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Archive for June, 2010

Sweet Boy Chaco, February 22nd, 1996 — June 25th, 2009, Minneapolis, Minnesota, BlackBerry Shots, December 2009, photo © 2009-2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Sometimes you mark the passage of time by the death of a beloved pet. It’s been a year since we made the tough decision to let Chaco go after a brave battle with kidney disease. He was born February 22nd, 1996; Liz adopted him from the Golden Valley Animal Humane Society in April. If you had to choose breeds, Chaco looked like a cross between a Bombay and a Havana Brown. He loved vanilla yogurt, batted at his water dish until it was bone dry, purred like a 1969 Chevy Camaro, and talked incessantly (but not quite as much as a Siamese).

The eve of June 25th, 2009 was a sleepless night. Chaco spread out over the couch on a white blanket next to a wrapped bouquet of tickseed, spiderwort, and Queen Anne’s lace Liz picked from the garden. We took turns sitting with him. When Liz went to bed, I got up and nestled beside him, stroking his back and chin, silently crying. It’s a gut-wrenching decision to choose to put a pet to sleep. It all comes down to quality of life.

On the afternoon of June 25th, Chaco stared up through the ash tree on our deck, his emerald eyes wide and curious when Liz carried him to the Saturn for his last drive to the vet. In August, we donated bags of saline to the Golden Valley Humane Society in his name. By December 2009, we spread his ashes around the circle to the drumbeat of Winter Solstice.

If you’ve never lost a pet, it’s hard to describe the mourning. Or the space that opens up after the time spent caring for a chronically ill cat is finally over. But I can tell you that Kiev and Mr. Stripeypants mourned; they moped around the house for weeks. And Liz and I cried 1000 tears. Chaco’s death left a hole in our lives.

I can also say that life goes on. Hearts heal. And words of grief and loss are sometimes best left to the poets. When Liz read Charles Simic’s poem Little Unwritten Book at our Poetry & Meditation Group last week, I cried another tear — 1001.



LITTLE UNWRITTEN BOOK

by Charles Simic


Rocky was a regular guy, a loyal friend.
The trouble was he was only a cat.
Let’s practice, he’d say, and he’d pounce
On his shadow on the wall.
I have to admit, I didn’t learn a thing.
I often sat watching him sleep.
If the birds tried to have a bit of fun in the yard
He opened one eye.
I even commended him for good behavior.

He was black except for the white gloves he wore.
He played the piano in the parlor
By walking over its keys back and forth.
With exquisite tact he chewed my ear
If I wouldn’t get up from my chair.
Then one day he vanished. I called.
I poked in the bushes.
I walked far into the woods.

The mornings were the hardest. I’d put out
A saucer of milk at the back door.
Peekaboo, a bird called out. She knew.
At one time we had ten farmhands working for us.
I’d make a megaphone with my hands and call.
I still do, though it’s been years.
Rocky, I cry!
And now the bird is silent too.


-from WALKING THE BLACK CAT, published by Harcourt Brace and Company (1996)


Chaco Dust, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, photo © 2009-2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, June 29th, 2009

-related to posts: Chaco’s Creature Comforts (10 Cat Care Tips), From The Earth, Back To The Earth , Winter Solstice — The Quiet Strength Of Bear, Life Of An American Green Tree Frog, Children Helping Children (And Animals)

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vietnamese children (one)
 
 
                   vietnamese children (two)
 
 
                             vietnamese children (three)
 


Here I am, crouching in front of a temple in Hue, surrounded by children. They squeal, I smile. They tug at me, I hug them. When my guide enters the courtyard and sees me, he marches toward me, beside himself. He pulls me up from the spot where I am, a small child like them. “Watch your purse,” he hisses.

He’s not unkind. He just knows how children can be with tourists. But I’m not afraid. If they take something from me, more power to them. I shouldn’t be such a naive soul, should I?, for letting them dupe me like that. It’s the price I’m willing to pay to be with children, even if they’re not my own.

