Telling the Truth

Portland Mayor Sam Adams has told the truth. How refreshing. Now, if only all the CEO’s, managers, principals, superintendents, superior officers, judges, law partners, owners of businesses who have also had sex with one of their adult employees told the truth, the world would be truly refreshed or at the very least, shift on its axis.
I want those who hold or have held the power of a job over another and who have abused that power by demanding sexual favors to admit what they have done. Their apologies should be printed in the Oregonian in an issue dedicated to just that purpose. More than one apology issue may be needed, I realize.
If we hold Mayor Sam Adams to a standard of decency that is appropriate in the workplace, then we must hold all those in positions of power in the workplace, public figures or not, to the same standard. Urge those you know to have committed the same misdeed as Sam Adams to confess the truth of their actions. I weary of stones thrown by tainted hands. I am ready for a refreshing shift.



Skeeter and I often stood
on the colossal floor heat register
outside Grandma Eva’s bedroom
directly across from the towering oak buffet.

Waiting for the rush,
we looked up at the sculpture
of the brown-skinned brunette in a blue underskirt holding a corner of her red jumper to her mouth.
Placed on the buffet corner doily, her bare feet straddled a rock.
She gazed at an ocean that wasn’t there,
her golden pocket bulging,
maybe with agates and sand dollars.
I know she wanted to join us
but we didn’t speak the same language.
We wanted to see the ocean too, but instead, we flew.

When the fan blew,
our dresses bloomed open
like little parachutes,
our feet dangling jellyfishlike
straddling our own doily
of crisscrossed ferrum firma.

Karen’s World

Andrew Wyeth died this week. I mourn his passing and I mourn the loss of the teenage me who lay in my father’s pasture looking back at our home the way his young girl does.
I loved Wyeth’s open spaces that reminded me so much of the Grande Ronde Valley where I grew up. Rolling hills of grasses where a single oak tree sprouted. Brown, weathered houses on the top of a hill backed by blue mountains and a bluer sky. Sun reflected by everything but shadow.
Why does every mention of the painting “Christina’s World” speak of the disabled girl in the field looking at her house in the background? The model for this girl, Andrew’s wife, was fully able to stand and walk. True, the real girl who lived in the house he painted was disabled, but why assume the girl in the grass was as well, just because she was reclining there gazing upon her house?
From my own experience, I can tell you with great certainty that Christina was not disabled. That you thought she was is fine with her. Your mistake gave her more time to be by herself out there in nature, her quite able body in repose.
When I’d had enough of the familial innards of my home, those grinding gizzards of parent versus child, I’d hike down to the bottom of our farthest pasture and lie down. In the spring, I’d smell the plowed dirt and feel it all crusty from the sun before it crumbled in my hand. I’d watch clouds scatter across the sky. Summers, I’d sit by the little creek looking for frogs under grassy clumps and pick watercress leaf by leaf to savor the peppery goodness. I’d watch birds bring food for their babies in the nests overlooking the slough. Come Fall, I’d lie on my back to watch the leafless limbs of the Alders rubbing against one another in the wind and when I stuck my legs straight up I’d notice how muddy, brown, and big my shoes looked framed by sky. I’d see the rusted barbed wire coils, iron rake and harrow and think about Time. Thoreau said we need room for our biggest thoughts and lying out in my father’s field I had space. Out there my mind was not defined by limits, I was not someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, or someone’s student. I was a soul who belonged to everything I saw. I let myself go into it, molecule by molecule. Out there, everything was possible. My thoughts were so big I sometimes had to let them pass, to roam some more until I could build a mind with stronger fences.
I could hear my sisters playing and calling each other names, hear Trixie and Stubbie barking, hear the Banty chickens clucking, the sheep bleating, my mother yelling—I could hear all that while pretending to be deaf so I wouldn’t have to go back quite yet. Lying belly to belly with the earth I heard a different sound and just then I could be part of both worlds at once or neither at all.
And who says Christina’s looking at her house by the way? She could just as well be looking somewhere beyond her nose in the space where it points towards her house, out there where thoughts swarm and you have to write fast to catch them. What we can’t see from our vantage point looking at the painting is that she has a small notebook in front of her in which she is composing a poem to lock in her diary that she will open only to show her true love when he comes along.
We can only imagine what Christina’s poem said. Maybe it was about unrequited love written in a Victorian tone. Maybe it was a simple one that floated in on the wind, like the one I wrote to my field.
“I never would stay
Because of your thistles.
Now I have them
Mostly dug away
In your lap
Cloud and sky
Water rushing
Just beyond
My fingertips.”

I know what’s going on with Christina, and so do you, really. That’s why we all like Wyeth’s painting. It’s a landscape where we’ve all been, lying in the grass or the beach or on a park bench, lost in a tornado of our own thoughts, looking toward home—or not.

