Playful Packrat

My sister freaks out once. “Oh, my gosh. Our parents still have boxes from their last move a decade later. What will we do when they die?”

Me: “Get a storage unit and open a box a year at Christmas for the rest of our lives.”

Her: “That could work.”

I tell my sister that we could start a magazine in response to Real Simple. “We will title it Playful Packrat.” We come from an impressive line of Packr– I mean, Collectors. Collector is honorable and respected. Packrat is, well, unfashionable. Perhaps I should title it Circumspect Collector instead. I know someone who seems to be collecting heavy equipment, which is an interesting choice. One needs more property than I have for parking.

My house would make Marie Kondo shudder. The photograph is the basement: the stack is my mother’s larger artworks. I am moving stuff around now that I am home-on-oxygen instead of running around clinic like a crazy rabbit. And like this writer, https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/maximalist-response-marie-kondo-minimalist-mandate, it ALL gives me joy. Well, ok, not the tiny ants. We are at war. My kitchen may be cluttered but by gosh it’s clean clutter because the tiny ants let me know immediately if I screw up.

Anyhow, my mother died in 2000, my sister in 2012, and my father in 2013. My parents left me their stuff and grandparent stuff, some of which I had never seen, and I still get dead people mail. The colleges and universities are the most persistent. They don’t care if someone is dead, they still mail out the Alumni Magazine. I get U of WI, Cornell, Princeton, U of Oregon, Medical College of VA, OHSU and Williston. Holy moly. U of TN and SUNY Binghamptom have lost track of us, thankfully. I wish I had kept my father’s notes on Beowulf and mailed them to Williston for their library. It would be a sort of just revenge. I still have boxes (my excuse is busy physician) so I will bet that I can find something to mail to each one of those places. Something that they want just as much as I want their Alumni Magazine. With a cover letter that says that my contribution is hidden in the documents. One dollar each.

I have too much stuff but I have now turned middle aged, that is, I am over sixty. So I now am on the downward side and decide, there needs to be outflow rather than inflow. I like my stuff but it’s time to start moving it. My mother was a prolific artist and all of the silent auctions in town will now be blessed by her art. And don’t worry, it is not awful! She has art in the Smithsonian, the National Museum of Women Artists, and a bunch of other places. See my April A to Z for details.

For my father it was books and musical instruments. I still have the guitars. I think there were twelve trumpets? A lute, a harp, a cello — the lute is in very bad shape and the others have gone to someone else and the school, respectively. Recorders, gone. I have flutes, my regular flute and then ones made out of clay, cherry, pvc pipe and bamboo, as well as a Native American flute. I am mostly playing the regular flute, Native American flute and guitar.

I am guilty of books, too. I DO want to read them all, but even if I did nothing but read for the next sixty years, I might not finish. The excuse that some are reference does not fly. Some are pure unsullied entertainment and by gosh, I am keeping those! I am not allowed to go to the book sale next week. I do have a library box but the books are not leaving at the rate they have been arriving in the last year. And it’s my fault.

Anyhow, I am enjoying my clutter. After all, we invented tables to put things on. Sometimes we do have to clear the table for the NEXT project, but no worries! There is always the floor!

Cheering up music:

wearing sunglasses in the rain

Trigger warning: this is about dementia. I wrote this over ten years ago.

wearing sunglasses in the rain

I am weeping for you both

you have cared for her
for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health

and she has lost her memory

you told me on the phone
that it’s not that bad

you say it again in the room

I knew before I saw her
that it was bad, very bad, much worse
she is only 60

she becomes agitated when we try to weigh her
old style doctor’s scale
frightens her to try to step up.
gentle caregiver that you have hired
pushes her, until I say stop, stop, stop
her weight does not matter

shuffling gait
she is frightened to be in a new place
I ask her questions gently
she does not want to sit in the chair in the exam room
“No!” she says “No!”
I leave the room until she’s calmer

when I return
I give her choices
“Shall I examine you first with my stethoscope
or shall I talk to your husband?”
I choose for her, the latter
she relaxes, a little
later, I tell her each step before I do it
she is slightly tense when I lay the stethoscope
on her thin shoulders, but she doesn’t fight

she tenses as I ask her husband questions
about the memory loss
ten years now, a steady course
I ask him what he understands about the prognosis
he shifts uncomfortably
and I ask her if she would like to wait in the waiting room
while I talk to him
Firm and clear: “Yes, I would.”

