Category Archives: Judy Dykstra-Brown essay

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. 

 

 

True Grit

                       Getty images photo


True Grit

I’d like my blog to be Grit magazine, Ann Landers and the funny papers—all rolled in to one. I’d like it to be the first love comic grabbed off the shelf, the thing everyone wants to read, hot off the presses. I want it to be true, uplifting and fun to read. Entertaining. A collection of words that make people feel better after reading. I want it to be the thing you go to after reading of the last cuts to social services for the poor, the latest fool elected to public office, the last school massacre or child who mistakenly shot an adult with a gun provided to him by an adult. The thing you read when you’ve had enough of police brutality, plane wrecks, financial crashes, reverse Robin Hoods, pit bulls attacking humans, humans abusing dogs, cartels, corporations, slanted news agencies, corrupt rulers, crimes against women, drought, Ebola, HIV and dengue.

Yes, all of these ills exist and we need to know about them, but do we need to know about them ad nauseam, day and night, hour after hour? Do we need them served with our morning coffee, our evening meal, our drive to work? Need we dream them, fill our thoughts with them every hour of the day? And need those thoughts be hopeless and without remedy?

It is not that I want to avoid reality, but rather that I’d like to give that reality my twist and I’d like one major strand in that twist to be optimistic, another to be humorous, another to gentle the cruel realities, another, if it is of any influence at all, to be a catalyst to understanding and a feeling that something may be done in this world.

If you don’t remember the Grit magazine mentioned earlier in this piece, Google it. You will learn that it was formerly a weekly newspaper popular in the rural US during much of the 20thcentury. It carried the subtitle “America’s Greatest Family Newspaper.” It was full of human interest stories, usually with an uplifting slant. I can’t remember whether it came in the mail or whether we purchased it in the grocery story or in Mowell’s Drug, but I do remember grabbing it out of Mom’s brown paper bag when she got home from a trip down town and making off with it to my room or a grassy place in the shade of an elm tree to be the first to read it.

Perhaps you will label me as superficial if I admit that the first things I read in The Mitchell Republic—that “real” newspaper actually delivered to our front door—were Ann Landers, the comics (We called them “the funny papers”) and the crossword puzzle. I guess I wanted to be entertained, but I also wanted that assurance that something could be done about the bad things in life. Dick Tracy could solve the crimes. Mary Worth could be of worth in helping out. Ann Landers could find a solution to the ache of love and every puzzle could be eventually solved with hard work and perhaps a peek at the dictionary.

Now Google makes puzzle-solving a snap, so long as one is not shy about cheating and using that larger universal brain to solve the Sunday Cryptic Crossword, but in revealing so much, Google causes bigger problems—mainly, what to do with all of this knowledge of the world. For me, what I do with it is to write about it and within the world of my creation, to try to alter it enough to put a bit of hope into the world—to tinge it with a sense of humor or a sense of creation or a stab at a solution—however fanciful or impossible or romantic or homespun or illogical it may be.

This blog is like the biggest purse in my collection of very big purses indeed. In it lie jumbled together all my memories, dreams, hopes, heartaches, genius, stupidities, foibles, schemes, assurances, doubts, mistakes, successes, affections and affectations. The clasp I leave open for all to dip inside to see what they might find. One day, draw out a ditty, the next a tirade, the next a soggy handkerchief, soaked with my tears or an unused Kleenex to dry your own tears that were soaking your pillow when you woke up.

I want to be that thing you sneak off with before the rest of the family cottons on to its presence and take up to your bedroom to read with your back pressed up against the bolster on your bed or roll up and stick up your sleeve as you make off to the hammock or that shade in the grass beneath the tree.

And when you finish reading, it would be neither the hugest compliment nor the hugest insult you could give if you just thought, “That girl’s got grit!” I think a knowledge that she had prompted that statement would make the little girl or teenage girl who snatched that weekly magazine from the grocery sack very happy.

The prompt today is grit. Since I’d already written to this prompt a few years ago, I’m reprinting it today.

Cast in Potato Salad, Carved in Stone

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Cast in Potato Salad, Carved in Stone

The last thing I ever thought I would do would be to pose for a nude sculpture, but when I married a sculptor, I guess it was inevitable.  Since I never had children, this probably marked the longest period in my life that I ever lay nude being observed by a second party.  I remembered having no reservations about doing so, in spite of the fact that I am really rather modest–that is about revealing myself physically. Words are another matter all together.

My husband first sculpted me in plasticine clay. (No, not the ubiquitous Sculpey, but a very dense artist’s clay used to make the originals for bronze sculpting.) He then made a plaster mold followed by a rubber reverse mold that would enable him to make further plaster molds once he destroyed the plasticine original so he could reuse the plasticine.  After mastering the intricacies of wood carving, bronze casting, welding, clay, sandblasting, paper making and stone carving, he was in a difficult spot.  A tool junkie, he had already purchased or made every tool necessary for working in these media. How could he justify buying any more tools or building another studio addition to add to the seven studios he had already set up?

