Category Archives: Autobiography

Simplicity

Simplicity

Simplicity is something that I rarely do.
Why have only one of something when you could have two?
It takes a lot of veggies to come up with a stew,
and we’d do a lot of limping if confined to just one shoe.

Multiples are awesome. Multiples are grand.
Look how many fingers we have upon each hand.
One finger could not do the job. Neither could two or three.
Simple cannot form a hand, did not form you or me.

Simplicity’s much touted but I think it is absurd.
Who ever heard of stories comprised of just one word?
With a single raindrop, the world could not get wetter.
Sparsity may be more chic, but I like clutter better.

I don’t get minimalism. I’m a hoarder to the core.
When I ran out of wall room, I put art upon my door.
There are no piles in hallways. Hoarding need not be a sin.
I’ve built three rooms onto my house just to store things in.

With so many lovely things in life, collecting is a joy.
With life’s manifold choices, why be niggardly or coy?
At the ice cream parlor, why does one have to choose?
You need not always limit yourself just to ones and twos.

Have a scoop of strawberry and pineapple and mint.
Green tea is delicious and tequila’s heaven sent.
Load your dish with raspberry and coconut and mango.
Why do the simple two step when you could do the fandango?

In short, I am a gatherer. I have too many things.
I like to make the choices that a complex lifestyle brings.
When it comes to writing, a stuffed-full mind is fine!
Reach into words and shake them out and string them on a line.

A solitary animal will never make a zoo.
One grain of dirt, one drop of water cannot create goo.
A single cannon fired will not execute a coup.
The world just is not simple, nor am I and nor are you!

*

I’m having a yard sale of left-over words.  Below is the “free box.” Take what you will (please note that some of these items have been recently used, but all have been laundered and are ready for a new user):

coy ploy toy bore core 
simplicity complicity duplicity felicity
ooze booze cruise who’s whose choose lose blues news pews poos cues ruse sues twos views woos youse 
doozie floozie twozie
boo  goo hue loo moo new poo queue rue sue soo sioux too to you view woo you

*

Right in line with the theme of the poem, below are way too many photos.  If you want to see the details, you know what to do, right?  If you don’t, I’ll tell you.  Just click on the first photo and click on arrows to proceed through the photo gallery.  To come back here afterwards, click on the X in the upper left corner. 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/simplicity/

Controlled Chaos

IMG_7018

The other day in a comment to another blogger, I said something on the order of how I think life is cyclical.  We go from the intuitive state of children to the increasingly rational world of the adult and then, as we retire and age (or age and retire, depending on how anxious we are to do so) and get on to the next stage, we start evolving back into the state we were in as children.  We perhaps start to forget details of the present in favor of remembering vividly details of our past. Our present seems to fall into an increasing sense of disorder as our past comes back with a strange clarity.  In the farther stages of dementia, this seems to be true as well.

Judging by the fragmented comments made by my sister who is experiencing the journey of Alzheimer’s, she seems to be going backwards through her life.  In her mind, she was for awhile once again married to a husband from whom she had been divorced for twenty-five years.  A year later, she was talking about her high school boyfriend as though he was waiting for her; and this year, when given a baby doll, she sat rocking it and calling it Judy.  Eleven years older than me, I’m sure she was remembering me as a baby.  More proof of my theory, because she has had three children and five grandchildren since she rocked me in that long-ago rocking chair, most of whom she doesn’t remember.

All of this speculating is a roundabout method of preparing you for what I really want to talk about, and that is the topic of “chaos.”  As we age, our rational mind seems to give way to intuition–forgetting details like what we are driving to town to do or what we came from the bedroom to the living room to find. Instead, we wander from task to task as we get distracted by whatever our eye falls upon, much as we did as children.

IMG_7024

In a similar fashion,  objects collect on the table-like headboard of my bed and on my night tables. Have you ever seen the room of  a teenager?  A perfect example of chaos.  Dirty clothes and caked ice cream dishes are swept under the bed, dirty clothes are in piles mixed in with the clean ones delivered by mom a week earlier, magazines, electrical equipment, soccer balls and school books all seem to be placed in the same category and spread evenly over the surfaces of the room.