She is not in the room now
he says that she is not too bad
the picture comes slowly in to focus
mild memory loss, is what he thinks

there are three stages of memory loss, I say
mild, the short fibers, where short term memory is affected
we forget what someone just said
moderate, the medium axons
we forget the recipe that we’ve know for 50 years
we forget how to do math
we forget names and how to get to the store
we forget how to operate the car
severe, the long axons
executive function
we do not initiate things
we forget to get dressed
we forget how to speak
we forget our potty training

his eyes grow sadder and sadder

at last, we return to being a baby
we forget everything
at last, we remember the womb
we no longer want to eat

is she forgetting to eat?

he is not ready to answer

as we leave the room
he says that she is not sleeping well
she seems to be awake at night
eyes closed
but her fingers are moving, as in play
he doesn’t speak to her
he needs to sleep and thinks she should too

should he give her a sleeping pill?

maybe she is happy, I say
maybe in bed in the dark
you are there and it is safe
no one is making her get dressed
no one is making her bathe
maybe that is where she wants to be awake
I would not give her a sleeping pill

the dogs are in the room
he says
and the tv is on just a little
maybe she is happy

he is wearing sun glasses
as they cajole and help her in to the van

he is wearing sun glasses
though it is overcast, low clouds and raining

sometimes it is so hard
to say what I see
to try to say the truth

sometimes the truth is not gentle
but sometimes the truth is love

I am weeping for you both

written 2010

don’t kill your clients

I wrote this in 2016, when at least nine people died of overdoses in Vancouver, BC at Christmas, from fentanyl. I knew fentanyl was hitting my corner of the Washington State too. Warning, this contains a lot of swearing (edited so this does not become a “mature” site). I was in a very bad mood when I wrote it. It is meant to be black humor, to help me deal with grief.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/fentanyl-crisis-up-to-9-drug-overdose-deaths-in-vancouver-last-night-1.3900437

But the news today is STILL talking about fentanyl and overdose: https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/12/us/west-point-cadets-overdose-fentanyl/index.html. When will we ever learn? And also, drug dealers are not actually trustworthy…. your cocaine might contain fentanyl. Don’t do it.

don’t kill your clients

oh, you think I’m talking to physicians….

….no, I’m talking to my fellow dealers.

See, heroin is rather labor intensive to produce, being from the opium poppy and all that. (When people say “I only take natural supplements.” I want to say, “You mean like opium and heroin? You know, plant based.”) Also, Afganistan, those fungkers shoot you as soon as look at you. It turns out that fentanyl is cheaper to make and you can source the ingredients from China.

And then, you can make fake oxycodone tabs and fake hydrocondone pills and sell them for bitcoin on the silk road. But you know, ya gotta mix the sheet right. If you mix it wrong and a buncha people overdose and die, there are complaints. Ya might get some scared clients, like, junkie friends of junkies. And then there are also those chronic pain people who aren’t junkies but been forced onto the streets to treat they habit, I mean, pain. We got a good thing going, the pill thing, because the junkies think that pills is safer than heroin. You might scare the fungkers and then how the fungk will I be able to buy that island with my bitcoin?

So dealers, ya’ll fungkheads, ya messing it up if you don’t get the goddarn mix right. See, fentanyl is not routinely tested for on the blood and urine drug screens. So the person gets labelled as an oxycodone overdose and no one knows that it’s fake pills. But when there are too many deaths, the goddarn feds and doctors get suspicious and start testing the pills.

Same with heroin. Cheapens things to cut it with fentenyl. But you gotta calculate right, because if you kill a whole bunch of clients at once, 1. you cut into profits 2. you make the cops and docs suspicious. You gonna ruin it for everyone, you goddarn morons.

And now I hear we got a new mix. Carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer. Read the recipes carefully, morons, it’s 10,000 times as strong as morphine, you gotta dilute the sheet 10,000 times. Don’t you know math? Take a goddarn chemistry course.

Don’t fungk things up for the responsible drug dealers. A live client keeps on paying.

Be careful out there.

https://www.theguardian.com/global/2016/dec/11/pills-that-kill-why-are-thousands-dying-from-fentanyl-abuse-http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/24/health/elephant-tranquilizer-carfentanil-heroin/

Stages of Grief Playlist 2

Wait, another? We don’t go through the stages of grief once. We go around and around, like a spiral. Some days we want to lie down in the driveway and just not move. Others it seems like the there might be a tiny bit of sun in the world after all. A mourning handout from the American Academy of Family Practice writes about a culture where one is considered “legitimately crazy” for a year after the death of someone loved. The person is allowed to be emotional, complain, wear their bathrobe all day and call people at 3 am.