But the truth is, these kids don’t even try to take my things. They want to test their broken English and throw me some universal signs. Peace, love, all that. At this point on a trip to Vietnam, I need all the peace and love I can get. I notice children everywhere I go. I am beyond homesick.



child monk




Fast forward to today. Em packs Froggy and Meow. Froggy is a frog pillow that presently rests in the space between me and Em. His green warmth at my side assures me as our plane lifts from the tarmac and begins its bumpy ascent. Dee packs no stuffed toys, although this morning she took Merry, the horse she’s had since age three or four, to stay with Jim for the almost three weeks we’ll be gone. We’ll be gone. Me and my girls. Finally. In Vietnam.

This is something I’ve always done with my girls. Not the international travel, but whisking them away, the three of us sans Daddy. I’ve taken them to Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, where we tried unsuccessfully to put up a tent in the wind and ended up walking into the administration office and sheepishly asking for a room. We’ve been to Santa Monica, at the Hotel California, and when we drove into the parking lot from the airport—you won’t believe it!—that Eagles tune was playing on the rental car radio.

We’ve gone to Denver, with my sister and her kids, and also taken a road trip with them to San Francisco via Las Vegas. In Taos, the girls and I stayed in Mabel‘s room at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, and I didn’t tell them that my blog partner had once seen the ghost of Mabel in that very same room.

But those adventures pale in comparison to the three plane rides it will take to get us to Ho Chi Minh City. One of the flights is 13 or 14 hours long. I try not to dwell on it but wonder if I’ll be able not to when I have an 11-year-old and a 14-year-old sitting next to me. Not to mention Froggy.

And this is just the beginning. I can’t wait to see my girls’ reactions when I take them to the crowded colorful market where women tug at your sleeve and say “Madam, Madam!” or when we eat a steaming bowl of rice noodles and chicken for breakfast or morning glory sauteed in garlic for lunch. Will they agree that Vietnamese food is the best in the world?

We’ll float down the Mekong Delta, travel by domestic plane to a beach town I’ve heard about but never been to, stay in a luxury two-bedroom apartment right in the heart of bustling Saigon. All month long as the trip looms closer, I drive them around our hometown and tell them that driving on the streets of Saigon is nothing like Corrales. I want them to feel the chaos, the aliveness of it all. To see how a place half a world away wakes up, eats, lives, go to sleep. Is.

We are on the plane now. Em shows me a photo she just snapped with her cell phone camera of the landscape out the window of our plane, somewhere west of the Grand Canyon. The image on her small screen resembles those photos of Earth as seen from outer space. There’s the curve of the terrain, layers of atmosphere growing from light to dark blue as you move away from the land toward the expansive sky.

This is like us, I think, in the world, high above it all. On our way to places beyond.


safe travels


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June Moon, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.








tall, green month of June
holding Summer’s pale, blue face —
the Strawberry Moon








-posted on red Ravine, Summer Solstice, June 21st, 2010

-related to posts: Strawberry Moon, haiku 2 (one-a-day), Baby Eagles At Summer Solstice, 15 Hours, 36 Minutes Of Light, Diamonds & Light (Summer Solstice)

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soy milk

Got (Soy) Milk?, morning fix of soymilk and coffee,
photo © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





I picked up my milk habit in Granada, Spain, in 1986. There my morning ritual was to walk out the door, hop the narrow cobblestone road to the bar across the way, and order a tall glass of café-con-leche. Pepe, the bar owner, prepared it with hot milk and just a splash of strong coffee.

Milk became over the next 20-plus years my daily vice. In all respects it seemed to be a respectable habit. My nails grew strong, hair thick, bones firm. One would expect (and I do) that my two cups of milk-and-coffee a day kept osteoporosis away.

But there were downsides. The worst was at night as I lay on my back and drifted off to sleep. I’d wake up choking to what felt like a wet hairball in the back of my throat. Mucus was the culprit, and it wasn’t just at night. When I exercised I had to clear my throat like a smoker with a hack. I suffered from morning stuffiness and a drippy nose even when it wasn’t allergy season. And forget about allergy season! During those months I was a poster child for Kleenex.

