Words and Wood

My daily work has slowed down considerably. As I mentioned in my last post, I am working on a manuscript that has turned into a lot of biographical material, and this current writing is a very important part of my story. Perhaps even the most revealing part of that story. And thus, the words seem to have taken on the consistency of wooden planks. Stiff boards that must be carefully steamed in order to bend them very carefully to a certain curvature, then held in place until they cool and become permanent. Each word becoming an integral part of the whole.

But all that careful molding takes time and energy. And one misstep can easily create a far different image than its reality. These particular words are built on memories, lived long ago, and although cherished, a bit blurred by time and other experiences. As will happen, there are strong emotions attached to each one. Those emotions can twist and turn those wooden words in ways they were never meant to go. Reliving those experiences also depletes whatever energy level is available.

So my plans for doing three or four pages a day, has now been reduced to one or two. That’s okay with me. I’d prefer to be careful rather than swift. Three quarters of the manuscript have already been written. I saved this portion because I knew it would be difficult and it has been.

I chose the premise of this writing at the beginning. It is far more important to me than any other I have ever written about. It goes without saying, that this present portion is in direct correlation to that chosen premise. So my emotional state is as important as my mental one. I do what I can each day and each day is its own experience, unique and utterly individual.

What is also important is that I kept a daily journal during that long ago time period. And because I wrote down those experiences in detail, the memories remain far more clear. In my journal I questioned many of my own emotional and mental responses to what I was living with and through. That also has a way of sharpening ones recall, especially over long periods of time.

My younger sister always questions my ability to remember, and although she doesn’t understand, I always tell her the same thing. It has to do with writing daily. When you do so, you are making ordinary every day experiences noteworthy. Putting those experiences into words, lodges them in your memory, making them far more easily recalled. It makes them into clear cut planks of wood, readily available to be used (or bent) to ones present purposes.

Elizabeth 8/30/2019

Note: The image is a line weave drawing I did many years ago, and have always liked because it reminds me of wood bent to different purposes.

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Taking A Breather

I’ve been working on a manuscript for several weeks. The story behind my experience with those “15 minutes” of fame that altered my entire existence. Attempting to fill three or four pages a day. It’s coming a long quite well, but I hit a snag this morning. Not a major one, but enough to make me realize it’s time to take a break and just breathe for a few moments. So decided to come here instead, and fill this page.

The photograph is one I took in my sister’s backyard several years ago. A frog, taking a siesta on a hammock tied between two ceramic mushrooms. Don’t have a clue who actually made the arrangement, but it makes me grin whenever I pull up my files and see him there, taking a breather.

I very seldom know exactly what I’m going to write about when I come here. And this morning, all I knew was that I needed a time out. All I had was the title of this article and went looking through my files to see if I could find some sort of appropriate image. Mr. Froggy seemed an excellent choice. If I had a real backyard, and a hammock, that’s exactly where I’d be, if I owned the physical ability to climb inside such a contraption without harming myself for the rest of whatever time I might have left.

So, now I’m here grinning for two reasons. Mr. Froggy is the first one. The second one is that it was probably important to walk away from that other writing. Didn’t realize, when I started it, that it would turn into a biographical thingie that would take me on a roller coaster ride of emotional impact, the likes of which I haven’t experienced in years. And, just for the record: I hate roller coaster rides. All that speed, the ups and downs, the curves and only that narrow and remarkably thin metal bar to hang to as one races through space with a seemingly out of control precision meant only to make one wet ones pants? No. Thank You. Would far rather continue in my slow, sometimes halting manner.

Which brings me back to that other manuscript. I have no intention of quitting. It is far too important to me to think in that fashion. I have a good solid reason for writing it and a premise that is close and dear to my heart. But, I also know that the next part of the story is probably the most important one for me personally. I need the space and time to just settle down so that I can do it justice. And I will do just that.

It might sound a bit crazy to stop writing by writing about something else. But, I actually started writing in order to see what the hell I was thinking, and if my thoughts really made any kind of sense at all. There were some questions about that, mostly my own. So writing has come to mean several things to me. It is a means of slowing down my thoughts and the emotions that often accompany the words I choose. I write both poetry and prose, and far more poetry than prose. This current manuscript is prose, so my desire is to be clear and yet precise.

As I mentioned above, the next part of the story is perhaps the most important one to me personally. I need to be clear and not rush in and miss the most important details. So, I am deliberately slowing myself down, spending time just breathing. And, for me, that means writing. Writing is a creative process. The original meaning of the word create, was to breathe life into. We breathe in and are inspired. We exhale and release that inspiration. And writing out that statement has allowed me to do just that. Slow down my breathing. Slow down my own emotional response. The words themselves become my hammock, and I can rest easy inside their comforting support.

Mr. Froggy has nothing on me. But, I will gratefully thank him for the inspiration.

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Another Call

I have spent the last week, and more, binge-watching the five seasons of The Adventures of Merlin. It is filled with humor, magic, mayhem, and a wise dragon that speaks to the destiny of mankind. What’s not to love? More important, it reminded me of my own life.

At age four, I was involved in an accident. The doctors told my parents that I desperately needed brain surgery to replace a shattered piece of bone protruding into my brain causing a blood clot that would certainly end in my death. Mom and Dad were also told that the chances of a full recovery were very slim and that I would probably end up with some sort of brain damage, akin to Cerebral Palsy.

