about it, and never really doing it. But, par for the course, now that I’m here, I have no idea what I will write about. That’s not quite true. I have a zillion things I could write about, my thoughts are seldom empty. Just don’t have an idea of what to choose. So, I’m doing what I often do with poetry. I’m starting with an image and hoping that will get me to the end of this particular stint of words.

The image is one I found online and saved because it makes me laugh out loud and never gets old. It represents a great many things to me. First of all, because it is true. Animals, especially predators, do mark their territory by peeing on it. That scent is a warning to any other living creature that this space belongs to an animal who must hunt and forage to sustain his own existence.

And it applies to human beings as well. This is my blog, my space and no one other than myself may enter and write here without my permission. Does that mean I might be a predator, a ferocious animal out to make dinner from any unsuspecting creature who might accidentally wonder into this page? No. But maybe yes in an odd sort of way.

I’m a human being who loves to write. It is perhaps the strongest urge I own, except perhaps for the taste of chocolate. When it comes to chocolate, I can easily see myself as a ferocious predator at moments. But that isn’t what I am about today. That might come later, if and when I finish this current undertaking and decide I need to reward myself for doing this other thing I do.

So, back to this whole writing thing. What was that yes, that crossed my mind just a few moments ago? Yes, I’m a writer and yes, I can be a bit ferocious about all of it. Do I do it because I simply love the sound of my own voice? Is this me just marking my territory? Making my presence known and letting others be warned to take care within this space?

That would definitely be a No. Sort of, again. I started writing because it was the simplest means to see what it was I was trying to say. I grew up being told that I didn’t know what I was talking about. Couldn’t see what was right in front of me. Had no real concept of what the world was about, and that my words and thoughts were untrustworthy. So, how did I become a writer, no less? That story is here, in bits and pieces that astound me more than anyone else. But I did become a writer, constantly making notes of what I saw and felt, heard and read.

And eventually those notes became paragraphs, essays, and even poems. But then, I began to receive acknowledgements, even awards for that writing. And you best believe, no one was more surprised than I was when that happened. I finally realized that I really liked and enjoyed writing and knew that whatever happened, the laying down of words would be an essential part of my existence. I might stop for a few months, even a year, but was always called back to this place that allowed me a sense of wholeness, of being alive, like no other had ever done.

So, does that make me a predator, a ferocious creature looking for my next meal? Yes, in a very real way it does. But the food on which I feed is not other living things. It is words that I seek, have a need to understand, their meanings are always food for thought, and a means of further growth and the sustaining of my life.

But I also love to encourage others to do the same. When I hear someone struggling with an issue, I will often tell them to write about it until they’ve examined all of their own feelings and understand them. Once they have done so, they are far better armed to deal with whatever is really bothering them. By writing down our feelings, we are confronting them. Allowing them to tell us some aspect of our own story. Perhaps one that has been overlooked or needs a bit of mending, or healing. And I have always found an element of healing in writing. That’s why I started doing it, never realizing that I was laying down the grounds that eventually led me to define myself as a writer.

And so, the answer is yes, I am a predator, forever searching out what will best feed me. These words are me, marking my space, leaving my scent for anyone who happens upon them. Not as one who would destroy another life, but as one who does and will continue to encourage others to do the same. I believe that story is good, perhaps the best sort of medicine. Someone out there needs to hear that story only you can tell. Needs to learn how you dealt with the ups and downs of finding your very own space. And how you made it your own.

I started writing in a cheap three ring binder on loose leaf lined paper. Making notes of my own feelings and thoughts. I had no idea of how it would one day become an active profession, that led to me teaching others how to do the same and find value in it. As a matter of fact, if someone had told me that would be the end result, I’m fairly certain I would have turned tail and run like hell, yes, even if they were offering me chocolate to get me to listen. And if I’m to be totally honest, I would have been peeing the entire time. Not in any attempt to mark my trail, but out of sheer terror at the very thought.

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Hello?

I claim no copyrights to these words or this music.

Hello?

