Somewhat poetry…

DEPRESSION

Locked tightly within my breast
Heavy stone hanging.
Held in place with living string
Imprisoned by fence-like bones.
Flows forever cold
Never to roll free.
Cut loose the strings
Move this mighty rock
Leave this earthly shell – come home.


THE HUNTER

He brought in his bag of bloody harvest
and laid it on the floor.

Casually – no big deal –
two pheasants and a squirrel.

Tenderly,
he laid his gun
across his lap.

Gently,
he wiped it clean.

Smiling…content.



A SHOWER EXPERIENCE

Soft warm water leniently engulfs my nakedness.
The din of the fan becomes a catalyst to subdue my consciousness.

Nymph-like, racing beyond now,
empty, alone…
I touch what might have been.
Perhaps next time.

Rudely, I am jostled out of my cosmic reverie.
The clamor of the fan has ceased to be.



SCHOOL

Ribbons softly waving
forward, back –
holding, never binding.

The ribbons pink in my hair
always pink.
Brown fingers caressing gently.

Silent nuns looming
unsmiling, unforgiving –
hooded knights demanding me.

Brown shoes and laces
symbols –
Speak up! Cat got your tongue?


AN ANOMOLY

Long before time,
he was mine.
Etched in the annals
of the universe,
a little boy waited.

Laughing, a giant snowball
with patches of red.
Up with his sled
and down again.

Running, butterfly net high
missing, falling.
Chasing life – losing.

Why did he come?
He was mine,
but not for me.

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Words of Wisdom

I’ve been mocked several times  recently for my lack of “Words of Wisdom” in that category on my Blog post. Well, today is the day to be wise.

 

PABLO PICASSO

When I was a child, my mother said to me,” if you become a soldier you’ll be a general.” ” If you become a monk, you’ll end up as pope.”  Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso

BERTON BRALEY

The grammar has a rule absurd
Which I would call an outworn myth;
“A preposition is a word
You mustn’t end a sentence with!”

VICTOR FRANKL

“The meaning of your life
is to help others find the meaning of theirs.”

JOHN DRINKWATER

And not a girl goes walking
Along the Cotswold lanes
But knows  men’s eyes in April
Are quicker than their brains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Speaking “No English” in a Foreign Land

First grade started for me when I was 5 years old.  My mother had 3 babies in 3 years, after me, and before me, 3 sons – 7 kids.  The nuns that ran St. Paul’s Catholic School wanted to help Mom ( father had recently died) so they enrolled me.  Needless to say, I was totally unprepared for this.

Port of entry date to the US from Italy was October 1928.  My mother knew no one other than a few Italian families that lived in town, and was reticent to leave the house except for church.  When I started school, I knew no one in my class (the other Italian children went to the township school), and of course I could not speak English, let alone understand it.

The Catholic Church celebrated many saint feast days, and as the school was part of the church,  the children participated in all sorts of processions and pageantry in honor of these saints and holy days.  My first exposure to the procession was sometime in the fall for something or other of my first grade year.  It might even have been around Christmas time.  The little girls were to wear white dresses, shoes, stockings, and gloves!…little white gloves!  On our heads wreaths of fresh greens (?),  I don’t have a clue what the wreaths were made of then.  They came from the florist, so very lush and fresh.

This is the part that gets murky.  I didn’t know who or how or why certain children were left out – I wasn’t the only one.  One thing is clear – I was not called to stand with the line of little girls during practice.  I remember sitting at my desk, arms folded, watching everything going on, girls on one side of the room, boys on the other.  At one point in the days leading up to the event I must have told my mother what I needed in the way of clothes (and gloves!), and on the day, I had everything,  The wreaths were always delivered to the church, and put on just before the procession into the church.

Even murkier.  My Godmother walked me to church.  It seems it was an evening thing and we were late.  The procession of children had already settled into the pews, the wreaths distributed, and the service about to begin when we arrived.  My Godmother never missed a beat.  She didn’t inquire about a wreath for me.  She led me to a pew and we just sat with the rest of the congregation, and I never took my coat off!  There was no mention of anything being amiss.  Told my mother all about it, how nice it was, and that was that.  We never talked about it again, ever.  But in my heart of hearts, I knew I wasn’t to be in the procession even though I hoped I would be.  This is where the language barrier comes in.  I didn’t understand what was said and didn’t know how to ask in English.  If I could have questioned, I would have been told that the first graders (the lst and 2nd grades were together in one classroom) would have to wait till they were 2nd graders, and had made their First Holy Communion.  I’m sure my mother didn’t know this or my Godmother either.  But I survived, and I had my little white gloves for years!

