Category Archives: Memorials

Passing Time

IMG_1162Detra de las Puertas Cerradas (Behind Closed Doors) One’s own living room can become entirely too comfortable. Shutting the drawers to the past may open the doors to the future. (retablo by Judy Dykstra-Brown)

Passing Time

The means of our escape from life are numerous and various,
and there is nothing wrong with getting thrills that are vicarious.
Movies, sports and novels are fine for entertainment;
but if you’re only viewing, there is no sense of attainment.

Looking back on your own life, like opening a book,
isn’t really living life, but just having a look
at the life of someone who you no longer are.
You aren’t really living life by viewing from afar.

Escape is necessary and our choices for it vast,
but there’s no satisfaction in living in the past.
Life is to be spent, not to be hoarded and rethought.
Better just to live the rest of the time that you’ve got!

Fond memories are something that I’m sure none of us lack,
but there’s no time of life to which I’m yearning to go back.
The only thing to do with time’s to live it and to love it.
I have no wish to turn back time, I only want more of it!

The Prompt: If you could return to the past to relive a part of your life, either to experience the wonderful bits again, or to do something over, which part of you life would you return to? Why?
https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/if-i-could-turn-back-time/

What Vestige Left?

                                                              What Vestige Left?

I think what any of my ancestors would find most surprising if they were to come back is that there is so little of them left.  My paternal grandma would look for her quilts, her embroidery and her China cabinet full of glass and porcelain and would find none of them in my house.  I spent too many years traveling, so my older sister Betty Jo and my cousin Betty Jane wound up with all of grandma’s things. The one good quilt is over Betty Jo’s bed in the managed care facility where she now lives, but she knows nothing of it or of us or of her own children, being the prisoner of Alzheimer’s that she is.

My cousin Betty Jane passed on years ago, so the China cabinet full of Grandma’s dishes is in Idaho in the house of  her second husband. What Grandma would find of herself in my house is:
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one blue bowl filled with jade plant cuttings by my kitchen sink,

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an old pottery canning jar above my kitchen cabinets––

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and remnants of her tatting, a small square cut from a pillowslip she embroidered and part of a quilt square that I used in a retablo entitled “Our Lady of Notions.” (The view above is looking down on the top of the retablo–details not shown because of the shooting angle in the view of the entire retablo below.)

judy 2Amazing that so little remains of her in my house when she had a house stuffed full of things.  Now that I am the one with the house stuffed full, I wonder what of me will remain after fifty years.  Perhaps just this blog or my books or my artwork.  Maybe that is why I am so compulsive about writing and doing art–that need to be remembered.

The Prompt: Modern Families––If one of your late ancestors were to come back from the dead and join you for dinner, what things about your family would this person find the most shocking?
https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/modern-families/

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.

New World Miracle

The Prompt: An Extreme Tale—“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” — Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. When was the last time that sentence accurately described your life?

Note:  For the ninth day in a row, I (along with several other bloggers) have not been able to pingback to the Daily Prompts page.  If you are able to, can you mention this poem in your blog and pingback to me?  WordPress doesn’t seem to be doing anything about this problem, although we’ve written numerous times!  Thanks.

I’ve told the second part of this story in an earlier post.  Now, here is the beginning and the ending.  One day I’ll tell the in-between.


New World Miracle
(Ethiopia, 1973-74)

Black Tiger in safari jacket
you told me
hyenas in the hills
would attack the mule if I tried
to ride alone
from the lowland landing field
to Lalibela.

By
sunset
we had reached
the high plateaus
sheep crying
miles away
shepherds calling
mile on mile.

In this high air
heard from mountaintop
to mountaintop
from valley
lifting to plateaus above
you with Afro out to here
admitted the hyenas were a lie
took my picture
tucked my camera in your pocket
pulled me up
to you
and
there was no
resistance
in
this
air.

I was
enamored
of the falling sun
the cries of shepherds
your hair
your jacket
your clean mouth
white teeth
black beautiful
tall rest of you.
I had always needed
to feel like this.
Giddy.
Your kiss pulled me in then
ricocheted
to valleys
under valleys
under valleys.
Always something
under
something else.

We were at the edges
of the world.
We were at its
cracking rims.

And I can believe
in you
standing
on the rifted rock
above the canyons
still
I can’t imagine
you
in the valley
deeper in the valley
than the valley floor.

I can’t imagine you
dusted hair
eyes closed by clods
growing trees from your navel
pomegranates from your fingernails.

When you touched me
I grew
then I grew too far.

But nothing
since
has touched your warm
your brown
your hands
your mouth
where you touched
nothing since
has quite
touched.

In your country
where names
are only words
strung together
your name
Andu Alem Tamirat
meaning new world’s miracle.

You could have come with me
to grow invisible in California.
Instead you
died a hero
of the revolution
seeding
memories.

Remember
how you used to climb
out of my dining room window
to the back yard compound
to pick orange waxy blossoms
from the pomegranate tree—
how you used to
tuck them
in my hair?

(I’ve tried many times to format this as it should be, but it always changes it back to left justified when I update, so I will center it and make it the way neither of us intends it to be!

Wooden Heart

Wooden Heart

He handed it to me without ceremony—a small leather bag, awl-punched and stitched together by hand. Its flap was held together by a clasp made from a two fishing line sinkers and a piece of woven wax linen. I unwound the wax linen and found inside a tiny wooden heart with his initials on one side, mine on the other. A small hole in the heart had a braided cord of wax linen strung through that was attached to the bag so that the heart could not be lost. He had woven more waxed linen into a neck cord. I was 39 years old when he gave me that incredible thing I never thought I would receive: his heart—as much of it as he could give. Continue reading

Dia de Los Muertos, 2014

Dia de los Muertos, 2014

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This is this year’s minimalist altar for my departed: husband Bob, Mother Pat and Father Ben. I wasn’t going to do one. Then Yolanda (my housekeeper) told me about a friend who didn’t  make a Dia de los Muertos altar for her mother who had recently died. This friend then went to see the elaborate offerings of her brothers and sisters, so she brought a rather poor specimen of a pumpkin and told them they could put that on her mother’s grave. That night she had a dream of walking through the graveyard. Every other grave was elaborately decorated with flowers and sweetly-scented candles and favorite foods of the departed: water, whiskey, tequila. When she got to her mother’s grave, there was no light and there were no offerings—only the one poor pumpkin. As she walked by, people shook their heads, and she left in shame. When she woke up, she went to her mother’s grave and took her fresh water, a candle, sweets, and all of the things her mother loved.

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It worked.  I assembled an altar. Yolanda looked at it and told another story about how the water and candle help to create a breeze that brings the scent of the favorite foods to the departed. I quickly added a candle and a small glass of water with an ice cube—as Bob did hate a lukewarm Coke! When the ice cube melted, I added a small red heart to take its place. If you look closely, you can see it in the bottom of the glass.

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It was my mother’s tradition to tuck a small box of Russell Stover candy into each of our Xmas stockings. One Xmas, we opened them to find only wrappers in each one. Over the course of the weeks before Xmas, our mother had opened each one, unable to resist eating the chocolates. So precedent decreed that I eat hers. You’ll see the empty papers littering the space around the box. (Yolanda, ever-respectful of tradition, helped by eating one piece.)

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Although my father raised black Angus and Hereford cattle, this is Mexico, after all, so I think he’d forgive the long horns. A donut and a 10 peso piece complete his offerings. Last year I put a small glass of milk with cornbread crushed in it—his favorite cocktail. But this year the ants have taken over our part of Mexico, so I didn’t dare.