The bedroom or playroom of a toddler or child seems to follow the same organizational plan:  Leggos, the detached limbs of G.I. Joes or Barbies, coloring books, plastic kid-sized furniture, trikes, blocks, kiddie computer games, unmatched socks, clothes outgrown months ago, plastic trucks and assorted game pieces from kiddie games cover the floor as though organized by a tornado into the perfect organizational plan of a child: chaos.

So it was in the house of my oldest sister.  Every year, more piles appeared in her bedroom.  Her kitchen drawers were a jumble of knives, jewelry, old electrical receipts, diamond rings, half full medicine bottles, plastic lids to butter tubs, photographs, drawings her children had done twenty years before, unused postal stamps and corroded batteries.

When I visited a few months before she went into a managed care facility, hoping  I could facilitate her staying in her house for at least another year, I reorganized her house–– putting labels on all her drawers.  In the bedroom, I sorted out a tangle of necklaces, rings, earrings and bracelets.  In doing so,  I discovered  23 watches–all dysfunctional.

“Betty, why do you have so many watches?”

“Oh, they all stopped working.”

“Did you exchange the batteries?”

“Oh, you can do that?”

Now I look at the boxes of slides and photos of the art work of my husband and me–sorted and condensed from four boxes  into two boxes, then abandoned unfinished when I needed to use the dining room table to entertain guests. Now the unresolved mess resides between the bed and the closet in my bedroom. Sigh.

IMG_7029

There are junk drawers I’ve been shoving things into for 15 years thinking one day I’ll sort them.  Boxes of miscellaneous papers I packed up 15 years ago to bring to Mexico still sit untouched in my garage.

Like the rest of the universe, having come from the chaos of childhood, I seem to be returning to it and I wonder what the solution will be.  Perhaps, as many of my friends have, I will start shedding the accumulations of a lifetime and simplify my life so there is less in it to be transformed into chaos.  Or, perhaps as has been my pattern for the past 15 years, since divesting myself of most of my possessions to move to Mexico, I will continue to collect thousands of little items for my art collages, dozens of bracelets, rings, necklaces, earrings–even though I wear only a few favorites.

IMG_7037IMG_7036

Perhaps I’ll continue to buy the books of friends, the paintings of talented Mexican artists, huipiles from the market, woven purses and alebrijes from beach vendors, gelato makers from the garage sales of friends.

I have a special fondness for one basket vendor who sells the lovely baskets made by his family in Guerrero. I have them in every shape–square, obelisk, round, rectangular–as well as every size from coin purse to three feet tall.  Yet I keep buying them because I admire his perseverance.  For the fifteen years I’ve been here, he has traversed the carretera from Chapala to Jocotepec, laden front, back and to each side with these baskets.  He wears five straw hats piled neatly one on top of the other on his head.  Baskets nest within other baskets or are threaded onto a long cord and worn diagonally over his chest.

Version 2

He is a a master of organization–and to query about any basket as one sits at at table in the Ajijic plaza  will invite his ceremony as he divests himself of baskets to display them.  Soon the floor around your table will be covered in so many baskets it seems impossible that one man has been carrying them up and down the ten miles between the towns on this side of the lake–all day and for years long before I moved here.  His is an incredible sense of organization that is the opposite of chaos, and in admiration, if I am unable to persuade visiting friends to buy his baskets, I always buy something myself.

Back home, I fill one with outgrown underwear, another with scarves, another with old keys and padlocks I may one day need.  It is as though his organization rubs off on me as I fill baskets, instilling some order into a life potentially chaotic–but at the moment held within the confines of normalcy.

Ten years ago, my other sister opened my junk drawer in my kitchen and declared, “There is no excuse for anyone to have a drawer like this.”  Because I know of no one who does not have a drawer like that, I was somewhat surprised, and was especially surprised because before her visit I had more or less organized my junk drawer.