 

 

 

 

 

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A vecchiaia e calza rosso

Loosely translated, “When I am old, I will wear red socks”.  This is a phrase my mother recited as she got older and tried new things. She also used this phrase to poke fun at other people for the same reason!

Why is this something to write about?  Probably because I walked the Eugene Half-Marathon this year at the age of 90, and this was NOT one of the “things to do” on my bucket list.  Now I think of my mother’s phrase,  try to feel “normal”,  and wonder what she would have said about my feat.

Francesca was a fearless woman.  She arrived in this country at the age of 32, with four children, speaking no language but Italian. When my father died at the age of 39, leaving her with six children under the age of 12, she could have panicked and gone back to her family in Italy.  Or, used up her little money, and then turned to Social Services for support.  Instead she took her money and converted the front porch of the house to a small grocery store.  The little store serviced  the neighborhood while allowing her to buy food at wholesale prices for her family.

Lack of English-speaking skills made life a little more difficult, yet she was bound to survive and she did.  Mom eventually re-married – to a wonderful man – had 3 more children, and Pop became a father and supporter to us all!

Thoughts bring nostalgia and longing for other days when things might have been done differently.  But this is now, and I intend to continue wearing my red socks.

 

 

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Aggie’s Early Spring Garden

      

              Tulip                                      Camellia                                 Hyacinth

                   Hellebore                          Mason Bee Hive                              Daffodils

                                   Forsythia                                                               Oregon Grape

White Camellia

                        Bird Feeder                                 Lunaria                                    Sweet Violet

 

 

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REFLECTION

While contemplating  my upcoming soon to be “milestone” birthday I came across this little gem online:   Don’t complain about growing older – many, many people do not have that privilege.  And so I say, Hurrah, Hurrah, Hurrah – I shall live till I die!!

Looking back over the years, I can’t help but take mental stock of different years, events, happenings, good and bad.  Yet one year, my 19th, always comes to the top, and the reason remains a mystery to me.  I grew up in a very restrictive household (at least for females), oldest daughter, which meant setting a good example, no boys, no parties, just school, church and home.  I was happy – I was loved, and it was a life I knew.  When I blew the candles out on my 19th birthday cake, a feeling came over me that has never left – I was free, and could be and do whatever I wanted!!  Possibly it’s a feeling most people get at 18, but….  I dreaded turning 20 although I did anyway!

Sunday afternoons at my mother’s house was bedlam – absolute wonderful bedlam.  My three older brothers loved playing “cards” (poker etc,) and they and their friends used our huge kitchen table for their games.  In the meantime, Mom’s job was to make cookies!  Tray after tray – everyone loved Frances’ cookies.  Eventually the boys converted the garage to a club house, and some of the noise moved along with them.

So many memories center around that kitchen.  I wish I had a picture of the cooking stove.  Very large, half was run by gas with gas burners for cooking, the other half wood burning for heat, and oven cooking.  Two small broiler ovens rose over the back.  The house was heated by a coal furnace, but it was a huge house, and not as warm as we would have liked it to be.  There was always a rush in the morning to get to a spot close to the warm wood side!  It was my brother Johnny’s favorite spot after dinner – leaning against the warm stove, while singing and playing his guitar for hours.  One of my happiest memories.

 

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Why We Love Bluebirds

baby-bluebird

As beautiful as the outdoor scene is today, snow everywhere, early January, thoughts of Spring should be far, far, away.  But no, just the opposite.  I have a head cold, am sniffling and sneezing, am generally miserable, and can only wish for warmer brighter days.  Thus Spring thoughts and Bluebirds!

A few years back, I saw my first Bluebird while hiking up to the top of Mt Pisgah.  I wasn’t sure what it was, just that it wasn’t a Blue Jay.  It flitted from bush to bush, seemingly unafraid of me.  I was fascinated, and a little research gave me the information I needed.

Whether Eastern, Western or Mountain, the Bluebird is native to North America.  The scientific name is Sialia Mexicana.  The early settlers were quite taken with its friendliness and sweet, sweet song.  Many stories have been told, and numerous songs have been written about this beautiful bird with sky blue wings and golden red breast.  Their coloring is quite vivid, making identification rather simple.  Not too big, about 7 inches long.  The male is bright blue on back, wings, head and throat.  The bright orange/red breast color extends onto the back.  I’m sure the one I saw was a male.  The female has the same markings, but duller with a grayish cast.

Western Bluebirds can be found all along the West Coast of the United States, and tend to move to lower elevations for the winter.  They come back by February/March indicating warmer weather, and are known as the harbingers of spring.  How could you not love them?

