Category Archives: Essays

A Letter from My Future Self of 2038: NaPoWriMo, 2018, Day 11

 A Letter from My Future Self of 2038

Dear Remi,

Remember eight years ago, when you took this new name for yourself?  I notice you’ve slipped back into the “old” name (Judy) and the “old” you that you professed just five years before to no longer identify with.  What happened?  Was it merely the resistance of old friends to call you by this new name? Or was it that you slowly slipped back into being that person–more laconic, giving in to the heaviness and inactivity of age?  Did you also give up on romance and change and the excitement of the possibility of forward progress?  Did you decide to stay where it is easier with an established routine, people to clean your house and wash your clothes and mow your grass and clean your pool?

I’m wondering if you are thinking about how that is working out for you. I see you even more tied down than before–five cats instead of one, making plans to start more programs for the young people of your community, but will this be enough?  That sense of urgency and of time passing that has kept you vaulting from your bed and running outside to try to breathe at night—is it caused by any physical condition or is it me, prodding you to be young for as long as you can and to experience more before you sink into that routine that is the reward for doing all that you meant to do in this lifetime? Is it time to retire and to smooth your own pathway, or is it still time to leap over barriers such as this barrier of yourself and go boldly out into the world to see what else is there?

I’m not trying to prod or push you or suggest the way.  I am, after all, a figment of your imagination as surely as your present view of yourself is.  I understand that two foot surgeries in two years slowed you down and changed your exercise patterns as well as the patterns of your day.  I also realize that friends moved away or moved into new lives and that this also made you turn inwards.  There are reasons of one sort or another for everything we do.  We all have excuses.  At 90 years old, I have excuses, too.  I know where you ended up but I also know that there are a limitless number of me’s.

There is the me that succumbed to Alzheimer’s, as your sister did.  There is the me who moved to Italy and moved off into a new life that I only hint at here.  There is the me who has devoted herself for the past 20 years to making her small town a better place to grow up in.  There is the me who finally took off in that boat and went all the remaining places there were to go.  There is the me who grew grumpy and reclusive and eventually became dumber than her Smart TV.

There is even the implausible me who did all the “shoulds” and got her other books published—who maybe even got back on the agent/publisher treadmill and did it the “right” way. There is the me who found more romance, the one who converted her entire house into a dog kennel or cat sanctuary, the one who built the house on the adjoining piece of land and hired a nurse/housekeeper and invited her friends to come grow old with her.  There are so many potential me’s that I hope it is making your head swim and that I hope will make you think about what you want to do with the remaining 30 or so years of your life.

Things are not over.  In the first thirty years of your life, you grew up, went to summer camp, counseled at summer camp, went to University, sailed around the world on a boat and saw all else that life could be, got your masters degree, emigrated to Australia, taught for two years, traveled for four months through southeast Asia and Africa, moved to Africa and had various adventures, good and bad.  Fell in love, taught school in Addis Ababa, moved back to the U.S., taught for 7 more years, fell in love, built a house, edited a creative writing journal for teens, traveled to China and Great Britain and Hawaii.

Then you had a dream that knocked you into a recognition of your subconscious.  You quit your job, moved to Orange County, CA, wrote on the beach, moved to L.A., fell in love, studied film production and screenwriting at UCLA, worked in a Hollywood agency, joined a writer’s workshop, joined an actor’s studio, worked for Bob Hope, gave poetry readings, was co-editor of a poetry journal, fell in love again, married, moved to the Santa Cruz mountains, became an artist, traveled and did art and craft shows for 14 years, became the curator of an art center, lost your husband, moved to Mexico, self-published four books, traveled, taught English and art, fell in love a few more times, started a poetry series.

This is what can be done in thirty years.  So, what are you going to do with the next thirty?

Love, Remi–twenty years older.

The NaPoWriMo prompt today is: a poem that addresses the future, answering the questions “What does y(our) future provide? What is your future state of mind? If you are a citizen of the “union” that is your body, what is your future “state of the union” address?”  This rewrite of a piece written three years ago seems to fill the bill, except it was pointed out to me afterwards that it isn’t a poem!  Can I get by saying it is a prose poem?  If not, this former piece which is a poem also answers the same prompt:  https://judydykstrabrown.com/2018/03/15/provoke/

 

Who Knew?

Who Knew?

