Category Archives: Progress?

Unwrapped Packages

daily life  color008

Unwrapped Packages

It is the difference between that present handed to you
by a person who says, “It’s only a tie,”
and a package under the tree
squeezed and prodded at—perhaps a corner loosened
or a hole poked in through supposed accidental handling,
pondered like a good detective show.

Who wants these mysteries revealed before their time?
What value in the present whose contents you already know for sure?
The magic of Christmas for some is that faith that the girl,
untouched by human lover, gave birth—and it is that sort of faith
that “saved” the world. If we knew the whole truth of that story
would all it prompted fall into the hole covered all these years by mystery?
The whole world seems to be standing more on what we don’t know
than on what we absolutely know empirically—what we can prove.

And so I look at the picture of my young mother
in her cotton housedress and saddle shoes
holding her baby in front of her in her stroller,
whole contraption, child and carrier,
a foot or two above the ground,
and there is mystery in the reveal.
I do not hear what transpired to cause this pose.
I do not know if my father caught her carrying me
from the porch to sidewalk and said,
“Here, Tootie, turn around,” and snapped the picture,
or whether my older sister planned the pose.
Or whether some movie star was snapped in a similar scene
and my mother and sister, like two conspiring fans,
planned the shot to steal the glamor formerly reserved
for “Photoplay” or “Look” or “Life.”

There would be no reel-to-reel
in any normal person’s life for years.
No movie camera to tell me exactly what my mother was like
or my sister or me before my memory took hold and even then,
my mind’s remembrance
more like reflections in a lake that color and change
depending on the clouds or rain,
distorting the light like moods.
My Aunt Peggy’s house,
always remembered as feeling like
the color chartreuse,
and I will never know why.
That smell of a friend’s house that became associated
with her memory more than any concrete proof of reel-to-reel
or spinning film of movie camera.

I do not know my mother’s voice at thirty.
I did not witness myself since birth
by either sound or sight.
There is a different mystery
to a past caught
in boxes of Kodacolor prints
curling and yellowing in a closet
than one documented like a science experiment
with every event taped and filmed.

Where does the mystery of you reside when you see yourself
so clearly, as others have seen you all along?
What does it leave for you to try to discover?
No tapes.
No film.
No Internet.
No Skype.
No YouTube.
No home movies.
All of our pasts were once wrapped up forever.
Only our fingers poking in the edges.
Only our voices asking,
“What was it like the day when I was born?”
What do you remember about the day when. . . .?

The Prompt: Can’t Stand Me—What do you find more unbearable: watching a video of yourself, or listening to a recording of your voice? Why?

Lost in Iowa

Lost in Iowa

We are lost in Iowa,
pulled off the highway onto a gravel road.
Not content to give himself totally over to the control of GPS,
he checked its suggested route last night and instead devised his own.
But now, lost, without a clue as to where we are,
we have pulled over
to contemplate our situation.

I open the door to catch a breeze.
The yellow blooms of sweet clover and purple alfalfa
line the little road.
Wild anise and tall marsh grass
complete a scene
of perfect rural quiet and suddenly,
I am no longer lost.
I am back on the running board of my dad’s beat-up red pickup,
waiting for him to finish mowing the lower field.
I’ve eaten one chokecherry
from a nearby bush
and my mouth is puckered
by it’s astringent sting.
I go back sixty years
as I drink icy spring water
from my dad’s metal water can
wrapped in wet canvas
to keep it cool,
then jump back fifty years more
to my dad’s youth,
to try to imagine how he felt
with the prairie stretching hundreds of miles
in every direction.
My dad, his parents and two sisters in a two-room house.
There was privacy in the barn,
a dog for company.

Their closest neighbor
an ancient Hunkpapa Sioux named Charley
in his dugout house
half a mile up the draw,
town an hour’s ride away or more by horse or wagon.
With no diversion of cell tower or satellite dish—
there was only his family,
the land and his imagination.

My dad killing the coyote,
then finding her pups and bringing them home.
What would his dilemma have been?
Did he raise them,
then turn in their pelts for bounty?
Did he release them,
and then never know when he killed a coyote
if it was merely a pest or a former pet as well?

