July 7, 2021. Between adventures in our Airstream lifestyle, I play catch-up at my desktop prowling through many, many photos to determine keepers (still “many” though I do discard duplicates and fuzzies) and pair photos with poems written along the way. Some poems call for collaging multiple photos to reflect what I “saw” while writing. We’re packing now for the next jaunt, so high time I finish my “work” from prior jaunt. We went in June to South Llano River State Park, where we’ve been many times. This time in a site new to us, seeing things not previously apparent. Like the mesquite tree with twisted limbs forming a beautiful heart for viewing from the picnic table. We arrived on my 75th birthday and one of the best gifts ever was an hour of solitude at dusk while my generous husband took both Labradors for a long walk. Headed out, he handed me an ale which paired nicely with the view and triggered this poem. (Later the moon rose a bit to the right of the mesquite heart.)
October 15, 2020. I’m almost back from a month’s retreat from home base. I’ve been physically and energetically disconnected from computers and routines. In the next week or so I’ll be catching up on blog posts from others – another sort of cushion comfort! Come end-of-October, I’ll be traveling again …
This haiku was written in response to the visual impact of sky-gazing from the mountain over Cloudcroft NM (a place we return to at least once a year). In typing it up today, I realize it speaks also to my “destination” of adjusting to losing my son. Life seems a continual journey toward an ultimate destination difficult to envision. I savor interim pauses.
September 9, 2020. Two weeks now since my son’s death. He was here the seven weeks prior, seldom leaving the house except for a daily walk around the block. The Labrador and two cats blinked at furniture rearrangements and accepted my son’s desire to be left unlicked, unrubbed. That said, he spent hours observing the canine/feline maneuvers and interactions. It was soon clear they were meditative entertainment through long hours of “just sitting” in the living room. I’d peek at him from behind my computer screen … or gaze at him from my rocking chair … grateful for the nonverbal companionship he enjoyed. Pets don’t ask questions.
Labrador and calico have acclimated, but I keep finding the ginger cat prowling the now-empty room we turned into his bedroom and sitting on the doorstep – signs of searching: where’d he go? For seven weeks his energy filled these rooms, and that remains. I sense a smile of sorts penetrating the space, his pleasure that this cat is seeking him. Perhaps he speaks to her in ways I cannot hear – perhaps they’re engaged in an adventure game. So much I cannot understand.
Includes Book Review: Dancing In The Narrows by Anna Penenberg
May 1, 2020: The past six weeks have been a continuing transformation of “normal”. Settling into new stay-home isolation, two challenges arrived simultaneously: a beautiful but ultra-difficult 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle and a book-review request. The jigsaw image is by Sara Steele, one of my favorite modern painters, and ultimately worth the agony that prompted visions of a mini bonfire, puzzle pieces aflame. The book, by Anna Penenberg, chronicles a single mother’s heartaches and strengths as she and her daughter (stricken with a debilitating illness later diagnosed as Lyme Disease) are propelled through one medical intervention after another, hopes rising and falling. I welcomed this book to better understand Lyme Disease.
Certainly I had ample time to work this puzzle and review this book. They made interesting “lap” companions! The puzzle flowers took me virtually out-of-house, and the book took me out-of-now back to years as a single mother. The timing of reading this book is notable. A book about rising to meet uncertainties, about survival through adapting – along with a world-wide call to face uncertainty, to adapt.
I’ve collaged together the imagery, as these two have become interwoven symbols of my pandemic stay-at-home experience. I’m breaking usual form with this post to include the book review, below. You can pre-order now on Amazon; availability is July 2020.
Dancing In The Narrows by Anna Penenberg (She Writes Press, July 2020)
This is a true tale of resilience facing uncertainty. Lyme disease is the villain. Mother Anna Penenberg and daughter Dana are each victims, though only the daughter harbors Lyme. Both are also heroines. Though many Lyme specifics are covered, read this book for its model of perseverance against odds, against unknowns. The book is hard to put down. And when the last page turns, you will see your own challenges through a clearer lens.
~~~Woven into the struggles are spiritual connections to nature, labyrinths, and dance. Author Anna Penenberg studied dance in college to become a therapist using bodily motion to heal. Exploring treatments takes mother and daughter on several road trips, each a mix of serious business with natural and spiritual encounters. Like the sunset viewing of the Grand Canyon while pelted by hail, doubling over in laughter, needed relief. “Everything bothered Dana. When pain overwhelmed her ability to be civil, we drove in silence.”
~~~The Narrows, a slot canyon in Zion National Park, is a 16-mile stretch of the Virgin River where tall canyon walls come closer and closer together. On a rare week away from Dana, Anna returns to this place during a rainy season, and hikers must stop short of her desired point. She is allowed 10 minutes on her own, a little beyond the group. She splashes along a sandbar, hugging the cliff, finding herself “not broken.” The book is named for this pivot point.
~~~The phrase “She will turn a corner” captures the essence of years of searching for answers, “as if we were driving in a neighborhood where, if we made the right turn, we would meet the cure for Lyme disease.”