When new was new, I was crazy about it. A new friend, new dress, new favorite food. But what I liked best was new places. I yearned to travel, even if it was just to the next town. Strangely enough, as tiny as the towns were in my part of South Dakota, people from neighboring towns did not mix. We went rollerskating in Draper, 7 miles away, but when our eyes chanced to stray to Draper boys, we were taken aside by several of the “popular” Draper girls–the cheerleaders, in fact, and told to stay away from their boys. This really happened. We played their school in sports, went rollerskating every Sunday in their school gym, even went to movies in their tiny theater, but we did not mix. When we tried, we’d been warned.

I think I visited Presho, Vivian and Kennebec–all 20 to 40 miles away–no more than once in the 18 years I lived in Murdo, population 700. White River, 38 miles away, we more regularly visited since they had shows on Mondays as well as weekends, and the movies were just ten cents, whereas ours cost twenty-five cents! But, never did we ever socialize with White River girls. The boys, however, were a different matter.

The first boy I ever kissed was from White River, and we went steady for two years. I think I’ve told the story of that first kiss in another blog posting. Suffice it to say that after putting it off until age 16, it was about time. And, it worked. I was literally dizzy and he had to hold me up for a minute afterwards. He had opened my car door, helped me out, then folded me in his arms and kissed me. I was so discombobulated that instead of walking to my own car, I opened the back door of his car and started to get into the back seat. Not for the reasons you might think. My best friend and a boy who (as I recall) later turned to cattle rustling were already in the back seat. I just did so in utter confusion. And no, I had never had a drink in my life at the time.

At any rate, this story has veered off in a direction unintended, so just suffice it to say that after that, life continued to present new after new and I accepted most of them. I traveled widely, loved a few loves, pursued a few careers and wound up in Mexico. Now, at age 70, I suddenly find that new isn’t as necessary to me. The older I get, the more I realize that everything is everywhere. You just have to look for it closely.

No longer is it necessary for me to travel to far-off third world countries. It is exciting to take the same walk on the same beach day after day since the sea presents new treasures each day. I love getting up each morning and writing first thing, having Pepe come each Wednesday to give me a 1 1/2 hour massage after which I plop into the hot tub. I love spending hours at my desk and sometimes hate having to leave home even for activities I have enjoyed in the past.

The point is, that the older I get, the more I want to spend all my time doing what I love most. Writing. Art. The fact that each endeavor creates a new piece is getting to be enough “new.”

 

This is a rewrite of an essay I wrote so long ago that I only had one viewer.  If it was you, you must be one of my first followers! The prompt today is suddenly.

NOISE!!!

It is 3:24 A.M.  For the past hour, some ASSHOLE on a motorcycle with NO MUFFLER has been ROARING back and forth in front of my house going at least 60 miles an hour.  He seems to be making a U turn around the plaza and roaring back again.  This has happened at least 6 times, which makes 12 passes past my bedroom window which is about 5 feet from the street.  I have an urge to go grab the garbage cans everyone has put out on the curb to make a barricade across the street.  What idiot does this on a main street running through a village where everyone is sleeping?

In 2.5 hours, the tortilla shop across the street will start up its tortilla-making machine with its round of loud rhythmic SQUEAKS that will render sleep impossible.  Forty-five minutes later, the first huge cement trucks will make their inital journeys past my window to begin their continual all-day trips back and forth to Tamarindo, where the Four Seasons is building a huge resort hotel. Why they go out of their way to come through town rather than using the dirt road that leads directly to the resort from the highway, I don’t know.  Possibly it is just to allow them to chew up the new pavers in town…or for the fun of coating all the parked cars along the way with a 1/4 inch thick coat of dust.

In four and a half hours, the usual hum of cars will begin, along with the gas truck singsonging “Zeta, Zeta, Zeta Gass.” or “Ghhhhaaaaaasssssssss,” depending on which company it is.  The water truck will make its distinctive announcement, the knife-sharpener will pedal by sounding his thin piping whistle, vegetable vendors will announce their menu of fresh fruits and veggies via loudspeaker, cars will make passes through town announcing events, and the plastic vendors, bulk soap vendors, scrap metal collectors and general traffic will begin its ritual parade past my window. No chance for motorcycle morons to pass at anything but a fairly normal speed, which detracts from their pure pleasure of speed combined with DEAFENiNG  NOISE!

Ironically, on the other side of my rental is just the pounding of the night surf, relaxing and  lulling.  Oh, that they hadn’t converted the garage that opens directly onto the street into the only bedroom on the ground floor of this beach rental that was years ago split into two rentals…upstairs and down…one of the three bedrooms upstairs converted into a kitchen/dining room/sitting room, while a bedroom was provided for the downstairs rental by the method just described of converting the streetside garage into the only bedroom.  Perhaps the time has come for me to begin sleeping in the hammock on the porch adjoining the beach.