But the worst of the milk side effects hit recently as I began to enter menopause. If you’ve gone through menopause, you know the symptoms. Sore boobs, hot flashes, mood swings (mine went from grumpiness to rage).

Women I knew told me that I ought to try soy milk. My sister-in-law said it had an instant calming effect on her. Soy beans contain isoflavones, which produce an estrogen-like effect on the body. Inspired, I gave it try.

At first I disliked it. The sweetened kind was too sweet; unsweetened tasted like liquid chalk. For a few months I tried almond milk, then coconut. Nothing stuck. I turned to green tea (since I drink black tea the way I drink coffee) but didn’t like that either. I fumbled through my mornings, lost. I lamented that I’d inadvertently dumped my coffee habit. I missed my ritual.

I don’t have all that many vices, and honestly, milk-and-coffee probably did more good for my health than bad. Maybe that’s why I kept trying to find the right non-dairy version of my old favorite beverage.

Persistence paid off—I have finally discovered the secret to making the kind of non-dairy leche-con-café that might even make ol’ Pepe proud.

I am now an avid soy milk drinker. The extra mucus is gone, as are a couple of extra pounds. I only rage once in a blue moon. But most importantly, I got myself a new morning ritual. Life is good.



Roma’s Menopause-B-Gone Soy Milk-and-Coffee Drink


Start with a good brand of unsweetened soy milk. Not all brands are the same. Soy milk is processed from soy beans, and as with other processed foods, the processing can take something that is healthy and make it unhealthy. So if you’re going to drink soy milk, you need to check out the soy scorecard.

Pour about a cup of soy milk into a glass saucepan (preferably with a pouring spout) and heat on low for about 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly. I add just enough local honey (no more than a teaspoon) to give the unsweetened soy milk a hint of sweetness. I’m not a fan of sweet coffee, and so I’m stingy with the honey. Just a bit. Helps with allergies, too.

Once the soy milk is good and hot yet not boiling, pour it into a curved mug that fits your hand just so. Add in enough strong coffee to top the drink. (I make the coffee beforehand in a French press.)

Walk into your writing room, sit down, take a few sips, and then write. A calm beginning to any day.



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IX Of Wands, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






point your chariot
in another direction
weary IX of Wands






-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, June 13th, 2010

-related to posts: PRACTICE — Don’t Take Anything Personally — 15min, haiku 2 (one-a-day), WRITING TOPIC — THE FOUR AGREEMENTS

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I pulled the IX of Wands this morning. Holding a single stave in front of me, eight more forming the wall behind, the line drawn in the sand. Mr. Stripeypants jumped from the window to the couch, setting a perimeter around Kiev so he would not have to confront her, threaten her. It’s instinctual for them to know when to retreat. The IX of Wands is about finding an easier way, taking a new direction. Perseverance. I needed more information. So I pulled a Solution Spread. Three cards. One focus: background, problem, solution. Tower reversed, VI of Wands, Knight of Cups.

Ah, things are much more clear now. Whatever is falling from The Tower, let it crumble, let the light in. For the Wands, show humility, point your horse in another direction. And the solution, the Knight of Cups? Be of service to others. Offer forgiveness, make amends. Follow your heart. I started pulling the Tarot again yesterday. An Oracle, a ritual from the past that makes me feel calmer, more stable. There was a period of time in my life, sometime in my early forties, when I consulted Oracles on a daily basis. I learned about the Tarot, the I Ching, the Medicine Cards, the Runes. I studied their structure and found peace in knowing that Divine Providence had been flowing through these symbols for thousands of years.

Don’t take anything personally. The Oracles teach me how to keep the focus on myself. So do meetings, writing practice, community support, friends. The empath in me, the lack of boundaries, can lead me to lose track of where I am going. I can’t be of service to others if I don’t take care of myself. Rain hangs in the heavy Minnesota air. I like rainy days for what they are — a chance to breathe. To read, to sit and listen to frogs and crickets chant in the distance. Water is grounding to a Cancer. I’ve been weary the last few weeks. I need to regroup. Back to center. I started to take things personally, to think I could fix everything that was wrong in the world. It’s arrogant and fraught with problems to believe or feel or think that way. I’m a tiny blip in a giant solar system. The ticking of time will leave me in the dust.

