Monthly Archives: June 2022

Jumping In

Standard

This summer, like any other, is a mash-up of good things and bad. Some stretch around the world; others at least nationally. Others are very close to home. Today, I’m jumping in to talk about some of them.

I am continually horrified by the war in Ukraine. I’m reading The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn, a well-researched historical novel set in the early years of the second world war. It is told from the perspective of a young Russian soldier, a female sharp-shooter, as the Nazis – violently, horrendously, and without provocation – push through their country. Now, in real time, the Russians are the invaders. Their actions are the ones that are unbelievably heartless, cruel, and that they have to lie to try to justify. How can we humans be so awful? How is it that we can’t seem to learn from our own suffering, that inflicting suffering on others is not the answer? This is only one conflict in a world that is full of them.

In this country, there is continuing gun violence. We have no time to recover from one devastating incident, before we are faced with another. The politicians rant on about the loss of our second amendment rights while the funerals are still going on. And our judicial system has just made it easier for folks to carry concealed weapons.

The dust from that news had not even settled before the Supreme Court went on to reverse Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that ensured a woman’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy. That feels like a “punch to the gut” to all, including myself, who have worked hard in the fight for the women’s rights and equality. I know this is a highly controversial topic; conflict-avoider that I am, I hesitate to even bring it up. But I think the time for measured silence is long past.

I can’t speak as knowledgably as many. I don’t have a medical background. Psychological, medical, economic and ethical reasons for needing to terminate a pregnancy are wide-ranging. I can’t quote scripture, but I know that scripture can be, and has been, used to energize and support whichever point of view you want. I can’t even accurately talk about the historical precedents, when laws have been invented, passed, repealed and changed to suit the whims and needs of men, and to keep women “in their place.” But all of this information is out there. I am not pro-abortion; I don’t think anyone is. But I stand firmly with science, and a woman’s right to make that difficult choice.

My friend, Paul, has always read everything I write and has frequently offered me his opinion. Over the years, I’ve learned that we share a love of learning and quite a few political opinions. We have often commiserated over current events and the condition of the world. I know that he appreciates some abstract art – though not mine – and that his preference lies in realistic paintings of beautiful scenery.

Last week, I started my blog with a Mary Oliver poem. Paul stopped in at the Community Center to tell me that he was glad I had found time to write, and that he prefers poetry that rhymes. I didn’t argue. At more than 90 years old, I think Paul is welcome to his opinion, whatever it is. We spoke for a bit about the state of the nation, this busy season, and the wonderful cadence of E.B. White’s poetry. Unlike today, that was as controversial as I was willing to be. On Saturday, Paul suffered a massive heart attack and died. I’m glad for the time I spent listening. For Paul, a rhyming poem:

Village Revisited

(A cheerful lament in which truth, pain, and beauty are prominently mentioned, and in that order)

by E.B. White

In the days of my youth, in the days of my youth,
I lay in West Twelfth Street, writhing with Truth,
I died in Jones Street, dallying with pain,
And flashed up Sixth Avenue, risen again.

In the terrible, beautiful age of my prime,
I lacked for sweet linen, but never for time.
The tree in the alley was potted in gold,
The girls on the buses would never grow old.

Last night with my love I returned to these haunts
To visit Pain's diggings and try for Truth's glance;
I was eager and ardent and waited as always
The answering click to my ring in the hallways,
But Truth hardly knew me, and Pain wasn't in
(It scarcely seemed possible Pain wasn't in).

Beauty recalled me. We bowed in the Square,
In the wonderful westerly Waverly air.
She had a new do, I observed, to her hair.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^





Advertisement

Summer!

Standard

Just As The Calendar Began To Say Summer

by Mary Oliver

I went out of the schoolhouse fast

and through the gardens and to the woods,

and spent all summer forgetting what I’d been taught—

two times two, and diligence, and so forth,

how to be modest and useful, and how to succed and so forth,

machines and oil and plastic and money and so forth.

By fall I had healed somewhat, but was summoned back

to the chalky rooms and the desks, to sit and remember

the way the river kept rolling its pebbles,

the way the wild wrens sang though they hadn’t a penny in the bank,

the way the flowers were dressed in nothing but light.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

I love all of Mary Oliver’s poetry, but this particular one spoke to me today. As we dive in to another busy summer here on Beaver Island, and I quickly get caught up in the rush, it is the summers of my childhood that appeal to me. In a perfect world, my days would be designed to mimic the hot, long and lazy out-of-school days that I remember.

Of course, I know that my memory is both faulty and selective. That’s what nostalgia is all about. I can set aside the garden chores that I hated, and the tedious, scorching days trying to entertain myself outside. I’ll choose my remembrances instead from the wonders of a childhood summer.

