Thursday, March 31, 2011

Death by Paper

My carpal tunnel surgery is healing like gangbusters. I’ve been typing since Friday, the day it took place. My right hand is alive again. It feels like a stab wound on the base of my palm but I’m not taking even Tylenol (thank you AA!). The oddest thing about the ordeal is that the anesthesiologist couldn’t knock me out with a double dose of the usual stuff, and we will have to concoct a new cocktail next month when I have the left hand done. Recovering addict / alcoholic that I am, drugs interest me very much.

I’m limited in what I can do with my bandaged right hand. It’s 80 degrees here, following a great rain, and the weeds call me. But left-handed weeding is unsatisfactory. So I decided to participate in Theme Thursday, which today is paper. A memory came to me, and I wrote this poem about it.

The Roll of Newsprint

Seven years old and in love
with a kitten born to the anonymous
family cat, I came home from school
one day eager to see her as always
a girl is eager to see the ball of fluff
known as kitten, cuddly and somehow
near to being just like me, the me
I wished for, an extension of my psyche,
laughter and playfulness in a life
bereft of both. My stern mother said,
before I changed into the designated
play clothes, changed my awful shoes,
when I had just slipped in the door
wary as always of my mother’s
ways,she stood at the sink, working
as always, not looking at me
but responding to the noise of me,
Your kitten died, crushed by the roll
of newsprint in the garage that fell
on it. I cleaned up the mess.

I stood there in the doorway
not comprehending what I heard,
picturing the towering roll of paper
so much taller than I, leaning
on end against a corner of the garage.
My brother’s Cub Scout pack used it
once to paint banners that hung
on a truck in the town’s parade.
It was never used again, thereafter
always standing on end in the corner
and it was heavy, far more than I
could handle. How could it fall?
She was doing something
at the sink and she studied what it was,
and she never looked at me
in my school dress and Dr. Scholl’s
shoes, which I hated, she didn’t bend
down, she didn’t soften the blow.
She crushed me like a roll of newsprint
falling as a ton of death on my fragile
body, my laughter, my kitten self,
never cuddly again.

More takes on the theme here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Dragon Is Full

We call it The Dragon because of its shape. The lake near my town is the Nacimiento, a Spanish name meaning birth or the headwaters. In these shots, we're standing at the Dragon's neck.

Built when I was two years old, the Dragon has this year filled totally up. It's famous for its 165 miles of unspoiled shoreline, its reputation for the greatest water skiing in California, and its white bass fishing. Bald eagles nest here. Joe and I went out there Tuesday, to take pictures of its historic level, more full than at any time since it was built in 1956.

The lake is so full it's pouring over the spillway of the dam, and the water force is a mighty thing.

This is Spanish moss.

Oak branches with lichen.

This is a sample of our stickery dandelion.

Along the hillsides, sage is blooming.

The drive out to the lake is buccolic.

World class horse trainers live out here.

It's a glorious place to live, and in early spring the grass and budding oak trees turn it into paradise.

Today's thought:

You can have anything you want if you will give up the belief that you can't have it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Fantasy

Mata Hari

I have wanted to be five-foot-eight ever since fifth grade, when the teachers made me join the third and fourth graders in a rousing rendition of “I’m a Little Teapot” for the school’s spring musical. It was traumatizing to be forced to sing and dance with the younger kids such a terrible song:

I’m a little teapot, short and stout
This is my handle, this is my spout
When I get all steamed up, hear me shout
Then tip! me over and pour me out!

I never grew past five-foot-one. In my mind’s eye I was thereafter always short and stout, even when I went through an anorexic stage. Mrs. Gulbro, the culprit who traumatized me, was on my Fourth Step resentment list 25 years later when I joined AA. She might still be there, another 21 years later.