Still, I have so much love for the people in my life. It’s a lasting connection, a giant thread of hope and golden light, wrapped around my heart. The day to day rituals are important, the annual pilgrimages, the care for those immediately present. I stroke Kiev’s shedding Summer fur. Throw the yellow ball for Mr. Stripeypants to go and fetch. I brush my teeth, take a shower, get ready for the day. I might go hear a writer speak at an independent bookstore in the evening, or catch a movie at the local cinema. I still love to go to movies. Sometimes, in order not to take things personally, I need to distract myself from the endless loops of thought that tell me I have no solutions.

Like the pilgrim that stands in front of the IX of Wands, I’m leery of what’s around the corner. But willing to take another direction, to turn my horse down a different path. I will listen to what’s in the Ethers. As above, so below; the Law of Attraction; Synchronicity. All part of the Law of Correspondence, holding the idea that life is interconnected. These are the first three metaphysical laws that make up the foundation, the structure of the Tarot.

In 1909, Pamela Colman Smith encoded these concepts into her illustrations for Arthur Edward Waite. Alfred Stieglitz showed her work in Gallery 291. In the Earthly world, she was an artist who died penniless and virtually unknown. But I have to believe her Spirit is somewhere up there, smiling down. Her work is helping me to separate my angst from the angst of others, to not take things so personally.




-Related to post WRITING TOPIC — THE FOUR AGREEMENTS. Also see ybonesy’s PRACTICE: Don’t Take Anything Personally — 15minPRACTICE: Don’t Make Assumptions — 15mins, and QuoinMonkey’s PRACTICE — Don’t Make Assumptions – 15mins.

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This assumption lets us off the hook. “Nothing others do is because of you.” You’re not the center of the world. You’re not the cause of others’ anguish. You own what you do; they own what they do.

That sounds easy. Do I take things personally? I like to think that this particular agreement is not as hard for me as some of the others. I know I can’t recall a time recently when I took something personally. Although, my head is fuzzy. I stayed up late and got up early.

There’s a soft glow in the room. It comes from the orange paper globe lantern that Jim hung from the ceiling. I bought it last summer. It’s one of those home improvement things that you buy and then don’t actually install. I do that a lot with things I buy that I know will make my spaces more beautiful. I have a few paintings like that. I haven’t gotten them framed, or I haven’t hung them yet. There should be an agreement “Don’t get stuck.”

But there’s not. There’s “Don’t take things personally.” That’s what I’m writing about. Feeling insulted or sometimes feeling envied. I know there have been times in my life where I’ve said to myself, “Oh, so-and-so is doing that because she wants to copy me.” In fact, isn’t that one of those things we tell ourselves when we’re young? Don’t our parents sometimes tell us that to help us cope?

I’m thinking now of this playground scene, it seems my childhood has been distilled to one playground scene. I remember standing between two rows of classroom barracks. I’m actually riding on Barbara’s back. She’s given me a lift, and Janine is there, and Matthew Martinez, who even as a boy of eight has the face of a grown man.

Wait, I just got a flashback to my dream last night. My parents had made a video where they’re singing, with excellent voices, in Spanish, some ballad. First Dad, he’s so young and has a thick head of hair. While he sings he’s able to walk up on the walls, just walk on walls. The whole family is featured in the video, singing and dancing. I keep saying to the person who’s watching it with me, “There I am!” but then I realize that one’s my sister Janet. Or, “There I am!” but then it’s Bobbi. At the very end, I see me, it is me, I’m a baby. Mom holds me while she belts out some tune, and I am in awe. In my dream, the person watching the video, I am in awe. My parents and family rock!

