Patching Stories and Fabric

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Thundering. 6 AM. Still dark. My dog pants, drools and paces. He tries to climb onto my lap. That is not possible. He weighs 70 pounds. I cannot take away his pain. I cannot take any of my children’s pain. I cannot solve their problems.

My coffee is bulletproof. I like that word. It protects me. It sustains me. It is made with butter and MCT coconut oil. It helps me solve my problems. It helps me eat less of what I don’t need and more of what I do. For lunch I will make massaged organic kale salad. 

My dog, Highlin', pants beside me. He was Johnny's dog. Johnny asked if he could stay with me 10 years ago when he became an extreme athlete, kayaking class five rivers. He once was lost in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Confronted three rattlesnakes finding his way home. HIghlin' has been here ever since. 

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I am writing in low light at the folded down cherry dining room table. It is in the room usually called the living room. Larry’s music collection and some of our books are here. My new patchwork kimono, waiting to be photographed, hangs against the shoji screen.  The table is covered with an old lace tablecloth that I shibori dyed as part of the tapestry for my new home. It is the dark crimson of a garden rose, the color of a precious garnet, or as “Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours” describes, the outside of Quills of Terico. A purplish red. We call this room in the library.

I am old now. I am reading Stephen Jenkinson‘s book, “Come of Age, The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble.” He writes, “Without  the tutelage of limits and endings, we have no elders to practice and incarnate the wisdom of enough. . . no record of noble restraint that would make us an ancestor worth claiming, no defeat of the nobility making kind.” 

Old is a good thing. Today I focus on the tiny moments. Use remnants to patchwork new designs. Find books to give away. Wait for phone calls, and for the rain to stop.

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30 Years of Love

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Oh God, I have discovered love

how marvelous

how good,

how beautiful it is

I offer my salutations

to the spirit of passion

that aroused and excited

this whole universe

and all it contains.  

--Rumi

 photo by Sue Beard, cake by Martine's

photo by Sue Beard, cake by Martine's

Being so in love with Larry, all these 30 years, I am renewed. 

 photo by Sue Beard

photo by Sue Beard

There is an intense bonding. I feel protected and safe. I feel joy, exhilaration and upliftment.

As a result of loving and being loved by him, my heart is open, extending empathy and sympathy to others. I have become a vessel, light, sensing energy coursing through my body.

 photo by LInda Gorton

photo by LInda Gorton

We make art, read. He plays music, I listen. There is an intense bonding. I feel protected and safe. I feel joy, exhilaration and upliftment.

I reread vows I wrote on May 15, 1988 while Larry plays. They are the same today.

Orchids Have Taken Over

 linger

linger

After the flowers fell, I tossed them aside, into the compost. 

At the cabin I let them linger. 

A new bloom appeared a year or two later.

Orchids became my event flower. I bought one for the centerpiece. 

Took it home afterwards to take in the light.

The collection has grown, forcing me to let go. 

Can I save them forever? 

Can I save anything really or anyone? 

 letting go

letting go

It’s that saving that’s got me going.

I must shift. 

I must understand that while everyone is an orchid, they don’t necessarily bloom in my garden. 

That can’t be true. I must reassess. 

 standing back

standing back

There must be away. I’m standing back now, to witness, to see if I can understand, oh yes, to stand under. That is not so easy. 

Yet I promise. 

"I hear you," I say. 

And then like the orchid I wait. 

 waiting

waiting

Transporting Stories

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In the beginning, I knew my grandsons would get many toys for Christmas. I decided when they were babies to give them art. I continued that tradition every year. A few years ago, feeling momentarily guilty, I thought I should choose something else. Would the boys like something from LL Bean? I asked my daughter. That's not their style, she said. And, they have come to expect art from you. Yes! Going through possessions due to my upcoming move and downsizing, this year's theme is containers. This is what I have written to accompany their gift.

Container
An object to contain or transport something.

The memories and the stories our ancestors told, hold and shape the person we are, and are to to become. They carry us forward. Do not hold them too tight. Stories are always suspect. They are meant to embellished, researched and rewritten.

This bowl is from my grandmother, Stella Butterfield Tilson. She was raised in Oklahoma and West Texas. Andrew, her compassionate father, and Gabriella, her strong, outspoken mother, were missionaries. Gabriella was referenced once in a book that written about Andrew and the missionary work he did with the Indians. He converted over 500 to Christianity. She said she didn’t like what the soldiers were doing to the Indians. She didn’t like that they brought the children to the shcool in a chicken-wire covered wagon.