IMG_7015

But now I look around and realize I have a number of those drawers.  In spite of the basket vendor’s good example, my sense or organization seems to be veering toward having a special drawer to thrust categories of things into: batteries, items of clothing, kitchen tools, jewelry.  Controlled chaos––the way of the universe and certainly the seeming course of our lives. For some of us, at least.

(If you are dying to make out exactly what is in these drawers, clicking on the photos will enlarge your view.  Snoopy!)

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/chaos/

DSC00994 - Version 2

Devil # 3

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Helpless.” Helplessness: that dull, sick feeling of not being the one at the reins. When did you last feel like that –- and what did you do about it?

Okay, I was going to give this prompt a “miss” and went to the new prompt generator I’ve been using for the past few days.  I hit the button and was served up the two-word prompt: “Ill Devil”.  At first I read this as #3 Devil, and I must admit, I got a chill, because what I immediately thought about when I read the prompt was the third time I was in a near-death situation where I felt totally helpless.  What are the chances, I thought, that these two prompts would line up?  This must be something I’m meant to write about.  But then reason stepped in and I realized this prompt always gave an adjective and a noun.  What they probably meant by the prompt was ill Devil. (Changing the capital to a small “i” clarified the prompt.) But then I realized that ill devil described the occurrence I am trying not to talk about as much as #3 devil did, so I guess, prodded on twice by fate or coincidence or synchronicity, I will try.

I have written to a similar prompt twice in 2015, so probably most of you who read my blog have chanced upon one of those posts, but when I wrote to a similar prompt in June of 2014, I wrote a different piece and since I had few of my present-day readers then, I’ll mention that THIS is what I wrote.  It may not be obvious that the topic given in today’s prompt was what I was really talking about then, however, because it was a poem where I actually stood to one side of what I was really remembering and wrote about the subject as an onlooker rather than a participant.  I only alluded to the real subject, which is what I’m going to attempt to write about today. That real subject is Ted Bundy and how otherwise respectable women sometimes fall prey to such predators.  Okay, deep breath. I’m going to tell to the world something I have actually told to very few people. Yes, this is a true story.

Devil # 3

Nineteen seventy-something. In the bar with friends.
When you are in your twenties, the partying never ends.
It was rodeo season  and the big one was in town.
As one by one they ordered drinks, I couldn’t turn them down.
We were a rather rowdy bunch of teachers in our prime
Devoted in the classroom, but wild on our own time.

The bar was crowded hip to hip, the music barely heard
over the loud cacophony of laugh and shouted word.
It was my turn to buy a round. I struggled towards the bar.
My polite “Excuse me’s!” really hadn’t gotten me too far
when a guy appeared in front of me and moved the crowd aside
as though he had appointed himself to be my guide.

As I returned with eight full drinks, again he stemmed the tide
by walking close in front of  me and spreading elbows wide.
He smiled and then departed, back to the teeming mass.
Impressive that he had not even tried to make a pass!
My friends all wondered who he was. I said I had no clue.
Tall and dark and ivy-league, he vanished from our view.

This story happened long ago. Some details I’ve forgotten,
and any memories he retains, you’ll learn were ill-begotten.
I think we danced a dance or two. I know we talked awhile.
I liked his fine intelligence, his low-key polite style.
At three o’clock the barman’s bell commenced it’s clanging chime
and I made off to find my friends, for it was closing time.

Two lines of men had split the bar, lined up back to back.
Their hands locked and their arms spread wide–they moved into the pack.
One line moved east, the other west, forcing one and all
Either out the front door or towards the back door hall.
I was forced out the back way–out into the alley.
My friends and I had made no plans of where we were to rally

and so I walked around the block, sure that was where they waited,
but there was no one there at all–the crowd had soon abated.
I went back to the alleyway to see if they were there.
but all was dark and still, and soon I began to fear
that both carloads of friends had thought I was with the other.
I had no recourse but to walk, though I prayed for another.

I combed my mind to try to think of anyone at all
living in this part of town where I could go to call
a friend to come and get me and furnish me a ride
for 3 a.m. was not a time to be alone outside.
There were no outside phone booths and I lived so far away
I simply had to rouse someone, but what was I to say?