The answer came when our artist friend Diana moved to town.  Her medium was cast glass and Bob soon became fascinated with the process.  Of course, this necessitated the purchase of dozens of large jars of different colored glass casting pellets as well as books, chemicals and other supplies necessary for the process. Unfortunately, we already owned a large kiln, so he couldn’t justify buying a new pristine kiln to be used only for the melting of glass.  True, some molecules of clay might permeate the glass castings, but he decided at least for his first project, to use our existing kiln.

I can’t remember what his first few castings were, but after a few experiments, he decided that his first large glass project would be–ta da–a glass casting of his recumbent nude wife!

The thing was, this necessitated ordering a good deal more glass, and in the meantime, he had this wonderful rubber mold just sitting there unused!  He tried to busy himself with carving stone and wood, but meanwhile that mold beckoned!  Enter fate in the guise of the next show at the Santa Cruz Mountains Art Center, where we were both members.  And the next show was–Edible Art!  In addition to food-centered art themes, there was to be a cookbook of artist’s favorite recipes and the piece de resistance was–an edible category, to be consumed at the reception!!!  Thus it was that I came to be cast in potato salad–first molded in “the” well-washed and disinfected rubber mold  and then fine-sculpted by Bob’s hands.

I must admit I felt some trepidation about first being viewed nude, then being consumed by my fellow artists and friends.  This smacked of the Donner party or some sort of sixties orgy, but how we suffer for our art.  I requested Bob not reveal who his model was and all went well.  Later, the judge told us that he would have won first place for edible art if I had not forgotten and used some of the water I used to boil the eggs to add moisture to the potato salad. I had forgotten that I always put a half cup of salt in the water to seal the eggs in case they cracked during the boiling process and that addition made the potato salad totally inedible.  The judges could do nothing but award his sculpture fourth place prize in place of first, right ahead of a jellybean mosaic in the Byzantine style, but behind my third place for my “Garden of Earthly delights!”

Yes, the glass grains did arrive and yes he cast the sculpture, but what happened during the further fiasco of my chain of nude effigies must be left to another time and post lest this one grow too long for certain (unnamed) friends to read.    Suffice it to say that once cast in potato salad, twice in glass, it seems only appropriate that my grave be marked by my magnificent if inedible body rendered into stone!!!  It will be the sensation of my little town, I can promise you.
daily life color084 (4) Version 2(photos and copy above taken from the Valley Press)

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Immortalized in Stone.”Your personal sculptor is carving a person, thing or event from the last year of your life. What’s the statue of and what makes it so significant?

ANTHEM

Earlier today, I wrote an answer to Mark Aldrich who had sent me a video of Leonard Cohen singing “Democracy” as an answer to my yesterday’s essay entitled “The Three Stooges and Campaign Reform.” In today’s earlier post, I admitted I had more to say but had run out of time to say it, but that I’d be back.  Well, here I am.  I’m baa-ack!  Since Mark answered me with a song, I would like to reciprocate with lyrics by Leonard Cohen that I think offer a bit more hope that the lyrics of “Democracy.”

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“Anthem”

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government —
signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
a thundercloud
and they’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring …

You can add up the parts
but you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.

                                                                                         –Leonard Cohen

Cohen is admitting that nothing is perfect and never has been.  If it weren’t for the evil in the world, good would not exist; for the very existence of the world depends on the movement between yin and yang, anima and animus, light and dark, positive and negative, good and evil.  But there is a crack in everything.  Both the good and the evil are vulnerable to permeation by the other.  The very liberty bell is, in fact, cracked.

I think he is saying to take heart.  The I Ching states that the universe is a pendulum and that whenever one force gets to its summit, the laws of nature dictate that it begins to change into its opposite, swinging farther and farther over to its antithesis. The “widowhood” of a government marks the end of its power.  Is Cohen saying that it is necessary for a corrupt government to fall in order to restore the good of the people?  Perhaps. But all he commits to is the effect it has had on him, personally.

I can’t run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
a thundercloud
and they’re going to hear from me.

It certainly sounds like Cohen is talking about the hypocrisy of those who profess to be religious yet serve their own interest instead of the good of the people.  This thundercloud that is happening–is it merely his personal little cloud?  He says they are going to hear from him, and in this song, they certainly have.  But is he talking about a larger cloud?  One that will cause people to vote in the interest of the masses for once instead of the good of the vocal few who have convinced them that to vote to further the causes of the powerful and wealthy is in the best interest of ordinary citizens?

If liberty is cracked to the point where it is no longer functional, he calls upon people to still “Ring the bells that still can ring.”  In short, to do what we can.  No, our government is not perfect because nothing is perfect.  It is just not the way the world is set up.  We can take what power we do have, however, and vote.  This is a power that hasn’t been taken away from us.  If only, if only, the great majority of citizens would allow themselves to be enlightened–to let the light in–perhaps the change back towards democracy could start to happen.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/the-fun-platform/


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We Fill in the Blanks

I write notes three times weekly in my limping Spanish for Yolanda, not because I won’t see her, but because I probably won’t remember by then what  I need to tell her. She has asked me to order more vacuum cleaner bags from the states. I use the words I know, and tonight the word for vacuum has escaped my memory. So I leave this note on the kitchen island, taped to a filter I’ve found in the laundry room:

“Is this the bag for the machine for clean the floor?”
Es este la bolsa para la machina para limpiar el piso?