The first month after I moved to Mexico sixteen years ago, I wrote a piece entitled, “In Mexico, There Is Always Music.” It talked about the constant bird calls, mule brays, cattle lowings, dogs barking, fireworks, church bells, parties, fiestas, cocks crowing, generators, air brakes on the highway far below, frogs, cicadas, insects, hummingbird whirrs, rhythms of fully-laden donkeys on cobblestones or shod horses moving at a faster pace past my house in San Juan Cosala.

But here in La Manzanilla, those sounds are augmented and added to by the even more irritating sounds of busy village life. Yes, it is paradise, but here on the road side of my idyllic beach bungalow,   IT CAN BE DAMN HARD TO GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP!!!!

                                                                  Ahh.  Much nicer.

Rings of Saturn: Daily Post, the Final Day of 2017

Rings of Saturn

I had taken off my wedding ring years before. How typical of me that I would finally put it on again after he died. I don’t know why I do these things. Perhaps it was easier to be married to a dead man, or perhaps I felt he had finally atoned for his bad behavior, but suddenly that symbol had more significance than it had come to have in life. That sainthood of departure? I’d seen it happen again and again, but I had never been one to run with the pack and so it surprised me so much when I looked down one day and saw his ring on my finger again that I took it off and it has resided in my jewelry box ever since—that hinged red leather lips-shaped jewelry box that opens in a kiss to reveal a  little slit-compartment for rings. A next-door-neighbor of my childhood  had brought it as a hostess gift when she came to Mexico to visit me during that long year after his death when everyone came out of the woodwork to come visit.

Draw a ring around the old. Ring in the new in multiples. Duplication has become such a science—the craftsman thrown out of the ring. With the new three-dimensional copier, what cannot be duplicated, if plastic is your creation material of choice? A plastic gun—complete down to the bullet in its chamber. A perfect functioning model of anything with moving parts. Can each grain of gunpowder be duplicated? One ringie dingie, two ringie dingies. Floating away on the surface of the lake of forget. Is that giving up? Ringing the final buzzer? Burning the evidence in a ring of fire? Burning bridges? A phone rings and rings in the distance. It has that ring of authenticity, but that does not mean it is real.

Ring of thieves. One by one, the days steal my life away. Time is that one thing no one has control over—even Einstein or Hawking, who perhaps understood it more than anyone. Estee Lauder, Timex, Time Incorporated—all profit by time but none have conquered it. We are all in the ring with it whether we know it or not. Others may suffer the black eyes or sound the buzzer, but we are all really fighting the same fight. The smoothest face still wrinkles and the most beautiful voice cracks with age or disappears. Buzzers finally go silent and the arms holding up the signs go saggy. Ring around the rosie. Ring around the rosie. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

 

This is a rewite of an essay originally written three years ago. The prompt today was finally.

Thanksgiving Reflections: Waiting to Be Fed

IMG_5805Waiting to be fed.

When I was a kid at summer camp, we used to sing a song in the mess hall as we sat waiting for our food to be served.  It went, “Here we sit like birds in the wilderness, birds in the wilderness, birds in the wilderness. Here we sit like birds in the wilderness, waiting to be fed.”  It never failed to amuse us.  For seven years as a camper and two as a counselor, I joined in the refrain and sure enough, the food always eventually came through.

Now, at 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, 2017, the strains of that line of music keep weaving their way through my thoughts.  By some strange series of misunderstood communications, I actually have two dates for a turkey meal—both at the same restaurant, but with different groups of friends and at different times––one at 3, the other at 6:30.  I could relate the weird facts of how this came to be, but suffice it to say it wasn’t my fault and that yes, I’ve cancelled one of them.  Sort of. At any rate, I’m saving myself for that meal and although I went grocery shopping this morning, mainly for the cats and dogs, I had unusual restraint in not buying any junk food, no matter how healthy it presented itself to be.  The naughtiest items I purchased were whole wheat bread, low fat thin rice cakes and apples. I splurged on Fancy Feast for Annie, who has been staging a hunger strike since I got home, and got 60 packets of kitten food which should last the other cats a few days and I will probably feed them the Fancy Feast as well, after Annie turns her nose up at it.  I, for one, am fasting until tonight’s meal, doing penance before the act.  Tomorrow I start my new diet.

IMG_2825Also waiting to be fed.

In case you missed it, HERE is my Thanksgiving post from a few days ago of images of Thanksgivings present and past.