But since I had no other choice I thought I’d check once more
if any single soul was waiting at the bar’s front door.
And as I left the alley to be off to see,
I saw a new familiar face looking back at me.
It was my dancing partner, his face split in a grin.
It seems that he was going to save me once again.

He had asked me earlier if needed a ride,
but I had told him wisely that I had friends inside
and so I thought he’d left, but I could see he was still there.
Yet, ride home with a stranger?  Did I really dare?
And yet I had no other choice, abandoned as I was.
And so I said I guess that yes, I would, simply because

I knew there was just one of him and I was young and strong.
And he seemed kind, polite and gentle.  What could go so wrong?
His car was just a block away. Our walk was short and brief.
And when he pointed out his car, I felt a great relief.
For it was a convertible–and easy to escape
If I detected the first signs of robbery or rape!

He opened up the door for me. I got in the front seat.
But as he started up the car, my heart skipped a beat.
For from the bushes, two more men emerged and jumped inside–
one man in the backseat, the other at my side!
He pulled out into the street, though I protested so.
I didn’t really want a ride, so please, just let me go!

(And here I have to beg off and say I’ll finish this story tomorrow.  Right now my heart is pumping and my head throbbing as though I’m re-enacting this whole tale physically as well as mentally.  I’m totally exhausted.  Why I decided to write this in rhyme I don’t know. Perhaps I thought it would be easier, or more fun or more lighthearted, but there is simply no way to write this from any other frame of mind but the terror I felt that night. So, sorry, but I will resume tomorrow. You all know that I’m here telling the story, so be assured that the worst didn’t happen…but the story is by no means over, so join me tomorrow for the rest.  I, for one, could really use a drink, but it is only 1:40 in the afternoon so I’ll find some other means of escape.)

To see the conclusion of this poem, go HERE.

If you’d like to try out Jennifer’s new prompt generator, go HERE.

Remember Me

Remember Me

What I imagine I will be remembered by
is probably in the past, my present more taken up by
remembering than by doing.
That energy to create a life seems worn out
so that rising and sorting piles of papers
seems an Everest to scale.

Who knew that we would wear out, too.
Prefer our deskchairs to the dance floor,
our own tables to the favorite gathering place?
We have dulled to pewter,
finest silver that we once were.

Once hatless, ratted and curled,
now we shield ourselves from the sun
with wider brims,
celebrate midnight in solitude,
go the way of civilizations
headed toward their end.

Today’s prompt: Don’t You Forget About Me: Imagine yourself at the end of your life. What sort of legacy will you leave? Describe the lasting effect you want to have on the world, after you’re gone.

Bob’s Rope

DSC09975

                                                                        Bob’s Rope

A week ago, I drove to the Santa Cruz, CA area to visit old friends. It has been fourteen years since I left there to move to Mexico, and when I spent the night with my friends Linda and Steve, they invited my other good friends Dan (pictured above) and Laurie to come for dinner. When we fell to comparing our present physical ills, as old farts like us are prone to do, I admitted that over the past year I have experienced a number of anxiety attacks when I go to bed, mainly centered around fears that I will soon stop being able to breathe. When I told Dan about these attacks, he said that he, too, had been having them for a long time but that he’d found a cure–that cure being Bob’s rope. The story goes like this.

About twenty years before, Dan and Laurie had decided to drive down to Baja and asked my husband Bob and me to accompany them. We took two cars because they had to come back before us as Laurie didn’t want to leave her elderly aunt for too long. Dan said he had felt terrible anxiety before the trip. What if their car broke down? With no big towns in Baja, what would they do? Nonetheless, we went, and on our second day of driving, we fell behind them a mile or two. We were nearing the crest of a big hill when we suddenly saw a big engine part lying in the road. We swerved around it and as we passed over the summit, we spied Dan and Laurie’s car down below at the bottom of the hill. We thought they were waiting for us to catch up, but then saw Dan get out of the car and wave us down.