What did he think when he lay in a patch of clover?
Did he smell the wild anise and imagine
the sweet stickiness of licorice?
Did he pick the wild asparagus
for his ma to poach?
Did he have the idle moments
with which my childhood was filled?

What child now lies in the grass,
looking for something for his mind to rest against?
What other traveler,
lost on a gravel road in the scorching sun,
opens her door to a breeze
that flows like water down an empty creek channel,
looks up from the GPS screen
that promises to restore them
to civilization’s knowing?
Will she, as I have, relieve her lost present
by losing herself in the past?

That girl who sat on her dad’s running board
who would journey so far to unimagined places,
still travels the mind back to pleasures
of a world it was possible to be lost in,
sweet clover and wild anise
giving a taste of precious emptiness.

In this age of machines that can guide us
so surely into a  future,
where we are often so found
that we are lost in it—
savor those mistakes
that bring us back
to flounder in ourselves.

We, too, know the way.

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Dad with sleepy coyote pups on South Dakota farm, 1924

The Prompt: Wrong Turns—When was the last time you got lost? Was it an enjoyable experience, or a stressful one? Tell us all about it.

I am cheating and publishing here a poem I wrote on a trip two years ago.

Dreaming A Path

Dreaming A Path

Dream, Fri. Oct 18, 2013

We were at a booth in a café. It was a huge room with booths on every side and each booth had a clock, or at least I thought they did. I don’t think I ever looked. Our alarm started going off and there was no way to turn it off. It was by me and I tried and tried but couldn’t get it off. I said I was just going to unplug it, but Patti said perhaps it was timed with all the other clocks at tables and then it wouldn’t match. I said couldn’t they just reset it when we left? Someone agreed, but still we didn’t unplug it and it went on and on and on. Very annoying. Our booth came equipped with a little dog. It was tiny and light with long very curly white hair that was in loose corkscrew very long ringlets. It was so adorable and affectionate. I held it most of the time. It had legs like wires that went straight down..very skinny…and it jumped a lot. When the waitress came, we told her about the alarm and she said yes, she’d noticed that it was going off…but she didn’t do anything about it. We told her how cute the little dog was and she said yes…but then it seemed like it was the little dog who had the alarm that was going off. We ordered and afterwards I was wanting a dessert but thought I shouldn’t order one. Patti was to my right and I suddenly realized she was eating a very rich chocolate dessert—a sort of fudge flan or very moist slippery cake that was hot with a hot fudge sauce over it. She offered me a taste. It was a very small rectangle…not very big…but I tasted it and immediately said I’d have one, too. It was incredible. Still, the alarm went off. It was driving me crazy! Then I woke up and realized it was my own bedside alarm. I reached up with my eyes still closed and tried to turn it off, but couldn’t find the control. Finally I picked it up, opened my eyes and found the control. It was 8:10. The alarm had been going off for 10 minutes!!!!

My interpretation:

I found this dream in a folder on my computer. I have no memory at all of having dreamed it, and perhaps that distance makes it easier for me to interpret it. In a few weeks, I turn 67. For the past year, I’ve thought repeatedly about death and the fact that if I’m lucky, I probably have only 30 years left. For some reason, that awareness is very stressful. I feel a need to finish everything I’ve started and never completed. Earlier, that consisted of a lot of sorting, construction of storage spaces and weeding out of the contents of my house. That effort is ongoing. What also happened, however, is that I have an incredible drive to get everything published that has been lying around in file cabinets for many many years as well as a need to write new work and somehow disseminate it. My blog is part of that effort, as are my efforts to get all my books on Amazon and Kindle.

Seeing this dream as if for the first time, I clearly see that theme of time running out coupled by a sense of alarm that I need to do something about it. The little dog shows the attractive quality (adorable and affectionate) of finally dealing with all these loose ends—(note all his corkscrew hairs). Those wiry little legs that kept him always active certainly reflect the urgency I’ve been feeling to write write write.

One aspect of this awareness in my real life for a time consisted of my fear that I will stop breathing. This often gets me up gasping at night to run outside to try to breathe. For some reason I haven’t had any of these panic attacks since I started writing every morning. What I interpreted as a growing fear of death and a dread of ceasing to exist was perhaps a fear of not living and creating while I am alive.