There was the swing set, and the big sand-pile next to it, always freshened with a new truckload of sand in the spring. And the hours spent swinging, or just laying on the warm metal slide, to bake in the sun. There were willow trees that offered cool shade: one in the back yard, one in the front yard, and one behind the house next door.

There was the orchard, just beyond my grandparent’s garage. Still within our allowable range of travel, but out of my mother’s sight, it allowed for daring and dangerous escapades that we couldn’t otherwise get away with. We ate green apples and pears, practically as soon as they appeared on the branches, in amounts that should have made us desperately ill. I don’t think we ever got so much as a stomach-ache. I still prefer un-ripe fruit, though not quite as green as when I was a child.

We took a million chances climbing the trees there. We always tried to navigate the high branches – by swinging on them, or crawling to the very ends of them – to access the flat roof of the garage. That was the challenge, and the ultimate goal. I don’t know if we ever succeeded.

There was a grape arbor, and a snowball bush whose growth provided a cool, sheltered space under its branches. There was often a playhouse in the yard. In the field beyond, there were thickets that could be made into forts or make-believe homes, depending on the storyline of whatever game we were playing.

Water could be found in buckets and kiddie pools, squirt guns and squirt bottles. Often, we hooked the sprinkler up to the hose, and kept it going until the grass was oozing mud. Sometimes, we took the long walk down to the Hilltop beach, herding younger brothers and sisters, lugging towels and snacks, and one pack of matches for the dreaded encounters with “bloodsuckers.”

The garden was beside our yard, and matched it in size. Some of its care fell to the children (as a child, I would have sworn all of it fell to us), and part of almost every day was given over to weeding and watering. Still, there is magic in watching things grow, and my childhood was filled with that enchantment. I could pick a tomato, and eat it warm from the sun. I could fill a large bowl with fresh peas, and take them into the shade to enjoy them. Strawberries gave way to raspberries as the summer marched on.

These are the bright memories that hold the essence of what I believe summer should be. I know it’s possible…I lived it!

Thursday Thoughts

Standard

This blog is going to be a bunch of jumbled thoughts. I don’t have time to be fussy about it. Usually, I jot down a few ideas, and put them in a kind of sensible order before I begin writing. Then I edit as I go. I check spelling if I have any doubt, though I am a good speller; I go to the Thesaurus if I have the urge to re-use a word too often; sometimes I rearrange sentences or even whole paragraphs. Not today.

It’s already late in the day. I stripped the bed this morning, washed the sheets and comforter, and have yet to remake the bed. My supper is in the oven. It has been a busy, stressful day, and I’m ready to be done. I’ve been feeling guilty, though, about neglecting this blog. There are few things in my life that I have stuck with for as long as this, and I don’t want to let it go. So, here I am, rushing to get something down, while my chicken finishes cooking.

This is my first day off in a week! I started my summer job at the golf course, which takes up my weekends, now, until the end of September. At the Community Center, a couple of my co-workers were out sick, so I filled in. Some of those were short shifts, and nothing was too difficult; still, a day when I have to go to work is a day when I don’t get much else done. It all piles up and waits for me.

Yesterday, after working a couple hours in the morning, I went to the bank, the post office and the grocery store. I took the dogs down to Fox Lake for a swim, which was a nice break for all of us. Then, I hunkered down to put together a packet for a gallery where I’d like to show my work.

I had a good start on it a month ago. Knowing the deadline was in June, and knowing my propensity for procrastination, I was determined to be ready. Then, my family was here for a visit. Then, my little dog got sick, and then died. And my job at the golf course started. And a couple co-workers got sick. And suddenly, the deadline – June 10th – was right on top of me.

So, yesterday I rewrote my Artist Statement and cover letter. I opened a Paypal account, necessary for the entry fee, and I started revising my resume. Because I tend to go right down a rabbit hole when confronted with things like that, I spent far too much time reading about and looking at samples of resumes and CVs and went to bed last night with the deadline still looming.

A couple recent rains have sent my lawn into a growing frenzy. It really needs to be mowed! I have to get the garden worked up and planted, if I’m going to get anything out of it. I bargained with myself: take today to finish everything that has to be done in order to submit the application to the gallery, then tomorrow, take the whole day outside.

It worked! I submitted the packet just before 4PM. I did a little victory dance, then took the dogs for a long walk. I made a big salad, and put a couple drumsticks in the oven to bake. It should be done any minute now. Tomorrow, I’ll be outside. Maybe, I’ll get to some semblance of “on top of things” by the weekend!