Part of the engine had fallen out of their van! We went back to pick it up and discovered that it was the universal joint or some part of the engine that contained the universal joint, which is a vital part of the engine, or so I was told. Dan was sputtering a bit, but Bob just went to the back of our Blazer and pulled out this colossal hemp rope…maybe twenty feet long and about two or three inches thick. This he tied to our trailer hitch and to the chassis of Dan and Laurie’s van. We then towed them about 20 miles until we found a tiny “town” consisting of a small gas station. We pulled in and Dan, who knew more Spanish than we did at the time, (we knew none) asked the station man where the next garage might be. There were a sum total of three little houses in the town that we could see, and the man pointed to one across the road and said we should go see Jose.

Jose had about 5 old cars parked in his yard and when he inspected the part we’d retrieved from the center of the road, he said he’d see what he could do. He scrounged around in the various cars and came up with a part which he promptly dropped in the dirt, at which point all the bearings dropped out onto the ground, rolling every which way and burying themselves under powdery dirt and sparse grass clumps. He laboriously scavenged, picking bearings out and cleaning them off on his shirt before dropping them into wherever bearings go. He worked for a half hour or so–maybe longer.

This part of the story I didn’t witness as Laurie and I were across the street in the shade of the service station eating the best tamales I’ve ever had in my life. We’d purchased them from a little woman who had a stand by the side of the road. They were incredible in that every single bite tasted different from every other bite. She had put everything into them: pork, pineapple, cheese, mild chilis. Each bite was a totally new tamale experience and the masa was moist and light and wonderful. I was thinking that it was worth Dan’s U-joint just to get to eat these tamales! We thought we should buy some for Dan and Bob, but as time wore on, we ended up eating theirs as well. Only so much can be expected of girls marooned in the heat with only the shade of a forlorn little gas station for comfort.

At any rate, I’m sure we bought more tamales for the male members of our expedition and eventually, they drove up in Dan’s van. As they (probably) ate their tamales, Dan spoke in wonder of the fact that Jose had somehow been able to gerrymander the part from the pieces of the different cars–none of which were vans or even the make of his van. And, when he asked how much he owed them, they said, “Oh, 150 pesos!!!” This at the time was about $15. He said he would have paid more but alas, that happened to be all the cash he had on him and I’d spent all our money on tamales and gas.

So it was that we went on to a few more days’ adventures before they headed north again and we continued to Mulege and points south, took the ferry over to Guaymas on the mainland of Mexico and drove up the coast and back home. Later, Dan reported to us that he’d stopped by to see Jose on the way back up to California and left him with a couple of cases of beer and a bit more money, which he felt he had certainly earned, even though he had not commanded a higher price.

A happy Dan drove his van home and for 6 months it performed perfectly; but he started worrying about it and thinking it was bound to eventually give him problems, so he went to the authorized garage of whatever make his van was and had them order the correct U-joint and install it. Afterwards, he had had nothing but trouble with the van and they ended up trading it in. He admitted then that he never should have meddled with the perfection of Jose’s repair job.

Now, he said, every time he felt anxiety, he thought of Bob’s rope and it would calm his fears and remind him that things worked out because they had to and that there was really nothing to be so anxious about that it kept him from doing what he wanted to do. When Bob died and I moved to Mexico, I asked them what they would like to have from our house to remember us by and Dan quickly requested the rope! He’s had it ever since. They now split their time between their house in Boulder Creek, CA and a house near the southern tip of Baja and every trip they’ve taken down, they have carried that rope in the trunk of their car. Dan still suffers night anxiety attacks as I do but he said when he does he thinks of Bob’s rope coiled in the trunk of his car and that calms him.

That is the story of Bob’s rope–how it came to have such importance in Dan’s life and how it has come to have a potential for comfort in my life as well.

DSC09974                                                     Laurie seems to have life whipped.

The  Prompt: Tell us about a journey you have taken, either physically or emotionally.
https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/journey/

The Dance

IMG_0057
The Dance

Cheek to cheek and toe to toe,
whenever graceful dancers go
smoothly passing while I stand by
feet motionless, with dancing eye,
jealousy may rear her head
as I wish that it were me, instead–
held securely in my partner’s arms,
guided surely away from harms
of other dancers’ straying feet
or jutting elbows I might meet.