When I asked my aunt Eugenia about this comment, she said, “Oh, now you’re getting political.” And said no more.

This bowl is also strong. It has lasted a long time and is now ready to contain your poems and stories, carry them forward. I have added Frank Walker's book of poetry. He gives you history way before FB. Read it and ponder. Then write yours.

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Searching

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Even though it is cold outside and I have made a fire, I crack the window to hear the hoot owl. She has been out there for several hours. 

Going through boxes, I found two tiny Christmas cards my mom sent to her mother and father from Japan in 1956. Her note inside is in beautiful penmanship. It tells me a lot about her desire to share and her love for her parents. She was living on Tachikawa Air Force Base where my dad was stationed. They had four children. I was the oldest. We traveled by ship to get there, plane to return to the states.

In the note she explains why she has chosen a yellow tie for her dad. My grandfather became a magician when he could no longer cotton farm in West Texas. My grandmother accompanied him to the many schools and civic organizations. Once, as a little girl, visiting from Kansas, I was his assistant.

        "Dear Daddy, we picked this tie because we thought you could maybe use it in your magic costume someway. A magician is usually in black and the yellow tie would show up on the stage and a touch of the Orient is always mystifying."

In the note to her mother she explains why she chose the carved ivory earrings and cameo.

         "Dear Mother, we chose Ivory for you again because it is different and to me it means excitement and adventure. The earrings are carved so delicately by hand, and the cameo too."

Knowing what to rescue of your parent's possessions when they are gone is important. My mother knew to retrieve the small pieces of jewelry. After she was gone, I found them in the bottom of the hand carved wooden jewelry box she had also purchased in Japan. While there was not an excess of money in our family, my parents didn't know the value of fine things.

My biggest fear is that no one will be able to find my fine things. And they will end up at Calvins, an antique and junk store in Monticello. And, that no one will know the story. I have a lot of searching and writing to do.

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Secret to Slow Transitions

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We drove up to Lexington from the cabin yesterday morning. Made it in two hours. Unloaded one bookcase and four heavy plastic boxes filled with art and books. I'm so glad I read the article by Jessica Stillman about the value of having more books than you can read. Unread books are even better than read. We dropped off one of the old oriental rugs to be cleaned. It will go in my studio-shed, or in the attic. A perfect place to put the books and curl up and peruse, deciding which to take down to the comfy chair and read.

While Larry tuned pianos Marcie and I wen shopping. I bought a glittery fuchsia wreath for the front door for $5.00. And came across the perfect mannequin. Every good designer needs a mannequin in her living room.

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Later, on the way over to Donnie's to fix supper, we stopped by Joe and Elise's for a peppermint tea break, and to pick up newspapers for the wood stove at the cabin. When there, morning fires are a must.

Being paralyzed is not easy. Donnie has it down. "Get all your ducks in a row," is his motto.  He bought chicken. Larry sautéed while I put in a load of laundry. Over dinner we discussed plans to purchase a 3 x 4' 3/4"plywood for a ramp for him to be able to get his wheelchair into our tiny new house. After watching "Longmire," I cleaned up the kitchen. 

"Can you throw me in bed?" Donnie asked. Larry reached for the sliding board needed to transfer from chair to bed. 

Back at our dollhouse, Hignlin' greeted us, tail wagging, seeking a walk. Too cold. Too late. I'm grateful for the picket fence dog yard Larry built. We sat for a moment by our fake-fire space heater. "I'm exhausted," Larry said and went to bed. I took my nightly hot bath. The secret to a slow transition is maintaining rituals. 

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Mementos

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Much to my dismay, most of my children don't want what I have saved; school papers, writing, art, stories, poetry. I have begun to throw them away. When DJ was here visiting from California, he didn't even want the plate with his name on it. I must reassess.

I gave to Goodwill all of Johnny's soccer jerseys. They are very nice and will be a real find for the right person. I saved all the patches earned from the soccer games. Many were long road trips we took together. Why am I saving them? In some ways I feel I earned them as much as he did.

"Photos," DJ said, "all I want are photos."

That's good information. Since my Swedish death cleansing has begun, if the kids don't want these mementos, I must let go. Each item, from this moment on, can be touched only one more time, then ripped from my heart and placed in the box of giveaways.