 

 

A Roadtrip Through Five States (Cee’s Share Your World Prompt)

Click on any photo to enlarge all:

Today I’ve been a lazy passenger as Forgottenman has driven us from Alabama through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri. In one 45-minute period, we crossed 4 rivers: the Cumberland, the Tennessee, the Ohio and the Mississippi and saw two huge dams––the Kentucky and Barclay—both TVA projects I had studied about in the sixth grade. We have gone from 77 degrees in Huntsville to 53 degrees and rain. We’ve seen 13 dead deer along the interstate and over a dozen stalled cars as well as countless huge tire strips from semis—more than I’ve ever seen in a day of travel before, although Forgottenman thinks that is about par for the course.

The trees of every size, shape and variety as well as every hue of green, gold, yellow, red and brown have been spellbinding in their beauty. I don’t know that I’ve ever taken a ride through an autumn landscape this varied and extensive. Would that skies had been sunny and clear, but nonetheless, it has been a wonderful ride. In a little over an hour, we’ll be home and I can share photos of my day. Until then, I’m gritting my teeth on this rain-slickened two-lane road with no shoulders and fairly heavy traffic. Forgottenman is a good driver and “Mother,” our GPS, has not led us astray so far, although I must admit she has in the past.

Now that it is nearly dark, the traffic has thinned and the puddles on the road deepened. I can hear the water splashing against the undercarriage, as though we are driving through a car wash. Bug splashes on the front window that I’ve been trying to shoot photos around all day have been abolished by heavy rain and windshield wipers, but too late, too late. A stiff neck slowly Improved over the past two days again starts to seize up in the tension over oncoming car lights, unceasing rain and deepening puddles.

I’m glad I’m not driving and glad a good driver is, although I am wishing he was not using the cruise control. We’ve had this discussion before with me maintaining that it should not be used in rainy weather, he insisting this is an old wives tale. Since I am neither a wife nor old (in some eyes, namely mine) I reject once more his statement. But he is driving and so I surrender the argument in his favor, not because he is right but because he is driving.

Forgottenman is anxious to get home so he can look at a map to try to understand why Mother has directed us off Highway 62 onto this hilly, winding tiny two-lane road. More of a technophobe, I never go anywhere without a map along, but he is more trusting of the powers of technology to steer him aright, in spite of a number of experiences in which she hasn’t. In less than an hour, all mysteries will be revealed. In the meantime, I’m going to close my eyes and pretend I’m anywhere other than where I am.

Ha!! Finally home seven hours after we started out from Huntsville. We unloaded the car in a light drizzle, thankful for the fact that it isn’t the heavy rainfall of the past few hours. Cold wet grass made us grateful for a dry carpet and relatively warm house inside, as well as Wifi and electricity so I can post this message. We had a wonderful time with old friends but there is no place like home.

 

Cee’s questions for the week:

Would you rather take a 2 week vacation with an organized tour or take a cruise of your choice? I’d rather take an unorganized tour–going where I wished to.

Did you like swinging as a child? Do you still get excited when you see a swing? I lived across from the playground for my entire growing up years.  I loved swinging and hearing the sounds of the swings across the street when I was at home lying in bed or in the grass.

What is the most important thing that you ever learned ? (I bet it’s not something you learned in school) It is wise not to say everything you think and to think about everything you say.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. See above!! And, there will be more tomorrow.

 

For Cee’s Share Your World prompt.

 

When is Enough, Enough?

 

  When Is Enough Enough?

To want all or to want nothing are both dangerous. Those who want all are the conquerors and exploiters and power lords who have brought the world to the state it is in today. They will exploit the poor and the weak but get their feelings of the most power from exploiting those equal to them in power. The world is a game to these people and we are all pawns.

But to want nothing may lead to despair. True, in a few holy men, it has been the path to enlightenment; but for those living within the world and not to the side of it, to want nothing can lead to apathy and powerlessness.

I think the true enlightenment lies in wanting enough and then wanting enough for others as well. This doesn’t have to be done by charity. It can be done by the way we vote, the way we treat our neighbors, the way we invest our money and the way we conduct our own businesses. It can be done by the way we bargain for a trinket on the beach or handle wrong change.

Sylvia Plath was probably correct in her statement, “Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing.” When the richest woman in the world commits suicide or the richest men in the world exploit those living hand-to-mouth, one has to wonder what great lack they are trying to fill and whether in fact they have ever discovered the secret of what the world is really about.

 

This is a rewrite of an essay written three years ago. The prompt today was enlighten.