Steered through dangers into bliss
barely meeting the floor’s long kiss
as I soar and bend and sway and glide,
giving way to what’s inside
the music coming to live in me
setting all that’s in me free
stirring sadness at my core
and leaving it upon the floor
for other dancers to kick away
while only light parts choose to stay
within my heart as I dance on
from dark of night into the dawn.

I might feel sorry, sitting there,
no arms around me–only air.
Then I remember in the past
dancing nights I thought would last–
how all those partners have stepped away–
even the ones I hoped would stay.

Life has a way of leaving us
like hopeful riders passed by the bus
as it soars away with no seat left
those left behind feeling bereft.
Then I look deeper and clearly see
one day that bus will stop for me.
Something heavy grows inside
where it’s not good for it to bide.
I scoot back my chair to shift that stone
as I get up and dance alone.


The Prompt: The Green-Eyed Lady–We all get jealous now and then.  What awakens the green-eyed lady in you?

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/green-eyed-lady/

Raiding the Fridge: Leftover Salad

This same prompt was given five weeks ago.  If you didn’t read it then, here it is again.  While you chew on this, I’ll be trying to come up with a different topic to write on today!  Judy

Boxed Salad

The story of my life is like a salad–more palatable when someone else does the cutting up and the mixing. I don’t know what to leave out of a salad.  I put everything into it every time–lettuce chopped so fine it’s better eaten with a spoon, carrots, celery, purple onions, avocado, apples, walnuts, cranberries, green olives and croutons, blue cheese, balsamic vinaigrette. All chopped up and blended to within an inch of its life so that each bite contains a bit of each.  Delicious, yes, but not enough variety between bites, perhaps. All of the elements mix up so much it is impossible to taste the flavor of each.  They blend into a fresh hash that becomes another thing entirely.

And this is what my life is like, as well.  Everything is remembered in such detail that I can’t sort out the relevant facts.  No one thing stands out as being the thing to feature.  I can’t get the gist of events.  What does it mean–that year or more in Africa? Somehow, after a lifetime of reading books that  imply reasons for things, nothing in my own life makes sense anymore.

I try to look at myself objectively. What in her makeup made her fall in love with a man who would become her stalker? What makes her leave places where things seem to be working out fine to jump into a new location and situation where she is thrust once again into the role of stranger?  Does she think, perhaps, this time she will come closer to finding herself?  Or does she think it will be a chance to try out a new life without the censure of friends who expect her to be the same person she was yesterday or last year?

What writer more competent than myself could find the pattern where all these pieces fit together into a recognizable whole? Perhaps Barbara Kingsolver could determine more easily how I fit in to my time or Joyce Maynard could extract those details that would make my life read like a mystery. Anne Tyler could describe those eccentricities that make my family readable, even if they aren’t from Baltimore; and I could certainly use the help of Abraham Verghese in writing the portions of my life that took place in Ethiopia. But undoubtedly, these favorite writers are all embarked on projects of their own, so it is not likely that any will be forthcoming in helping me to solve the conundrum of my own life story.

It’s like all of the details of my life are jumbled together in one of those big boxes out in the garage that I haven’t opened in fourteen years.  Even if I could bring myself to open those boxes, how could I ever make sense of them?  Yes, there are all these little boxes as well–where I’ve sorted the very best details into stories or poems or essays.–but where do those little boxes fit within the shipping container of my life?

In spite of a lifetime of writing, I have to face the fact that I don’t have the skills to write my own biography. Perhaps my task was to get famous enough to prompt someone else to do the deed, but it is getting late in my life and that seems unlikely to happen.  My chances to become infamous are equally long past, or at least I hope they are.  I have no wish to become famous due to my misdeeds or eccentric behavior.  Perhaps it is enough to unpack these tiny boxes one by one on my blog–like little parts of the entire tossed salad of my life.  Not biography.  Just bites.

DSC02426
The Prompt: Ghostwriter–If you could have any author –living or dead – write your biography, who would you choose?

(If you’d like to see today’s answers to this prompt by other people, go Here)