I’m giving you this backstory to flesh out the poem I’ve written for the Poetry Bus this week. When Muse Swings, our guest Bus driver, presented three prompt choices, the emotionally wrecked 10-year-old me automatically zeroed in on prompt #3, which was this vintage photo:

The Exotic Dancer

Look at this skin, pale as cream
and wish yourself entangled
in my long legs, wrapped in my arms.
Feel my lips murmur against
your neck as my strong fingers
trace the muscles straining
in your back. Marvel at the pearls
of my spine. Lay your head upon
the jewels of my bosom and hear
the thrumming of my heart
under the fine arc of my ribs
just before your plump wife asks
are you finished yet, dear?


For a Busload of interesting work, visit Muse Swings’ blog.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


I discovered something useful yesterday during hand surgery. Apparently my constitution is resistant to the so-called "powerful" sedative Versed, which is used to induce a twilight sleep and erase memory during medical procedures. Even a double dose of it, combined with fentanyl, had no effect on me. I was completely awake through the whole thing and grateful that a) my hand had been numbed and b) I wasn't undergoing a colonoscopy.

Thank you for all your good wishes. I think the surgery was successful because there's just a wee bit of tingling compared to the usual burning pain. I feel like I've been stabbed in the palm of my hand, so I know it's not numb anymore. The price I pay for sobriety is that I don't get to take opiate pain medication unless I'm in dire need and someone else administers it. On the other hand, one of the blessings I get from sobriety is that I have a surprisingly high tolerance for pain now.

My hand therapist just told me to cut this short and rest my hand. I can't believe I can type already! But I will mind and will leave you with this wonderful message from Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

"To live is to be slowly born."

Friday, March 25, 2011

Strapped Down and Cut Up

I’m going to be freed from my miserable right hand on Friday afternoon.

They’re going to strap me down, squeeze all the blood out of my right arm, and then whip out the scalpel and release me from months of anguish.

I LOVE the sound of that! No more days and nights fraught with fiery pain! Get rid of the bloody thing! I’ll have to learn how to do stuff left-handed. I considered practicing a few vital functions this week, like applying mascara or more fundamental acts of self care, but decided to savor the last few days with my dominant right hand.

I’ll let you know how it goes as soon as I can hunt and peck at the keyboard again. I look forward to the day when my computer understands speech and automatically transcribes it. All these years of interviewing people and scribbling in notebooks, transcribing tape recordings, or typing shorthand notes that leave out lots of words, I have wished for technology to catch up with my profession. It exists now, but I can’t afford it. Maybe when I get rich from suing the entire American medical industry for holding my demented mother hostage in a hospital for days….

Anyway, reeling myself back in from that fantasy, wish me luck. They'll be tunneling through my carpal at noon (and you thought they were amputating my hand ~ how grisly!).

Now for a Friday Flash 55 inspired by the weather here in California... Visit Mr. Knowitall for other examples of flash creativity.


After a long drought turned the riverbed to dust,
today the manna from heaven falls and the soil

laps it neatly as a cat. A sigh of satisfaction escapes
the mouth of the ground. Roots hum as their veins

swell. Pools rise in the riverbed, reach out fingers,
and link. The river’s muddy blood awakens.

All went well although my hand is numb still from the anesthetic. I can't wait for it to wear off so I can feel the glorious lack of pain. Toddling off to rest now after typing this with both hands!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Just for Today, I’m Sober

To an alcoholic, sobriety is as miraculous as water changing into wine. Because it isn’t one’s natural state, something supernatural has to happen to transform the nature of the beast.

If I forget to honor that supernatural fact, I’ll revert to my natural state. My own life was transformed 21 years ago. Years later, I did forget, and I became water again. That wasn’t fun. I spent three years vacillating ~ water / wine, water / wine, very confusing ~ before I experienced the miracle again.

Today I celebrate a new sobriety anniversary. It’s bittersweet because longevity is a badge of honor among recovering alcoholics. My husband has been sober almost 24 years. I celebrate three years today, and my heart is thankful for that. My competitive spirit isn’t: I coulda been an old-timer!

I’ve had to relearn the method of living in gratitude one day at a time. Yesterday’s gratitude doesn’t keep me sober today, just like yesterday’s food doesn’t feed me today. Yesterday’s food is already shit.