Near the end of March, I was approached by three female poets, and asked if I would join them for National Poetry Month, writing a poem a day for NaPoWriMo 2019. I was more than a bit hesitant. I explained that I hadn’t been writing for almost an entire year. Physical issues, and trying to put together a manuscript of both poetry and prose, had taken up most of my time and energies. I didn’t tell them that I had gotten way too comfortable in my role as a Hermit. And, although I had actually thought about doing just such a thing, I’d kinda squirmed away from the reality, almost every time I’d even let myself consider it. I had become “Comfortably Numb.”

However, these were three women I had known almost as long as I had been posting my poetry online. Individuals I both admired and respected for their poetic skills and the truths I’d found espoused in their poetry. And each one assured me that they had very similar misgivings. I reluctantly agreed, took a deep breath and created a plan for doing what I’d just agreed to do. I decided to use my onsite media file for inspiration, choosing an image (one I had created, or photographed) for the inspiration of the day, then promptly sat down, did that, and wrote the first piece. Not once realizing I had made my job much easier than in the preceding years when I’d done it.

Getting up each morning, knowing one has to write a poem, making it as coherent as possible, then creating the format in which it is offered, and added to that is the need to read and respond to any and all comments, and present it all to public viewing is a heavy load to carry for an entire month. And I am far from the days of my youth, something I am reminded of each year I do this because my birthday is in April.

I really didn’t understand what a step up it would be to write the thing the day before it was to be posted. It allowed a twenty-four hour period of time to do all the other stuff that needed to be done, but also the time to come back to what I’d written the day before with fresh eyes and ears, making corrections and changing word choices that only hopefully enhanced whatever I was creating. It was a far more relaxed experience than it had been in the other years I’d climbed this mountain and held my breath, or panted my way through whatever days were remaining.

And best of all, I learned something, without the need for that pin prick or medicated state, what is important to me. I love writing. Love getting my thoughts and feelings outside of myself, not just in poetry, but in all the other things I do using these skills. I thoroughly enjoy expressing my thoughts, my beliefs, and my sometimes weird but wondrous ways of seeing the life that surrounds me.

Writing something down makes it noteworthy, memorable. It enhances memory as nothing else can or does. Searching through my own media files, pulled up memories that I could use and did. But, it also reminded me that I do write prose as well as poetry. So, I am back here today, shaking my own slouched shoulder, awakening myself from my own comfortable numbness. April is now behind me, but I have the rest of my life to live, and to continue in a manner that pleases me.

When I came here this morning, I realized that I didn’t have the faintest idea what I might write about. I closed my eyes and the opening line from Pink Floyd echoed through my thoughts, so I ran with it. Not only is it a long-time favorite for several reasons, it also includes that wonderful guitar solo, one that brings back memories from another life I lived long ago, and shared with the most creative and unique individual I have ever met.

Question: How comfortably numb have you become and why? Hello, my name is Elizabeth.

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Cloud Factories

Received an unintentional wake-up call from my granddaughter yesterday. Yes, I’ve been missing in action here, for some time now. Lots of physical issues, doctors appointments, new routines and medications, other family members hospitalized, as well as the psychological and emotional roller-coaster ride the current state of this country has been experiencing. I am fairly certain that I am not the only one who is feeling a bit shaky and lost. The desire to duck and run, find a quiet place and just work at breathing normally is exceptionally strong at the moment. The desire to write, although still alive, has been pretty far down on my list of priorities. You could say it hasn’t even made that particular list for a while now.

There is a distinct (I believe) mindset involved in writing anything. And to write in any kind of public forum (including a personal blog) only increases the parameters and personal responsibility of that mindset. To use a metaphor, for me the words have been taken hostage, kidnapped, and they no longer hold the same meanings for what they used to define. Many of our most prominent leaders spout lies and falsehoods meant to deceive and hide any truth, at best only to obscure reality for their own personal gain. Yet, want us to believe they are still speaking the same language we have always shared. To have principles now seems to put one automatically into the minority and invite attack fueled by fear and hatred, as well as explosive violence. It’s difficult to speak, let alone think of writing under those kinds of circumstances.

So, why am I here doing that, you might ask. Because my granddaughter posted a question on Facebook, and I was suddenly reminded of who I am, what I originally set out to do here four months ago, and it all connected with a memory of her when she was only four years old. You can read that story here:

https://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/2009/09/02/cloud-factories/

I was in the delivery room when Kaitlynn was born. It was a moment I cherish and will never forget. And that weekend trip we were on is just as strongly lodged in memory because of what she taught me that day. That we must look to see the beauty around us because it calms and nurtures our soul. If we spend too much time looking into the darkness, we might actually miss the light that is present there.