Bluebirds are also known as messengers of hope, happiness, and love.  Judy Garland sang “…over the rainbow, bluebirds fly.”  And we can’t forget the hope filled song “…the white cliffs of Dover.”  Actually, I don’t know how that song came to be, because the bluebird never lived in England.  How about “Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder”?   The song of the bluebird, a soft, smooth sound, is mostly for themselves.   Clyde Todd (1940) said their song “…is like the gentle murmur of a flowing brook…awakens a sense of well-being and contentment….”

Although the female builds the nest, made mostly of grasses, the male is very protective and guards the box during construction, even offering her treats.  Their beaks are not strong enough to excavate their own nests, so they rely on cavities made by others, like woodpeckers.  Before pesticides, farmers put up nest houses along the fence for the birds;  almost 70% of the bluebird diet is insects.

One problem for bluebirds is the house sparrow.  The sparrow was brought to the US in small numbers in the middle 1800s.  Now they are the most abundant songbird on the continent.  They destroy bluebird eggs and nestlings, even adult bluebirds if they can catch them in a nest box.  Another challenge for the bluebird survival is that the number of natural cavities has dwindled due to the loss of open spaces.  The use of pesticides to control insects has also taken its toll.  Weather is another factor.  Severe winter conditions without protected roosting locations, lack of liquid water, food sources covered with snow – these are all conditions that impact the bluebird population.  By 1950, 50% of the population had perished.

Bluebirds depend on humans to survive and thrive.  Conservation efforts across the continent have taken up the challenging hobby of attracting bluebirds.  Thanks to the efforts of many volunteers, the Eastern Bluebird population has started to increase again.  The Western Bluebird is lagging, but with people still caring, spreading the word, getting involved, the lovely Bluebird will survive and thrive!

male-and-female-bluebirds

 

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Friends

Why is it so hard to write about friends and friendship? I’ve been trying for months to write this particular piece, and can’t seem to get out of my head.  It just goes round and round.  So why write anyway?   William Faulkner mentions in one of his forwards a book written by Sienkiewicz in the 1800’s and the reason for writing this particular book “…to uplift men’s hearts.”

So what is friendship?  Katherine Davis, writer and poet, says “It is many things.  Feeling completely natural with another, shedding pretense and sham, just being yourself.”   This sounds good, indicating a close intimate friendship, which might not be possible for everyone.  I like to think that friendships come in varying degrees, beginning with casual ones, vacation or summer friendships, right on to close ones that perhaps have been sustained over a longer period of time.

There are obvious reasons for friendships, such as having common interests, being neighbors, and being co-workers.   But there are many people who share our interests with whom we couldn’t possibly be friends…neighbors who go their separate ways, co-workers we say ‘good morning’ and ‘good night’ to only.

Whether we really know why we form certain friendships would be hard to say, if ever necessary.  According to Dr. B. Spock, children respond wholeheartedly to inner impulses without the self-analysis and rationalization of their feelings.  When my son was in first grade, birthday parties were very popular and his was a “looked forward to” event.  His guest list had been made up weeks before.  Several days before the party he asked if he could invite another person to the party.  I said, “fine, who is it?”  He told me it was a girl who had recently moved to the area.  When I asked why he wanted to invite her, he answered “because she’s my friend.”  Party day brought out the fact that she was a young girl of color and spoke very little English–something he hadn’t thought important to mention at all.

Regardless of the degree, there is an inherent quality in all friendships whether casual or close that draws people together.  Whether it is definable or not is unimportant…any friendship can be of real value for both persons in terms of enjoyment and growth.  Many years ago when first arriving in Oregon, I became friends with Naomi,  a woman 25 years my senior.  This friendship would be called supportive, rather than close or intimate.  Most of the time we acted as a boost for each other.  If she was down, it was usually because she was stuck on a line of poetry.  All she needed was to talk it out with someone.  If it was my day for problems, she listened without really hearing the words, knowing from my tone if I was anxious.  When I was through she would make me a cup of tea, and tell me a funny story.  This was quite different from a friendship I had with a woman back in New York.  Cissie and I spent a good deal of time together – shopping, bowling, walking, or just talking over a cup of coffee.  We could discuss husbands, religion, our flights of fancy, or periods of depression.  We didn’t always agree, which helped make it a stimulating friendship.

There is a saying by Sir James Barrie that puts it all together for me.  He says, “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”

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WHY WALK

img_3631For starters, there are obvious health benefits.    Many stories  and articles have been written  toutinimg_3632g those benefits. Walking cuts the risk of heart disease, bombs calories and burns fat – even improves memory.  You can do it at your own pace, and your health and weight will love you for it.   That’s not where I’m going with this blog today.  I want to talk about the adventure of walking – seeing, feeling, and getting out of myself while exploring the surrounding world of nature and people.