The dream must have come from something Jim and I watched on PBS about Little Joe y la Familia and other Latino musicians. I was cooking pork and a sauce made with port wine and balsamic vinegar, listening to the television and now and then glancing over to see who was talking. The guy from Los Lobos was saying how he and his brothers all grew up playing music. They’d buy instruments that they didn’t know how to play and then seek out the Viejo musicians to teach them.

Music was a part of my family, too. Mom played piano, Dad harmonica. They played together and sing, old songs, ballads. Spanish and English both. Mom said she grew up on music. They lived in the country and that’s what they did for fun. Everyone learned a different instrument.

I never learned how to play anything. But my sisters and I always sang. We’d stand in front of the fireplace, even grown women, I picture us standing in front of fireplaces, as if the fireplace were our stage. And we’d sing, silly songs. Going to the chapel and we’re go—nna get mar-ar-ar-ried. Our repertoire was pretty small.

Ah, the timer. If I were in a writing retreat with Natalie, here’s where she’d say “Wrap it up,” and I’d try to write some pithy line that pulls it all together. Unfortunately, nothing can pull together a writing practice about an agreement that I hardly touched on, a playground scene, and a dream about my family making a musical video when I was a baby.




-Related to post WRITING TOPIC — THE FOUR AGREEMENTS. Also see ybonesy’s PRACTICE: Don’t Make Assumptions — 15mins, and  QuoinMonkey’s PRACTICE — Don’t Make Assumptions – 15mins.

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By Bob Chrisman



Allen Cemetery on the outskirts of Gower, Missouri serves as the final resting place for my mother’s parents and some of her aunts, uncles, and cousins. Names like Patton, Divelbiss, Pogue, and Williams mark the plots of family members. Every Memorial Day we decorated those graves. As time passed and more relatives took up residence among the tombstones, we didn’t attend to as many of the graves. After my father’s stroke in 1969, which left him bedridden, and my sister’s departure to teach a distance away, we decorated fewer graves because my mother didn’t like to leave my father alone for long.

After my father died in 1984, Aunt Vera, my mother’s younger sister, and her husband, Uncle Howard, joined us for the annual, grave-decorating trip. Neither one of them drove anymore so they gladly came along for the outing and the lunch that followed. I would swing by their house, just up the street a few blocks from where my mother lived, and pick them up.

Uncle Howard had a great sense of humor despite the hardships of his life. He managed to find something funny about most everything. Going to the cemetery provided him with an opportunity and a captive audience. Much to my mother and aunt’s chagrin, my uncle always told me the same story on the way there.

“Bob, did I ever tell you about buying those cemetery plots?”

Although I had heard the story many times in the past, I would say, “No, Uncle Howard. What happened?” With that question he launched into the story.

“Your mom and dad and Vera and I made an appointment with Eldon Lee. You know Eldon Lee, don’t you? He was the funeral director and caretaker of the cemetery. We drove out to Gower one evening. We picked four spaces right in a row. The girls decided that we would be buried boy-girl-boy-girl.

“Eldon Lee put your father’s name down first, then your mom’s, and then he started to write my name. I said, ‘Eldon Lee, hold on. I’m not happy with this arrangement.’ They all looked at me like I’d lost a marble or two, but Eldon Lee put down his pen to hear me out.

“I said, ‘When you die, you lay down for your eternal rest to get some peace, don’t you?’ Eldon Lee nodded his head. ‘Well, how much rest and peace do you think I’d get planted between Lucile and Vera? Not much. I can tell you that right now. You better put the girls together between Len and I so all that chatter between the girls won’t disturb us in our graves.’

“That’s why your mom and Vera have places next to each other.”

He laughed in that mischievous way of his. My mother and Aunt Vera sighed. Aunt Vera said, “Oh, Howard.” No matter how many times I heard the story, I laughed. I could imagine my mother and her sister gossiping in the grave while my father snored on one side and Uncle Howard tossed and turned on the other end.

Uncle Howard had another routine that he started when we pulled up the gravel road into the cemetery. He never failed me in doing this one, which irritated my mother and aunt beyond words. That made it all the funnier because they should have known it was coming, but it always appeared to take them by surprise.