Loving My Poet

Left to my own devices at lunch time when I was in high school, I became a reader. Having already devoured anything in my literature text with meaning to me, I stalked the shelves for something more I might like. Mrs. Goss, my speech contest coach, suggested that poetry might be my performance milieu, and so I sought poems. The poet I found, read, and adored has stuck by me all these years hence. His words spoke volumes to me about the place I felt I dwelt and he dwelt.
In “Mother to Son” I learned perseverance and determination despite the denigration I felt daily being poor, lacking the clothing, opportunities, and social skills my classmates took for granted. I set out to excel in the three stained outfits and the rubber boots I sometimes had to wear because there was no more money for shoes.
In reading “A Dream Deferred,” I first had to look up the word “deferred” and from then on owned the term that explained how I felt looking in store windows. This is how I felt when my cousin Allen got my grandfather’s old car instead of me when we both turned 16 because he was a boy and that’s the way things are. This is how I felt when Ann spent her spring break lying in the Nevada sun and Lynn spent summer break swimming in the pool and reading books. I spent mine working on the farm doing both men’s work outside(no sons for my parents then) and women’s work inside. No summer camp, no movies, no sleepovers with friends. No friends, period.
Thanks to my poet, however, I held fast to my dreams. He had told me that if I didn’t, I would fester, stink, and explode. If I didn’t hold fast to my dreams, I would not fly. My life would be a barren field, frozen with snow.
So I held and held and am holding still.
When you dance to a poem, you never forget it. In my college modern dance class, I choreographed a dance to “Dreams.” Every word and movement is a part of me today. “Hold fast to dreams…” Realize that every closed fist does not signify violence but rather holding on for dear life to what feeds your soul.
Looking back after so many years, I’m amazed my poet was allowed on our library shelves full of old, white European writers. What rebel librarian chose to put him there?
In my rural Eastern Oregon town, his people and my people were kept separate by the railroad tracks. His people and my people were kept separate by accepted and (mostly, to my young ears) unspoken social expectations. So much I didn’t know when I took him off the shelf. I fell in love with his writing before I knew. I’ve never been so glad about my own ignorance since. Or so thrilled about what I learned and hold close to my heart even now.
“Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.”
–Langston Hughes.

Dismantling Christmas

I started taking violin lessons two weeks ago as there is a teacher here again. I sound like the beginner I am and I get really, really nervous over the whole thing which is ridiculous since I’m not being graded and will NEVER perform in front of an audience of anyone but my cats. My ulcer is acting up again and I can feel the acid start running the minute I pick up that instrument. I took some stomach acid reducers and they made me break out in an itchy rash all over my body. I am persevering anyhow between scratches because I want to be able to at least graduate beyond “Go Tell Aunt Rhodie” by March. Right now Aunt Rhodie is damn sick of me being such a tattletale and she can’t stand to hear what I’m saying anyway. Miss Emma runs and hides in the closet when I play and the other cats hide out in Neal’s room. I don’t think my playing is THAT bad. But I was wondering–are bows still strung with cat gut and could my cats possibly know?

All good things must come to an end and so we have been dismantling Christmas here at Happy House. We took down the tree three nights ago and put away ornaments and took down the other few decorations we had up. However, 2/3 of the tree is still lying on the floor because we can’t find the place where it should be pulled apart. Old eyes and dark house with not enough light. We have just left it lying there until we can see better, maybe later on today when we aren’t rushing off here and there during the daylight. Very attractive. The cats find it intriguing. Hopefully they won’t pee on it. I can just see it shorting out next year when we plug it in.

In all the tidying furor, I broke the flame off the candle of one of my wooden Santas. I thought I could leave it but when I looked really hard at it, painted white with simulated candle wax dripping down the sides, I decided, no, that way it looked too much like a used dildo, so I glued the candle flame back on with super glue. Writing that phrase just now was a lot easier than the real thing. First I glued a couple of fingers together, and then I got those unstuck and glued two other ones together, and then I glued my fingernail to my finger and somehow my palm to itself. How do I function in life anyway? Maybe this explains my violin playing. Then I tried to get the glue off my hand with nail polish remover because that’s supposed to work. Except if it’s me. Then the cotton ball stuck to the re-moistened glue that was on my palm so it appeared I was foaming at the hand. Of course, I had just minutes before I had to be, yes, at violin lessons. Remnants of glue remain on my fingers even this afternoon but I’m assuming that they will wash away with time. Or flake off into the broccoli I’m preparing for dinner.