Walking (as getting from one place to another) started early for me.  As  a five year old, I started 1st grade, and walked at least a mile and a half each way.  My school was not in the public school system, so no bus to take me back and forth!  We didn’t have a car (no, not even a horse and buggy).  Living in a small town can have drawbacks, but you can walk everywhere and wherever you need to go.  It was a good beginning, and my enjoyment of walking has never wavered.

Now  I like walking the bike path, especially along the Amazon.  Away from the traffic  noise and smells, the feeling of not having to hurry — peaceful.  Today I took special note of those people who looked at me and spoke and those that did not.  The bicyclists are mostly friendly.  I especially enjoy greeting/talking with the homeless  who have taken shelter under the bridges.  But many walkers seem hesitant  to make eye contact, let alone speak.  Maybe they’re so locked into their thoughts that any acknowledgement would be too distracting.  Next time out I’m going to WILL them to look at me!  As Cellist Yo-Yo Ma said, “I have yet to meet a tradition that wasn’t enhanced by interacting with others.”

Modern technology isn’t my strongest suit, but having my iPhone with built-in camera has been an added blessing while walking.  The ever-changing natural environment is not unique to Eugene, but I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by its own uniqueness and to capture some of it on camera.

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img_3679-1Walking doesn’t require fancy equipment.  A good pair of walking shoes is important, otherwise whatever clothing is comfortable is appropriate, while dressing for the weather conditions is smart.  Whether meditating, contemplating, planning, praying—using your feet and head—your heart will be happy in more ways than one.

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“A Day in the Life”*

It was one of those inspiring spring days when everything seems to go well.  My household chores were done, I had worked the garden, and was feeling pretty satisfied with myself.  The children had all made it home on the school bus, so I decided I’d pull the VW Bus into the garage.  My husband liked to see the driveway free of cars, toys, and bikes when he got home from work.  It gave him the feeling that everything was under control.

As I came out of the house with the car key, my 15-year old son climbed into the car and said laughingly, “C’mon, Mom, let me pull it in.  You know I can do it”.  Well, I didn’t know whether he could or not for sure, because he never had, but he had started the engine and moved the car up and down the driveway several times with me in the car.  My first reaction was to give him a firm “No”, but then,  decided to let him do it.  After all, I reasoned, the garage was only a length of about 20 feet from where the car was, and with a double garage door it was like being on the open road.  All he had to do was start the engine and pull the car straight in.  I said, “OK, but slowly”.  I handed him the key and moved to the side.

He ceremoniously buckled himself into the seat, opened the car window and called out with a big smile on his face, “see you in a while Ma”.  He started the engine and shifted into first.  His coordination wasn’t too good, and the car sort of jerked forward as he released the clutch.  He quickly shifted into second and pushed heavily on the accelerator pedal.  The car shot forward and I called out, “Now, that’s it – STOP!”

The look of panic on his face as he zoomed past is unforgettable.  He called out, “I can’t stop – the brake won’t work”.  I yelled back, “the emergency brake, pull up on the emergency brake”.  And I watched him go through the back of the garage as he leaned forward and pulled up on the brake.

Originally the house had a single car garage attached, which my husband converted into a family room.  He then added an extra wide two-car garage to the side of the house.  The original small garage door was then built into the back wall of the second garage.  The back end of the garage was storage space for garden tools and machinery, so having the large opening made getting the equipment out less frustrating.  Even in his panic, my son had the presence of mind to steer toward that door.  When he finally came to a halt, the VW Bus was half way through the door, giant springs dangled from the ceiling, and splintered wood was draped across the top of the car.  One of the bikes had been pulled along and was jammed between the wall and car.  The lawn mower and leaf sweeper were under the front end of the car, and I was screaming.

He climbed out of the car, terribly shocked, but not hurt physically.  We put our arms around each other and cried–from relief, but also for the stupidity on my part, and for the shattering of the confidence he’d had.  He thought he had been pressing the brake when actually his foot was on the accelerator.  A panicked telephone call brought Father home to a clean driveway, but the devastation of the garage scene was not soon forgotten.  At the end of the day however, uppermost in our minds and hearts, was relief and gratitude that a far greater tragedy had been averted.

VW Garage (2)  VW Garage (1-1)

VW Garage (4)VW Garage (3)

*Lennon-McCartney

        “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust?  A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.  What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”  C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

 

 

 

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