My mother and her sister decided which set of graves we would visit and in what order. My Uncle Howard pointed at new graves we passed.

“Look, Bob, see that one? Hey, you girls, would you pipe down? All your talking drives the ground squirrels away. I’m trying to see how fat they are. Looks like we’ve added lots of new dishes to the graveyard buffet lately.” He laughed.

That stopped the women’s conversation. Aunt Vera usually said, “Howard, that’s no way to talk about the dead.”

“I guess you’re right.” He paused for effect. “But, they’re dead and they don’t care about my little joke.”

Mom said, “Howard, someday you’ll be lying here in the ground and you won’t want someone talking about you like that?”

“You’re right, Lucile, but I’ll be dead and I won’t care. I’m so little and skinny the ground squirrels will be very disappointed when they lift the lid on my coffin. They’ll probably look at one another and say, ‘Ain’t much meat here. Let’s move on.’” Then he’d laugh and I’d join him.


Uncle Howard and Aunt Vera's headstone, photo © 2010 by Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.




Uncle Howard hit the buffet line in April, 1990. Aunt Vera followed in December, 1993. In February 2008, my mother joined them. My family won’t add any more people because we have scattered all over the country.

On January 1, 2009, I drove up to the cemetery to pay my respects and to remember the stories of my childhood. When I entered the cemetery I found myself looking for the new graves and the ground squirrels. I stood at the graves of my parents and my aunt and uncle. I listened as the cold wind blew through the place. I didn’t hear Mom and Aunt Vera talking. Maybe Uncle Howard’s plan worked. I hope he enjoys his eternal rest in peace.



About Bob: Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer who frequently writes memoir about his family. For Memorial Day 2010, we published Desecration Day, Bob’s humorous yet moving piece about a grave decoration day that got a bit out of hand.

You can see these other pieces of Bob’s in which he writes with humor and compassion about his family members: Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters and The Law Of Threes. He also published these pieces about the life and death of his mother: Hands and In Memoriam. And he produced a trilogy about his father: My Father’s Witness, Bearing Witness, and My Life With Dad.

Bob’s other red Ravine posts include Growing Older, Goat Ranch, and Stephenie Bit Me, Too.

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By Erin Robertson


I wish I could say I was closer to my grandfather, but as the years went on and his Alzheimer’s progressed, it began to get harder just to see him. We watched him suffer so his death was something of a relief. In a time of mourning, I wrote this piece:


Fourteen dozen roses,
cut clipped, and arranged,
spread throughout the pews.
paid precision and prayer
fake sympathy and stares
bore through to the soul
it’s the friends and family
that keep you sane
so dry your tears
try to smile
the coffin is closed
the sermon was said
in the line we file
morbid flags that warn our purpose
march along the silence grows,
sobs muffled out of shame.
gather under the green tent
sit upon velvet thrones of mourning
as a group,
we bow our heads
blessing for the one departed
amens in sync
good wills, remembrance, praise
i whisper goodbye
drop his favorite flower
to decorate my grandfather’s tomb.


_________________________


This next poem was written roughly about the same time. Death, and its morbidity, was frequently on my mind. I wrestled with the idea of an afterlife or the concept that something so pure can be torn into sinful shreds.


death,
it comes on tar-dipped wings
dragging down the weightless soul
perfect when?
no longer flawless
as it flies
with heavy wings
down to hell,
to meet
judgement day has long since passed
fail or pass
the side you wish

death it comes on tar-dipped wings
dragging down the weightless soul
perfect then,
no longer flawless
anguish may have plagued you then,
but now,
you can be free.
whispers of unspoken trial
jury, angels, demons
judge of neutral boundaries
find you guilty,
innocent child
whichever way
you tend to walk,
you will be happy now
life, you may have suffered
dying, you might have been in pain,
but death, Sweet, death
it always comes,
exactly when it’s supposed to come.


_________________________


At a time of peak adolescent anguish, my friend –and thereby, I got tangled up with people who were not as they seemed to be. Often, my poems are free verse; however, I tried my hand at some resemblance of “Traditional Poetry.”