Must go now. It’s time to put decorations away in the attic rafters which means crawling into a dark space meant for someone the size of, oh, a Welsh Corgi, which is not anywhere on the spectrum of size where I am located, as you well know. I did buy a stick up light and batteries to go in it, so I will attempt to attach that to the sloping ceiling before crawing in. Since I had lots of practice attaching things yesterday I should be able to accomplish this task and get on with it. If I’m not successful, my husband will be back at 4 and can take the little light off my back where it may have fallen and stuck.

Faith–January 1st

FAITH—January 1st
You place the fingers of your left hand on the guitar strings, hold down, and you know when you strike the strings over the hole with your right hand fingers, you will make the sound you want—if not at first, with practice, eventually.
You place the seeds in the soil you’ve prepared at just the right time and just the right depth and you know, given sun and water, a plant that gifts you with nourishment or beauty or both will arise.
You give your child love and guidance and you know, with enough patience and understanding, he or she will be someone to be proud of someday.
You receive a roomful of children who can’t read and who don’t know their numbers and by the end of a school year you know they will be able to read you a story and tell you how many eggs you’ll have if your chickens lay 2 eggs one day and 3 eggs the next. They may even cook you an omelet.
This knowing, this certitude in a world full of uncertainty, is faith. Even those people who are certain there is no faith are displaying a kind of faith, aren’t they?
When I was a teen-ager and unhappy, I looked out my window and imagined a white knight riding up to save me from my desperate life. As if, right? I had faith, though, and kept it going. No white knight ever came but something did come to save me from my desperate life eventually, and it was my self, the discovery that my ideas, intention, and action could change my life, that I didn’t need to rely on anyone else. All I needed was faith that my life would change. I set my goal and forged ahead.
I’ve done it this way many times in my life. How about you?
Five years ago my husband did not play the guitar or sing or paint. Then he decided to do those things because doing so would make him happy. He told himself he could do all those things and he began to learn how. He practiced every night, he took classes, he sang in the shower. Now he is a happy strumming, singing artist, thanks to faith.
You don’t need religion to have faith. Anyone can have faith. We all do. It’s what connects us all to one another and to all living things. It’s what joins us in unity and purpose and creativity. When you find your faith, you just know.
You know your intention will lead to action and from there to a result. You know you can make this world a better place, at least on the paths where you walk, for starters. You know your creativity will produce something wondrous. You know you are never alone.

Creativity–December 31st

CREATIVITY—December 31st

I never sweated the source of creativity until my World Lit 101 teacher told us the ancient Greeks thought that poets were spokespersons for the gods. They thought words from the gods came down a poet’s arm and into his or her stylus. Hearing that and the laughter from my fellow students, I tried to determine for myself where my inspiration originated. Was it from my brain entirely or was it divine? It was a great topic of conversation and civil argument in my circle of friends while drinking coffee or diet pepsi or whatever beverage of choice and waiting for the next class.
The older I get the more I believe the Greeks got it right. My inspiration and what I do with it doesn’t come from my thinking brain. It comes when I open my celestial aperture and focus on what flows in. I don’t have a stylus but the idea comes right out the end of my fingertips onto my computer keyboard and bypasses my thinking brain entirely just the way the Greeks said it would. Sometimes, like now, I just a have a word or an image and the gods take care of the rest. They are truly brilliant.
Inspiration doesn’t come at any one time or any one place. It doesn’t come according to how badly you need it. In fact, if your life depends on it, you should go do something else for awhile. A great idea, whole lines of dialogue, a beautiful image—it all comes when I’m on the toilet, taking a shower, hoeing weeds, washing dishes. Sometimes what I’m looking for comes when I tell my brain I need an idea when I wake up in the morning and then I go to sleep.
You have to say “yes” to life, you have to act immediately when an idea arrives or ideas will stop arriving thinking you are done with them. You have to be grateful and joyful in your expression. If you don’t know what to do with what you’ve been given, write it down in a journal because the time will come when you’ll know what to do with it.
Creativity is the glue that connects us with that universal life force that I believe is love, the force that is in all of us and in all living things. That love flows to and from and around all of us and it is the one thing that informs us and all other things that we exist and we are beautiful. When other people enjoy our creations it’s because they recognize the spark of the divine that we’ve used our human skills to enhance. Their joy is their way of saying thank you, thank you.
Creativity can be found in every walk of life, not just in the fine arts, so I never believe those folks who say they are not creative. I so admire those who are creative with preparation of food. Yum! A gifter tile-setter who works in my town says he never really knows what his work will look like until he starts it. I never know what form my garden will take until I start planting. I might have a plan but how the garden layout ends up is never quite the same. It’s always better.
The Greeks used to give their Creatives food and shelter in honor of the god in them. Patronage is a good idea!
Our lives are boring and dull if we can’t find a way to express the divine in ourselves. That’s why the creative arts must remain a part of our daily education and later, our lives. Without them, we will shrivel and die and not know who we are.