And the light is there, it is what defines the darkness, gives it its dimensions. And, I must mention, that is the reason I write. When I put words to paper I am seeking enlightenment. That might sound rather strange to some, but it is my reality. I put words on paper in the hopes of being able to see, as clearly as possible, the nebulous thoughts that are constantly roving through the darkness of my mind. The human mind is a cavern of constant chaos. Putting words to that chaos brings them into the light of my awareness and only then can I choose where I stand, what I can believe in, and hopefully find a path I can follow through it.

If you think about it, language is a sort of ‘Cloud Factory’.  All those words pouring out from millions of voices. Some no more than belching clouds of smog, while others might create beautiful and even healing images. Some choking the life force from our lungs, others creating paths of acceptance, compassion, and yes, even freedom. And that’s exactly what my granddaughter’s posted question did for me. It cleared the air of all that confusion, reminded me of who I really am, what I have been about for years, and led me directly back to this series of essays I started in March with a post titled Beginning.

This is the question she re-posted on Facebook:

So we wanna ban abortion but not allow women to get their tubes tied per request?

And I started laughing as I immediately began forming an answer to her question, telling her that I could probably write a twenty page paper in response. Her words turned on all the light bulbs within my cavern of chaos, creating a path that led directly back here to this series of essays. These posts began as a direct response to the #MeToo movement. The Movement began as a push back against the abuse most women have experienced for centuries as a part of being born female. And Kaitlynn’s question has a direct correlation to that issue. Why shouldn’t women have the right to decide what is best for their own person, beginning with their bodies and physical health and well-being?

It was my intention to discuss three myths that have shaped our views and definitions of women and their role in society. How those realities have been shaped by a male-dominant society and are still a huge part of who we are today. But with my own health concerns, the hospitalization of three very close relatives in the past two months, and the fear filled atmosphere in our daily lives, it’s been a long hard climb to get here and do this thing, which started as a vague idea, but felt so right, and still does. This is not an excuse, or another apology. It is a heartfelt thank you to my granddaughter for clearing the air and making this current moment possible.

As far as Kaitlynn’s question goes, in a male dominant society women have been defined by men through the centuries. We have been labeled as possessions, the weaker sex, not capable of clear and logical thought processes (nor allowed to learn them), unable to protect ourselves (and not allowed to learn how to do that), our behaviors have been scrutinized and detailed on a fast descending scale. I could go on and on, but the sad reality of all of it, is that for some men, that simply means that the female body is no more than his sexual turf over which he must maintain control. The products of her body (children) are also his, and in many cultures exist to prove his own virility. And how better to ensure that than by removing her from any process of what might or might not be done to her own body?

My previous essays go much deeper into that reality and are based in Historical fact. That is not to say that I believe all men think in this fashion. I don’t. But, I do believe that all of us are affected by these centuries-old set of ideas about what women are all about. We still don’t know that, do we? It has only been in the last hundred years that women have been ‘allowed’ to vote. We still have a long way to go.

What I have already written is about the role of myth in creating those definitions. I have already mentioned what is referred to as the Monomyth, the story of the Heroe’s Journey that can be found in most, if not all cultures. The story of how a youth becomes a man, a leader, successfully bringing a new health to the society in which he lives. There is always a reward for completing that journey. And most often that reward is the love of the woman of his dreams. She isn’t his partner on the journey, she is a secret he holds within himself. And she is his reward for proving himself. That makes her far less than a true help-mate, and more a possession in need of his guidance and protection.

As always, these posts are meant to encourage a discussion, a sharing of thoughts. I have usually added some sort of quote to help that discussion, and this one is no different.

quotes.....

 

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Apologies and Other Thoughts

First things, first. My apologies for not having been here for a while. I got involved in other things, then let the time slip away. In April, I decided to try to do NaPoWriMo, which is a poem a day challenge through National Poetry Month. Then someone asked if I’d give prompts for the same. I, less than enthusiastically, agreed but only if I had some help, which I did receive. But, now we are half way through May, and I still haven’t been back here. I have been reluctant, to say the least.