"Tell the story that goes with them," my daughter, Dana, said. 

Yes! That is my next assignment.  

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This bowl and dish are very old. They came from the small frame house where my mother, your grandmother, grew up in Whiteflat, Texas. Your great uncle W.R. Tilson, an early settler, named the town. When he stood on a ridge and looked out over the land full of prairie grass he said it looked white, flat. These are the photos of family gathered around the dinner table in that tiny kitchen.  The round table took up the entire room. Your great grandmother, Stella, was known for her crispy fried chicken which came from her own flock. Gravy and mashed potatoes. Green beans and sweetened ice tea.

Letter to my 17 year old self

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My dear Laverne, 

Soon you will graduate from high school, travel to Chicago, live with your Polish grandmother and pursue a job downtown as a secretary. Daddy told you girls don't need college to raise babies and suggested you take shorthanded and typing. You were the the short hand wiz and received the secretarial scholarship after Daddy called the base commander because the school had given it to someone else and told us they wanted it for a town kid not an Air Force Base transient.

You also took pre-college class courses, just in case. All your friends were in those classes. You were smart and had no trouble getting good grades. When you never found a job in a law office you used your secretarial scholarship to take elementary ed classes at Wright Junior College. This was your first transgression. It began you're determined life to pursue dreams, no matter what the circumstances. 

You will continue to make unconventional choices beginning with your first divorce in 1976 and letting your children live with their dad. You will be judged. You will know you have done the right thing. That is what is most important to remember. When you make the right decision for yourself, it will be the best for everyone in the long run. Don't look back. Stand steadfast. Persevere.

 Me receiving the secretarial scholarship, Rome Free Academy, Rome, New York, 1964

Me receiving the secretarial scholarship, Rome Free Academy, Rome, New York, 1964

Creative Lineage

I'm not saying my mother didn't judge. She just never asked a lot of questions. That was her gift.

We lived in Perry, Kansas in a rented farmhouse when I discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder. Later we moved to Topeka. I rode the bus to the downtown library, spent hours perusing and choosing between Laura and Willa Cather. Then rode the bus home anxious to devour their stories. Laura lived in Kansas also. Therefore, in my mind, we were connected. In my mind we had a personal relationship. It was 1958.

Thirty years later I read Of Women Born by Adrienne Rich. Her edict for women to write the truth about their experiences no matter how painful became my mandate. I was validated. I wrote short, suscinct poems describing my life, then shared them in a community writing class taught by my feminist friend, Lucinda. Feeling Like a Shitty Mother. Discovering the Other Woman. Defining Rape to my Sixteen Year Old Daughter. Lucinda read my work and said, "this woman has something to say.

I read my first poems at an open mic at a bar. Since a number of my poems were about sex, I dressed sexy. Classy sexy. With a slight edge. Not trashy. I dressed to be seen and to be heard. Tables in the front circled the mic. A spotlight defined the stage. An audience gathered, prepared to listen. In the back, a silhouette of men sat at the bar engaged in a low chatter as the poetry reading began. I walked into the light, leaned into the mic and said in a clear voice, soft, yet firm, "this poem is on discovering the other woman." The entire bar fell silent.

I spoke. I was heard. I listened to the applause. I read more poems. I was serious, and yet I heard unexpected laughter. I paused, gazed at the women sitting at the tables in front of me. Why are they laughing? I asked myself, silently. This is my life. Then I realized it was a laughter of recognition.

Yes, this is my life and it is your life and in the absurd details, we are one. We are connected. We have nothing to fear. I let the laughter wash over me as one sordid detail after another revealed itself. After heartbreaking decisions appeared next to painful despair giving birth to a temper tantrum so outrageous there was nothing left but humor and laughter and the revelation of the degrees to which the absurd rules.

In 1989 I went to the Women Writers Conference at the University of Kentucky. I attended a Spiderwomen Theater performance. In a dramatic moment towards the end the women turned to the audience, pointed their fingers at us and said, "tell your own story." My mission was defined. In 1990 I organized poetry readings. I was seeking women with the courage to walk to the mic. I asked if they wanted to read their poems. I wasn't interested in credentials. There was no editorial intervention. I didn't ask any other questions.

Today, I create art to wear for women who don't need to answer questions.

 Botanical Print Silk Devore Crop Top

Botanical Print Silk Devore Crop Top