I’m in a state of flux again. It’s not the water / wine thing; it’s happy / sad, content / frightened. I was told last August that the death of my mother would be a life-shifting event. Well. So it is. The future has become uncertain. (Ha! she said, as if it were ever otherwise!)

I read this message this morning in “Twenty-Four Hours a Day,” a daily meditation book:

“We can forget about the future. We know from experience that as time goes on, the future takes care of itself. All we need to think about is today. When we get up in the morning and see the sun shining through the window, we thank God that he has given us another day to enjoy, a day in which we may have a chance to help somebody.

"All is fundamentally well. That does not mean that all is well on the surface of things. But it does mean that God is in his Heaven and that he has a purpose for us. Don’t be upset by the surface wrongness of things, but feel deeply secure in the fundamental goodness of God’s world.”

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Astrophysics and Romance

It’s over. Thank the good Lord, the sun, the earth, and astrophysics. Good riddance to winter. Welcome to the vernal equinox.

I am finished mourning and protesting. You don’t want to know what happened last week to shut me up. But three women ~ young, middle-aged, and elder ~ snapped me out of it.

On this first day of spring, we have no sun in the sky here, in the woodlands and green hills of pastoral California, just lovely rain. We get our water from an aquifer beneath us. It takes good rains to replenish what people and vineyards use, but we have dry years. We’re gluttons for rain.

Every spring when I was growing up, my father, who was raised by these people:

would tell me, “Spring is sprung, the grass is ris. I wonder where the flowers is.” I looked up the verse this week and learned my dad had created his own version of a poem by the poet Anonymous that was popular in the 1950s.

Out of respect for our blog friend Monkey Man, who invented the Sunday 160 (a profound message in 160 characters), I present here a version that fits his pentameters.

Spring is sprung, the grass is ris.
I wonder where the birdies is.
The poets say in Spring
The bird is on the wing,
But ain’t that absurd?
The wing is on the bird.

I’ll kill a bird with two stones today and include a poem ticket for the Totalfeckineejit’s Poetry Bus. Our guest driver, Uiscebot (how do you pronounce that?), instructs us to abide by his pentameters: write in some new place, no rhyming, and less than 40 lines. The strange travelogue is here:

Thanks to an early-morning weather report in the newspaper, I went all the way up to the jet stream for a visit. It was either that or tell you about my new experience with guided meditation. Be glad I chose the weather.

The Weather Man

He said the jet stream is a tubular ribbon
of wind blowing 100 miles per hour
maybe five or six miles over my head,
and I wondered, is that why I hear
that buzzing in my ear when I think
of the black mustache under your nose?

He said a cold front is a wave of energy
sweeping away from the core of the storm,
and I felt a white-hot wave of energy
sweep away from my core as your
black mustache smiled there,
and this I remembered as he said cold
and core and sweep and storm.

He said the jet stream flows like a giant
wave undulating from west to east
for thousands of miles, and I marveled
that my head could contain it all,
the knowledge of your mustache
and your nose like an eagle’s beak,
his speech a buzzing in my ear
and the jet stream of life circling
over my head and under my toes.

Painting by my friend Denise Schryver

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I Protest!

I’m tired of trying to be good. Living respectfully and peacefully in the midst of turmoil is WORK.

For many days now I’ve snatched only two or three hours of sleep each night. Story deadlines, income tax paperwork, and stupid physical pain make sleep elusive. Lack of it makes me irritable, and I sneer at my previous post: Peace on earth, pah! Give me peace in my own bed, and then we’ll talk.

These days I find myself cynically hysterical. Ever heard of “restless leg syndrome,” in which some mysterious force compels your legs to move constantly at night? You can’t sleep because your lower body attempts to propel you around the equator when you lie down in bed.

Just exactly when my overwrought mind suffers from a severe case of “restless brain syndrome,” my trusty legs decided to join the game. They chose to dance along with my carpal-tunnel hands, puny lungs, and disintegrating spine, all new companions since my mother died last August.

Screw Pollyanna today. Coupled with another death, a dire medical diagnosis and a fractured family, this added crap irritates the hell out of me. Enough already! I feel like my Lordly Professor has handed me way too much homework.