Enemy in someone you like:
Everyone wants to know
what’s behind the face you show
we all see your pride
you modestly try to hide

the smile that plays across your face
has seemed to find its place
but your moods change like a clock
the swings impossible to mock

a bipolar symptom waits to strike
find an enemy in someone you like
more outbreaks, in succession,
betray the mild marks of depression

your friendship is a weight to bear
it seems that no one wants to care…
your ‘quirks,’ they draw the curious
they come to mimic the delirious

they make a mockery of your ills
stunned by the bouquet of pills
a bipolar symptom waits to strike
find an enemy in someone you like.


_________________________


I don’t remember why I wrote it, but the first couple lines were running through my head for quite a few days, and I decided to elaborate on it in my 9th grade English class. My friend and I had been discussing the change in society and how people are satisfied being mediocre and achieving nothing. I guess I had big dreams back then, too.


my modern art wonder
of the twenty-first century
is torn straight from the pages
of a young man’s book
the whispers spoken
of wild ventures
swallowed by some
corporate gain
the mind-blowing drugs
destroy the naive
open portals onto new levels
swimming hallucinations of
teenage ideals
and the real world
collide with a splay of
colors only the
high can see
disappointments inspire
push onward or settle for less
business world stays on
the fast track for life
stuck in a job with no career
working up to work out
it’s got no end
it’s the truth that will slap
a truth we all know
the world as the jungle it is



Leaf Of A Ginkgo – Erin’s Tattoo, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, May 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I have yet to visit my grandfather’s grave site, years after his burial. I wanted to commemorate his passing in my own way. As a horticulturist, he loved all plants, but most specifically the ginkgo for its unchanged history. Rather than ink myself with a cliché R.I.P/tombstone tattoo, I came up with the idea of a falling ginkgo leaf. Its importance would be known to very few, preserving my grandfather’s memory.




About Erin: My name is Erin Robertson and I am a graduating senior from Susquehanna Township High School. Later this year I will be attending Temple’s Honors College to pursue a Doctorate in Psychology (because I am rather ambitious). My life has been full of adventure and I have met many unusual people and experienced quite a lot for someone my age. My life, the environments I find myself in, and the people I know, have all served as inspirations for the creative outlets in my life. I focus on poetry as a big way for me to express myself and my emotions.

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Rosedrops In The Rain – 156/365, BlackBerry 365 Project, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.









roseheart pouring out
left me warm and dripping wet
standing in the rain










-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, June 6th, 2010

-related to post: haiku 2 (one-a-day)

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It’s hard not to make assumptions. I make general assumptions about the way I think people should live every day. I expect honesty, forthrightness, that people are generally good. I expect people to honor their word, and want to believe they are telling the truth. These are all assumptions. Then I start thinking about values, how assumptions are made according to the values we hold. People assume that everyone is straight. At least 10% of the population is not, probably much more. When I think about it, I can’t really afford to make assumptions — if I don’t want people to make assumptions about me.

Finding the courage to communicate clearly — that takes some doing. It’s easy to chatter through the day, talk, talk, talk. People love to talk. But what about when it really comes down to it. To life and death situations, to a need to get one’s affairs in order, to ask for help, to talk about what’s hard, to deal with the things we don’t really want to face. I might dash off into my head, get brooding or quiet. That’s the way I process. Tapping away at words. Words are meaningless without the ability to communicate clearly. I am lost on this Topic.

Maybe Don’t Make Assumptions is connected to Be Impeccable With Your Word. On the assumption end, you are focusing on the other person, on believing that their world doesn’t revolve around you. Let that go. On the impeccable end, you are trying to make sure you can live up to your word, to the agreements you make with other people. Sometimes they are small, like following through on emptying the trash or changing the cat litter, washing the dishes. Sometimes they are big, like legal contracts, paying the mortgage or your rent, or showing up to work on time. What does it take to be there for your family, your friends?