I think the interplay between my sister Patti and me in the dream reflects a number of things. One is a difference in our approaches to life. I think in a way, she is more of a rule-follower and since she was my immediate pattern for most of my earlier life, I think a part of me feels this same need, but this is coupled with an equal and stronger need to create my own path in a direction unique from my two older and very competent sisters and to break a few rules to do so. At a very early age, much as I admired and imitated my sisters, I felt the need to prove myself. To find something to know that they didn’t already know. I found this route when I started venturing out at an early age to find new ground where they had not gone before me. It led me first into the homes of friends and strangers where I saw life being acted out in a manner entirely different from my own home. The road led further—to summer camp where I was a stranger to all and vice versa. I loved being the stranger. In choosing a college, I fell back on the reliability and comfort of attending the same school my sister had attended, but in my Jr. year I took my first big leap—a trip around the world on World Campus Afloat. That early adventure in seeing dozens of new and strange cultures set my life path. I’ve been traveling ever since and have been living in Mexico for the past 13 years.

I believe this dream depicts the sense of urgency I’ve had my entire life to “do” something with experience. My art and writing allow me to turn off the alarm for the hours in which I practice them. That small dessert might symbolize the rewards of doing what I need to do to do so.

P.S. An interesting insight I have had just as I started to post this: (And, interestingly enough, wordpress will not accept my blog entry. Perhaps it is insisting I add this P.S. before it does so.) I just got back to Mexico from a visit to the states wherein I visited my oldest sister Betty who is now in the depths of the world of Alzheimer’s. While I was there, she seemed increasingly distressed by the fact that she can no longer communicate, but one day as we were sitting in the living room portion of her small apartment in a managed care Alzheimer’s wing, she motioned to the middle of the floor and said, “Look a that cute little white thing there—that fluffy little white dog!” This was the first incidence that I know of of her actually hallucinating visually, and for some reason it popped into my mind in relation to the little dog in my dream. All of these images—of our dreams as well as our daily life—remind us to live while we can and to do what is most important to us. In my case as well as my sister’s—to communicate. Too late for her, although she continues to try. Not too late for me.

P.S.S.  By the way, the instant I completed the above P.S., the wordpress page that had continued to not allow me to post this blog entry flashed the message:  What do you want to post?  Text? Picture?  I chose text and and you have just read it.

The prompt: Freudian Flips. Do you remember a recent dream you had? Or an older one that stayed vivid in your mind? Today, you’re your own Freud: Tell us the dream, then interpret it for us! Feel free to be as serious or humorous as you see fit, or to invent a dream if you can’t remember a real one.

Note in response to this prompt: (When I think of dreams, I think of Jung, not Freud, and he continues to influence my thoughts and actions much more than Freud ever did.)


NaPoWriMo Day 27: Lemonade




The Crystal Lite, like a marriage of Kool-Aid and crystal meth,
catches the light and glows from inside its plastic gallon container,
becoming its own advertisement for this lemonade stand,
its pre-teen proprietor standing in the scant shade
of a stop light pole
behind his fruit crate counter
with its stacks of styrofoam cups.

He has chosen his clientele—
perhaps thirsty from a long wait
in the doctor’s waiting room in the clinic
or the hospital across the street.
To his back, a retirement community with no house
more than 3 blocks from the hospital—
its inhabitants like products on a shelf waiting to be picked.

When they pass the stand,
memories of generations of such stands
perhaps flood their minds,
and thirsty or not, they stop for a cup.

I am the woman with her foot in a cast,
sitting in the passenger seat
of the car pulled over to the curb.
The woman reaching through the window of the car
is my sister, holding out the white cups
with the too-sweet yellow shining through
as though radioactive.

She was my long ago pattern for everything,
including Kool-Aid stands with 5 cent
paper bags of popcorn and ice cube slivers
floating in the Tupperware pitcher of cherry Kool-Aid,
a plate on the top to repel flies
lazy in the July heat, orbiting our sweaty heads
like precognitive sputniks
buzzing in the minds of rocket scientists.

We had not a clue.


The prompt today was to write a poem based on a picture.