Then, taped to the stove top:

I’m sorry, Yolanda, but a potato broke in my oven  and it is very bad! I worked for one hour and a  half but it is still bad now.”
Lo siento, Yolanda, pero una papa romper in me estufa y es mui malo!  Trabajo por una hora media pero es malo ahora.

A potato broke in my oven?  I don’t know the word for exploded, but I think it must put a bit of levity into her morning to try to interpret what I have said.

Later, she will go home and report today’s pleasure.  “The senora?  Today she broke a potato in the oven. She tried to clean it for awhile, then went to write another poem.”

There will be no rancor in her statement, for the humor of the unlearned words that still stand between our total comprehension of each other will be gentled by the total understanding that compensates for those lost words.
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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Handwritten.” When was the last time you wrote something by hand? What was it?

Fantastic Finish: JNW’s New Prompt Generator and Latitude Schmatitude

                                                         Fantastic FinishDSC08827                                          My Art Studio, nee Novelty Owing Ongoing

Last night I wrote my first prompt making use of Jennifer Nichole Wells’ new Prompt Generator. What the site does is issue you a two-word phrase consisting of an adjective and a noun. This then becomes the subject of your post. (Mine for today was Fantastic Finish). If you don’t like the prompt, just hit the button again as many times as you wish before you come to one that jiggles your creative button.

She has launched her site at a good time—when those of us who are relatively longtime daily bloggers are being met with repeat after repeat on the WordPress prompt site. At first I just tried to alter the prompt a bit or to take a different slant. Then I started making a pingback to the earlier post or posts and choosing a completely different prompt, but the problem is that I’ve done most of their alternate prompts as well.

I’ve been told that WordPress establishes the prompts mainly for beginning bloggers as a way to motivate them, but this is a bit like turning your back on long-established and proven customers in hopes of winning the tourist trade. Good for a season perhaps, but how many go away is evidenced by the number of times I click on a site that is on the WordPress post page and find the blog has been closed or is nonexistent. Either the blogger is not clear about how to pingback or they have already closed down and fled!

Another thing I have noticed is a big increase in the number of people who just say they don’t want to answer the prompt, who spend their entire blog making excuses for not writing to the prompt or who merely publish one or two line pat answers. It is becoming hard to find a blog I really want to read except in my Readers section. This is a shame, because I am always on the lookout for new really excellent blogs to read that are within my realm of interest; and I miss not being able to cull them out of the WordPress site. Well, new thinking called for. I think my fresh modus operandi will be to investigate the blogs that people I am following are following.

As I hit Jennifer’s prompt button time after time—out of curiosity rather than dissatisfaction with the prompts, I was struck by the similarity of the word combinations to the new system based on words that has been proposed to replace the old numbers-based latitude and longitude. The system divides the surface of the planet into 57 trillion three-by-three meter squares and assigns a unique sequence of three random words to label that area. The purpose in changing the system, as stated by Smithsonian Magazine, is to “replace the impossible-to-remember strings of numbers that comprise our geographical coordinate system—“ with an easier-to-remember string of three words.

For the superstitious, it might be a matter of finding the exact correct nine square meters of their property or house that best describes them. My own art studio has been assigned the title “novelty owing ongoing.” Seems appropriate, somehow. My house, on the other hand, is “straddles blocking easel.” Is this a way of pointing out that all too often home repairs and maintenance gobble up precious time better spent on art? Sounds appropriate in Mexico!

For those of you talented in assigning names (I am not) I want to be clear that it is not a matter of naming your own little corner of the world. All of the word assignments have already been made. If you are curious about what three-word-labels have been assigned to your house and property, you can go HERE to find out. Choose your favorite group of three from the list (remember that since the labels are given for 9 square meter areas, that you will have more than one set for your house) and perhaps you’d like to post the three words you’ve chosen in the comments page on my blog along with a pingback to your post telling why those three words do or do not describe you. You might want to use a number of your assigned trios as prompts on different days! It would be fun.

To read more, go here: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/plan-replace-geographic-coordinates-earth-unique-strings-three-words-180949946/#eZWdfVSPWLqrE3df.99

And as for the title of my today’s blog, “Fantastic Finish?” As person after person says they are giving up the WordPress prompts, perhaps as you run over the finish line, you can consider it as the starting line for a new prompt system—either Jennifer’s new prompt generator or your own personal three-word-prompts as assigned by those who have labeled your world for you. Whatever you choose, I hope you’ll keep on blogging. We’ve become accustomed to your space!!!!

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/break-the-silence/