My life, since age four has been a miracle, or just plain magic. And the story of Merlin is a story of the battle waged against magic. It is the story of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table, where each individual holds an equal place, an equal voice, in what happens. Even the Queen. Unlike other such tales, in this one Merlin is the personal servant to Arthur Pen-dragon.

In our world today, we are seeing a very similar upheaval. Our president, and his cronies, want us to ignore science (the current magic, if you will). They would have us to believe that statistics and scientific proof have absolutely no meaning. That the use of fossil fuels is not destroying our world, and that we ourselves are not bringing our world to an end. And their reason for doing such a thing? Greed. But greed for only the top one percent among us. They can afford to ignore all the horrendous storms, one after another, occurring all around the globe. The loss of life, and environment means nothing to them.

Perhaps they believe that they breathe a more rarefied type of air. Have you noticed that these storms are destroying the trees? Trees create oxygen, the stuff we need to breathe in order to continue living. Perhaps our leaders believe they can afford canned air, so they have nothing to worry about?

And so what if they are stealing our future by decimating Health Care, Social Security, Food Stamps, and redefining our benefits as entitlements? That will just get rid of the elderly and disabled and leave more for them. They have guaranteed earnings and won’t lose one penny. Every one of our leaders took an oath to serve the Constitution and the people. Are they doing that?

Near the end of the Merlin series, Arthur has been wounded and knows he is dying. He asks that the seal of his authority be given to his queen because he knows that she will rule far more equally than any other. She comes from common stock and it is an awareness that is part of her knowing. I’m not saying we need a female in our highest office, but shouldn’t our laws reflect the reality that she is the other half of the species? Equal in her knowing and her abilities? No longer to be abused or assaulted, dominated or subjugated just because some men have a need to prove their own superiority?

Within the series, magic is defined as “the Old Religion”. It has been outlawed because there are those who would abuse such power. But, I believe that mankind itself has shown that even a little bit of power carries with it, the possibility of corruption. We are after all, perfectly imperfect beings.

It is the wise dragon who tells Merlin that each of us must accept our own destiny, be that for good or evil. It is a choice each of us must make. Not just once, but in each moment. That is the journey of each life. We can give up or go on fighting. It is what we are created to do.

I found the last seconds of the series delightful. It closes with the image of a road, and a semi-trailer truck passing along that highway. As it passes, a figure appears walking along the edge of that highway. The figure is Merlin, all that symbolizes magic, still walking the land, still smiling.

Notes: Image is from the Internet. The series mentioned is available on Netflix.

 

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Blowing In the Wind

I put this song up earlier last week, but then left it because I couldn’t think of a thing to say in response to it, let alone write anything coherent in relationship to it. Actually I think I was hoping that by going through the actions of posting, I would somehow find the impetus to begin. Didn’t work, obviously.

So what is really blowing in the wind, other than my disconnected thoughts? And when I say disconnected, what do I really mean? Perhaps more like awash, at sea in the midst of a storm?

No land in sight and certainly nothing to hang onto. Yet, water is a symbol of life, ever moving, hoping to evolve, to become. But, become what? If this were a dream image it might mean that all hope is gone. I refuse that thought. I’m still breathing. How does that make a difference? Does it make a difference?

This is a photo I took in my sister’s backyard, several years ago. It has always spoken to me of individuality and personal power. Those things seem so far away from my grasp, at the moment. Although still beautiful to my eyes, it speaks far more strongly of fragility at the moment. An already brief existence dictated by the whims of nature. Yes, it is forever pictured here for as long as the photo lasts, but how long does that mean?

The big question here, is when and how did I become so aware of my own fragility? When did I decide to withdraw quietly and become a stilled life? I’m not sure. The world around me has altered in so many ways that I often feel exhausted by the mere thought of going out into it. But, I think the real tipping point was an article I read about a judge, who with the full power of his position actually tried to rewrite criminal law into his own preferred view point.

I am an abuse survivor, but I am first a woman. I know that I learned very young that the world I live in is not kind to women. Have spent over half of my existence trying to help others find their way out of that reality. Knowing also, that yes, to some extent we can, but only to a certain extent. We must also never let down our guard, must also be constantly aware that we are prey. Especially sexual prey.

I think I began to recede when a self-defined sexual predator was elected to the highest office in our country. His excuse? “It was just locker room talk.” Yet, there are 23 women who have claimed to be his victims. His response, “It’s all lies, fabrications, bids for attention and to make money, and besides, ‘she’s not my type’.

So perhaps, it shouldn’t come as a shock that some male judge would take it upon himself, under these new parameters, to redefine the act of rape as something else? That a sixteen year-old boy shouldn’t be tried as an adult, because he comes from a good family, gets better than good grades, and will probably be accepted into a better than good college? That the teen-aged girl victim hadn’t been properly counseled about how her attempt to seek justice might ruin this young man’s life? That she and her family were misguided in bringing these charges against him? Furthermore, that his videotaping of the rape was not just filmed, but that he invited his buddies to come along and further abuse her leaving bruises and welts on her body, and then posting the video online, and bragging about how his first sexual encounter was a rape, was no more than the foolish bravado of a foolish young kid who had no real idea of what he was doing? And that after all, the only thing that was lost was her virginity?

Yes, I know the judge has been called on the carpet for his actions. But does anyone really believe he is a somehow demented singularity? That the result of our own choices haven’t created the atmosphere in which he, and we, now exist? How much more time must pass before women are no longer left blowing in the wind?

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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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