Maybe we are all in that stage right now.

Stages of Grief Playlist 2

Denial

The Offspring: Pretty Fly for a White Guy

Bargaining

Kate and Anna McGarrigle: Hard Times Come Again No More

Anger

The Offspring: The opioid diaries

Acting Out

Nathanial Ratcliff and the Night Sweats: SOB

Revenge

Bessie Smith: Young Woman’s Blues

Grief

Over the Rhine: Let it Fall

Acceptance

Sweet Honey in the Rock: Run, Mourner, Run

Up a tree

I love Great Blue Herons. We have a lot. I love them best in trees, because they still look strange to me in trees. They will perch right on the top of our tall Pacific Northwest trees and look like peculiar Christmas tree toppers. Alien angels. Their bones are lighter than ours, so they can stand on a limb that would not hold me or you.

Beach encounter

Yesterday B and I walk about a mile and a half of beach on Marrowstone Island. We see five other people total. There are long stretches with no one in sight anywhere.

Way down the beach there is a sand cliff. A coyote runs half way across the exposed face and stops. It looks precarious. We watch it. “That’s weird,” says B. “They don’t hang out in plain sight.”

It scrabbles and runs the rest of the way across. It stops and turns and sits. Watching us.

I laugh.

B. frowns. “They don’t DO that.”

“I think it’s listening to us. We’ve been singing and laughing.” We are goofballs on the beach. Wordplay. We’ve both been coming up with advertising songs. Horrors, ear worms.

“They don’t do that.” he says, “Can you take your camera out slowly?”

I have my Panasonic FZ150, 24x zoom. I get some shots. B is acting nonchalant, hunting for agates again. He finds more than me from both practice and I am busy taking pictures and being distracted by other pretty rocks, not just clear agates. He is disciplined. I am a generalist.

I get lovely shots. We zigzag back and forth on the beach, trying to look at ALL the rocks. “If you are hunting like this, other animals think you are foraging. Birds and animals will ignore you. I can get really close to them.”

The coyote is watching us. “He’s listening to us, really!”

“Maybe he wants to know what we are foraging for.”

“Rocks.”

“He’s hungry. Or he’s young.” We don’t really know it’s a he.

I start singing. I zigzag closer and take more pictures. She is flicking her ears at the song.

“She doesn’t seem rabid.”

“There isn’t much rabies out here.”

“Bats.” I say. I’ve researched it twice in the last 8 years.

“Yes, but not mammals.”

I start a video and sing to the coyote. I sing The Fox, though I leave out the verses about Old Mother Flipperflopper and the hunters. Coyote flips her ears and turns her head. She is checking where B is since he is moving further down the beach. I finish the song and turn off the video. “Thank you!” I say.

We walk again.

When we turn around, there is Coyote. She has shadowed us down the beach, and she slips into the brush at the foot of the cliff. She is quickly not visible.

“Humph.” says B.

I laugh.

Later, we look up and a larger animal is coming toward me. We both startle, but it is in a submissive posture. A dog, not a coyote, with a red collar. We both thought it was a coyote for a moment. It comes up to me and is very friendly. Then to B. Then back to it’s owner, who limps into sight.

“Wow, I thought it was another bigger coyote for a minute.”

“Me too. I thought it was coming right after you.”

“It’s owner looks frail and old.”

“Our age.”

“No way!” laugh.

“Yes.”

I don’t think so, but maybe. I was more focused on the dog.

I find two clear agates, but come back with two windbreaker pockets with other rocks. B only finds one that meets his specifications. My two really aren’t up to the quality he wants. Well, one is borderline and one doesn’t qualify.

Our town Covid-19 quarantine list

This is fiction. Though many of the people may exist in some form or other.

Subheading of police report:

Current covid-19 quarantine list

1. Katherine is quarantined for 10 days for chasing a deer out of her front yard with a broom without wearing a mask. Many thanks to the two neighbors who called in. Also, quit talking to deer and singing to the chickadees. You are just confusing everything.

2. Bob 1 is quarantined for 10 days for biking down his drive way without a mask on. Yes, we know you wore the mask for the other 48.25 miles. We don’t care.

3. Bill is quarantined for taking off his mask while hunting elk. No, being thirsty after butchering is not an acceptable excuse. You just be glad that you had that elk tag.