~~~As Dana begins to improve (in 2012), Anna celebrates turning sixty with a circle of women, reflecting: “I’d had the heroic job of standing by my ailing daughter day and night for years. It wasn’t a job that could be hired out. It wasn’t a job I chose. It wasn’t a job with tenure, benefits, retirement, or prestige, but it transformed me.” The illness began in 2007. In 2013 Dana could finally live on her own. “I took off the cloak of survival and stepped naked into my life.”
~~~Each chapter opens with a poignant quote. One, from Alan Watts: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” This book has much to offer anyone (male or female) facing a challenge that defies resolution — hence, all of us facing the 2020 pandemic. This odyssey encourages survival through persistent pursuit. Protocols embraced by daughter Dana make 2020 rigorous hand-washing seem trivial.
Book Review posted on GoodReads.com: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3309921796?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1
April 29, 2020. Yesterday (another day isolating at home) included a nap, and an awakening that stirred up a poem. This is NOT a black&white image of my blue bedroom – somehow afternoon sunlight shifted perspectives right out of color ranges – for my eyes, and for the phone camera synchronistically beside me (I don’t usually nap with phone!). I’ve added an icon to depict inner spin with Uncertainty.
February 14, 2020: Insomnia. Some nights prove unsleepable. As though I’m being kept awake by invisible energies, wearing down my cognitive defenses that I might receive some message, some vibration from the Universe. I often happily honor such wee hours … but when the coming day demands I be alert reasonably early … well, then I summon the Sleep Angels.
No mistaking the effectiveness of repetitive motion, in a dark room, with a cat purring. I’ve collaged my trusty glider with an angel photographed 3 years back (knew I would want that image down the line!)
February 5, 2020. Sometimes it’s good to excuse ourselves from current events and commune on a more spiritual level with our surroundings.
Finally I’m able to stand between my eclectic shaman and my backyard fountain – mindful of energy moving around and within – triggered by the brilliant turquoise of fountain replicated on a limb trimmed from our Texas Persimmon tree. To replace the shaman’s original staff weathered away, I began late last summer working the branch, sanding – but somehow the painting stayed delayed. Now it has all come together! (I’ve put the two closer together via collage.)
Shaman: Made to order about 10 years ago, combining characteristics of Texas rock-art shaman figures with their Arizona kin – 3’9″ boosted higher by stump
Fountain: Standard variety, central feature in our backyard “wheel garden” – attracting many winged visitors – 3’9″ high
January 17, 2020. As I open mentally and emotionally to the uncertainty of 2020 … this poem honors an experience way, way back in 1983 working for IBM in Boca Raton, FL … I became the lucky alternate when the guy chosen to attend a Santa Monica 4-week class could not go. The class was Modern Engineering, and its primary purpose was to encourage life-long learning. We were blessed with UCLA professors delivering all sorts of engineering specifics I had no immediate use for. But the experience was indeed mind-opening. Gone was my notion that “engineers” were a super breed. They were mathematicians, like me, theirs a specialized focus.
The Mobius band given on completion has been my reminder since that life IS continuous learning, that whatever is occurring right now is both temporary and influential on what follows … everything changing all the time. I look to the Mobius band as a “walking stick” to steady me through unorientable uncertainty along the path of 2020.
(A Möbius strip, band, or loop, also spelled Mobius or Moebius, is a surface with only one side and only one boundary. The Möbius strip has the mathematical property of being unorientable.)
January 7, 2020. One week into this new year, new decade … one I have anticipated for its promise of transition in my personal life. I go through a month-long process each December focusing forward and creating a mandala to guide the coming year. I named 2020 Navigate Uncertainty given mid-year expectations. Well … 2020 is showing its character up-front, in this first week!
We were camped at Lake Mineral Wells State Park (west of Fort Worth TX) when 2020 arrived. Image (from my Austin yard) is last night’s sunset in west … behind it a cloudless eastern sky dominated by a high bulging moon.
December 16, 2019. We’ve just experienced the last 2019 full moon cycle, and I’m now experiencing my first Dracaena bloom watch. You may know Dracaena by her common name – corn plant. She’s a popular houseplant, needing little maintenance, little light, asking only that you periodically cut her back and replant the cuttings. My back porch is full of her long, floppy, dark green leaves. I received a cutting from a corn plant my Aunt Mary Beth left behind in 1990, taken by my sister for her office, divided multiple times. The single stalk I took in (roughly 10 years ago) has evolved to five plants in three large pots. In all that time, I never knew it could BLOOM! A little over a week ago, we woke to find one of the five had sprouted a long bloom stalk overnight.
Fascinated, I went googling to find my plant’s real name is Dracaena Fragranz Massangeana and she does occasionally bloom – a powerful fragrance and a blooming cycle of 3-7 days. I’m still on watch as Dracaena begins Day 9, with well over half her buds yet to open. Though moon phase was not mentioned as catalyst for blooming, I find Dracaena blooming along with the final 2019 full moon intriguing. The poem below emerged piecemeal. The first image is a collage of Dracaena and Moon – the 2nd is a series of photos showing (1) full bloom stalk, (2) a bloom amid unopened buds (with the prior night’s spent bloom clutching a gem of sap), and (3) bud opening.