I write poetry now only on weekends so I can enjoy the world tour on TFE’s Poetry Bus, always a source of pleasure. This week, the Irish Watercats demand a short protest poem in a strict rhythmic form. (Rebel link) I am thrilled to comply! This is how I chose to vent:

Corporations draft our laws,
Line their pockets in the cause
Of greater wealth, richer men.
Gluttons rule the planet, then.

I’m a political cynic who wishes America would remember democracy for the common people and the theories of the men who designed a government dedicated to equality. I don’t often espouse my beliefs, but this week I got fired up about a revolutionary idea: Strip corporate America of its political power. Lobbyists paid by wealthy special interest groups draft much of our legislation, which of course benefits those interests, while The People sweat to make ends meet. Don’t get me started. I’ll return to my usual optimistic self another day.

(Update on the following morning, a quiet kick-back Sunday)
Got hours of beautiful sleep. Still irritable and cynical, but not hysterical. Note to self: Temporary grumbling allowed ... but never forget how blessed thou art.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Revolutionary Idea

"Let there be peace on earth,
and let it begin with me."

How often I think that if only he/she/they/it would stop troubling me, life would be peaceful! How often I entertain that thought without even questioning it!

But at its core, that thought is a blame-based, victim-based habit. I'm pointing mental fingers at someone or something as the cause of my dis-ease. Three fingers, when one points, are usually pointing back at oneself.

Let there be peace on earth today, and let it begin with me.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

More Craziness Than You’ve Dreamed Of

Insanity takes many forms, and I've seen some of them in my life, but the type of insanity that most affects me these days is this kind: doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

More about this later. Right now, I have to offer you a poem. I’m taking a break from insanity to ride the World’s Greatest Poetry Bus. In honor of what Bus Driver Poet Peter Goulding claims is “one of the most important dates in the Roman Catholic calendar ~ Pancake Tuesday, named after the venerable St. Pancake,” I have done as Peter commanded and composed a ditty to the pancake. Peter also demanded that we write in the persona of a poet of our choice. I chose Joyce Kilmer and to satirize his famous poem “Trees.” If you’re inclined to read somewhat ridiculous poetry, we Bus riders will be linked here.

First, Kilmer's version. He was a brave soldier who lost his life in WWI.

By Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
Now my version:

I Think That I Shall Never See

A poem lovely as a pancake
Giving me a hearty handshake.
Against my hungry mouth is prest,
With butter flowing from its breast,
An angel’s golden halo round,
A saucer of the sweetest brown.
It makes me lift my hands to pray
But no, my fork is in the way.
I shall in homage always wear
A nest of pancakes in my hair.
Upon their bosom I have lain
While maple syrup falls like rain.
Poems are made by fools like me
But pancakes come from pancake trees.

Now back to the topic of insanity. In the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, you’ll frequently hear, “If you like what you’re getting, keep doing what you’re doing. If you don’t like what you’re getting, change what you’re doing.”

My injustice meter has been shrilling its alarm for quite a while. A heartbreaking development in my family since my mother died last summer has finally exploded like an alien in a scene from “Men in Black.” Purple alien blood goo drips from the walls.

Twisted events have twisted me and interfered with my serenity. I wiped some of the purple alien blood goo off my glasses today and found these lines in a book I love: “I can find no serenity until I accept that [disturbing] person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake.”

Today’s realization is that I need to withdraw from the battlefield. I had wanted to right a wrong, but I was wrong. It’s time to recognize that I’ve become insane as I defined it in that paragraph up there.

It takes a lot of swallowing to give up. My faith that good will come of this is weak. My husband, who has gobs of faith that God will accomplish his plan for the situation we face, has asked me to stop trying. So I’ve decided I’ll lean on my faithful husband and let God do whatever he wants to do. I guess that shows the degree of my pride, because it implies that God needed my help. From now on, it’s hands off. Excuse me while I go wash off the rest of the purple alien blood goo.

Albert Einstein Quotes