4. Two more Bobs are quarantined, one for playing the piano and the other for playing the fiddle, both with the windows open while not wearing a mask. It’s too cold for that right now and germs. Geeze.

5. Russ is quarantined because he can still talk fast, even through the mask. We aren’t allowed to say what else he’s done.

6. Joey is quarantined for miming fascism in public. We can tell who you are through the mask. Stick to magic, dude. Miming facisim is just creepy, ok? You are giving us nightmares.

7. Lou and Amelia are quarantined for abandoning the post office and for being too nice to bicyclers. What are you two, liberals?

8. Leah is quarantined for wearing that peek a boo mask and it didn’t match the rest of the outfit. Ok, you had matching gloves, shoes, hat, coat, dress and lipstick, but the mask was not right and we’re outlawing the peek a boo thing. People just get too hot.

9. Patrick is quarantined for nursing in public right out in the open. Really, now. Currently those fall under the mask rules too. You can use a big scarf or go indoors. It’s not socially acceptable yet for guys.

10. Geoff is quarantined for exposure to the 80 year old neurologist who is still working doing Independent Medical Exams. You guys took off your masks between patients in the back room. Fools.

11. Sue is quarantined for being around Geoff. Double fool.

12. Barbara and Carl and family are quarantined because they left everyone sad and hungry on Christmas Day 2020. Carl did not make the 500 gallons of hollandaise. We will happily set up a social distancing grid with 10 foot colored places for people to sit, with the neighborhood cordoned off for two blocks in all directions from your house. That is, we’d get eggs benedict first and any time one of us came on or off shift. The High School Robotics team has agreed to repurpose their robot to deliver to each person who is masked and sitting in a grid spot. We envision a pattern using both sides of each street so that the robot doesn’t go on the grass and fall over. We might even fund a second robot. Please? Could we have Christmas this year?

werewolf

Time out word warning, in this poem. This poem is about discrimination. Substitute practically anything for werewolf…. disabled, bipolar, depressed, autistic, substance abuser. I am sick of discrimination. For human, substitute “normal”.

You know I’ve been a werewolf my whole life

Started in the womb
triggered by antibodies
to tuberculosis

And I am tired

of people telling me

I’m a werewolf.

Ok? I fucking know that.
I have known it since Kindergarten
where I arrived full of joy
ready to sing

and was shunned

we didn’t have a television

but I knew that wasn’t really it
I was different
I am different

and fuck you humans
different is ok.

I am a werewolf
and I am fucking proud
of all I have accomplished
in the teeth of humans hating me
and trying to shut me down
and shunning me
and reporting me
and doing everything short of shooting me
with real guns

I’ve been told to sit down
shut up
stop arguing
be nice
be good
go away
die
don’t read my writeups
don’t C! my work
don’t talk to me
stop making waves
been fired
been reported
been shunned
been alone

and fuck you humans

get ready
because I am middle aged now
for a werewolf
and I am ready

to be one all the timee

damn the torpedoes
full speed ahead
fuck you humans
for how you’ve treated me

I’ve turned the other cheek
for sixty years

and now
I
will
fight

Feathers

This is the final poem in my Falling Angels Dream Poetry series.

Some people say there are

Angels among us

I have faith in birds
I search for a nest
Hummingbird nest
the size of a nut
tiny, lined with spiderwebs
I love the herons too
great blue heron
flying lands in a tree
above me
I look through my mechanical eye
zoom in click click
and there is another
at the tree top
two in a tree
I move around
and there – one drops down
one flies
I am not distracted
a nest
a six foot nest
blessed
I move away gently

I wander back by the tree
gently
in the morning
in the evening
not one
not two
two in this tree
two in that
one in another
as many as five in a tree
six foot wing spans
a rookery of winged beings

angels among us
and why would we think
they would look like us?

ring

I dream a night sky thick with stars

all the stars start falling

I think “That isn’t good.”
sore afraid

all the stars are angels falling

I think “That isn’t good.”
sore afraid

an angel falls close past me
in space
face at perfect peace

I think “Why do they fall?”
sore afraid

I am falling in space
head down
no earth beneath me
with the angels

crying, imperfect acceptance
sore afraid

I wake
I put the dream away

it comes back
in a decade

I write about wings
sore afraid

I try to understand
sore afraid

I am asked what my small self
my child self
wants

wings

I say yes
no longer
sore afraid

did you hear the bell?

yes