Writing a poem a day is a difficult task, and although I have done it several times (both on my own, as well as for National Poetry Month), that doesn’t make it any easier. I always remind myself of something Robert Bly told Bill Moyer in an interview, when Moyer commented on the fact that writing a poem every day can’t mean all the poems are ‘good’ poetry. Bly’s response was laughter, then he said, “Some days, you have to lower your standards.” That comforts me on those down days of such a cycle, and I have used that reality to make even more poems:

https://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/complicated/

But now, we are more than half way through May, and although each morning as I waken, one of my first thoughts has been, “you need to get back to that series on myth,” and yet, have managed to avoid doing just that. Why? Good question, and not an easy one to answer.

I have been watching the news throughout this time period. And must admit, that what is happening in my world, my country, makes for a deep sense of foreboding. Fear and uneasiness do not make a good playing field for creative endeavor of any kind. Creativity is built on an element of hope. Hope that the effort will be both productive and enlightening. But, after watching sanctions and laws repealed, almost on a whim, in order to make money at the cost of those most vulnerable among us, it gets more difficult to find hope in the present day reality.

And yet, that is just what got me started on this project. Myth, mythology, and symbolism had a great deal to do with how I became whoever I am. They have helped me to explore my own truths and the choices I have made in following the path of my own existence. Yet, I have allowed myself to become distracted and have managed to hobble myself in the process. That ends now.

Joseph Campbell tells us that we resonate to myths because they are the story of human development. Somewhere in these stories, we find pieces and parts of our own experience, and through them come to know a bit more about who we are, why we are, and even what we may be about.

For instance, in the myths I will be exploring, I find truths about human history, especially that pertaining to the Patriarchy and its constant need to diminish women. To control her, rather than allow her to flourish. We saw the underbelly of that reality in the recent trial of Larry Nassar. Over 300 young women (girls) sexually abused by one man. Some who spoke up, but were silenced by others in roles of authority, who had to have some inkling of what was actually happening. And I’m not just speaking of men in positions of power, but women as well. How could this become the norm, or acceptable in any manner?

One major answer, among many, must be that of centuries of conditioning. And part of that conditioning is reinforced by the stories and myths we hear repeated time and again. For instance, take the color red. For centuries, women were cautioned about wearing the color because it symbolizes passion, or a passionate nature. What got Red Riding Hood in trouble? That flaming red cape she wore. And the myth about the woman who wore red shoes that eventually danced her to her death. If a woman wanted to be treated with respect, or at least with common decency, she didn’t wear the color because everyone knew that only women of a certain lower level would dare to do so. Yet, we all know that if a strange man chooses to attack an unknown female, it probably has nothing to do with her footwear. It has way more to do with how he thinks and sees his own role as a male member of society. The conquering warrior, and dominant one whose many aspects are also relatable to that of a predator. Elements of which we all come in contact with during the process of growing up.

If a woman was attacked, it wasn’t her attacker who came into question first. It was her own person, and behavior. What was she wearing, was she being flirtatious? Had she been drinking, did she do these things on a routine, or regular basis? In other words, how did she make herself a target for such behavior? As if she would knowingly do such a thing.

That is why it took over 300 girls and young women coming forward to put an end to one man’s sick perversions. He was a doctor, and frequently said that they were just too young to understand that he was performing a medical procedure. And for decades, that was an accepted reason for dismissing whatever accusations were made. Why?

Could it be because most women learn at a young age, that they could, at any moment, become prey, and then be accused of asking for it? So, they remain silent, and even find themselves guilty for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or that they should have known better? Should have been able to discern, at a glance, that this particular man would take his sense of male privilege to a place that can never be acceptable, but somehow, silently is? Because she lives within a society that says she alone is responsible to see that it never happens to her, while he is told that when a woman says “No”, she really means “Yes?”

There is so much wrong in all of this. But, the #MeToo Movement is a rallying point for all women and men. It is long past time that this issue be addressed. Time for the world to take a clear and honest look at what we humans have created and also destroyed in the process of becoming whatever we are to become. Perhaps time to finally balance the books and find a different way, a different definition, a new way of seeing and knowing. But above all of that, maybe it’s time for a new level of respect to be born and nurtured among all of us.

The most common way people give up their power
is by thinking they don’t have any.

__Alice Walker

 

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