I have not been focused this week. My thoughts scatter when I try to make sense of life events that just don’t make any sense. Who was it that said things would make sense? They don’t. Sometimes I wonder if the things I fear the most have to do with death, abandonment, being left behind. I don’t feel like I have my own affairs in order. Not yet. And there is still so much I want to do. But I don’t have control over how long I will live. Or how long those close to me will survive.

I can’t assume I will live a long life. And neither can you. That leaves this moment. And whatever’s happened in the past. To come to terms with the past, I study history. At the global, local, and family level. To make sense of the present, I write. I take photos. I mull things over. I try to be true to my word. I am not always successful. The agreements, for me, are more what I learned in Writing Practice. To make positive effort for the good. To continue under all circumstances. To not be tossed away. These are spiritual agreements, like the Four Agreements, like the Golden Rule. They are words to live by, impossible to follow, necessary for survival, tools that make relationships sing.

The people I respect the most stick their necks out for others, take risks, show gratitude, learn to live with the criticism of imperfection. Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Martin Luther King, Sitting Bull. This practice is all in the abstract. I cannot name names or even explain what I really mean. My eyelids are heavy. I said I would post this Writing Practice. I am sticking to my word. Perhaps my heart really isn’t into the writing. The rain washed away my sadness. But not my worry.  I dreamed of a freshwater lake the size of the Moon, concentric rings forming a circle that wraps around. Unbroken.


-Related to Topic post:  WRITING TOPIC — THE FOUR AGREEMENTS

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I’m sitting on the patio, the last of the cool morning air hanging on here with me. I listen to the energetic gurgle of two waterfalls in the pond. Notice that I don’t make assumptions about nature. I don’t assume anything about the water in the pond, well, except that it’s not potable. The mosquito fish must be getting big by now. I hope they’re eating all the mosquito larvae that float on the water’s surface.

I don’t make assumptions about the heat, don’t assign malintent to the place on the thermometer where the mercury hovers. It’s going to be a scorcher, an early June heat stroke in the Southwest. I assume it’s cooler here than in Carlsbad or Phoenix. I’d rather be here than there, although I’d rather this heat stroke not hit at all.

Just like I’d rather the Gulf oil spill not be happening. That’s an understatement. I can’t look at the pictures of oil-soaked pelicans, their watery eyes helpless behind layers of crude—CRUD—and not cry, not feel my stomach turn. I feel so helpless here, far away. I can’t imagine how the people of the coast feel. Ads featuring that British Petroleum CEO are playing these days, causing Jim to snarl at the television, “Oh shut up!” I don’t make assumptions or not make assumptions about that CEO. He is what he is, who he is, and like us all he is living a hell right now every time he thinks about what’s happening in those waters and beaches and reefs.

Assumptions. What is that saying—What does ASSUME mean? It means You make an ASS out of U and ME. How long ago did I first hear that and who told me? Was it Dad during one of our many fights when I was a teenager? We fought about my friends, my habits, his strictness, his expectations. I once got so mad during a fight that I threw a bottle of nail polish at Mom. Cooley and slowly capped the bottle, in my mind’s eye I looked at my freshly painted pink nails, blew on the tips of my fingers to make sure they were as dry as could be, and then I reeled back my arm, took aim, threw.

We made a lot of assumptions about each other then. I assumed my parents were out of touch, old-fashioned, incapable of understanding me. Now that I am the mother of a teenage girl, I wonder what assumptions, if any, she makes about me. I look at the assumptions I make about her. Surely from this writing practice I can take away that this is one place where I have to take special care to not make assumptions.

The pond still gurgles. It gurgles in spite of me here, in the waning cool. I think the scale has tipped, the day is officially hot. I wish it were that easy for me to tip the scale, to move from the place of making assumptions to the place of not making assumptions. I’ve never liked it when people label me. I don’t like to be distilled down by others so that they can better understand me. It’s not real, after all, those assumptions we make about one another. Not real, not like the heat of this day is real, nor the sound of water.




-Related to post WRITING TOPIC — THE FOUR AGREEMENTS

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