Graced

Poem: Graced

I touched base with the psychologist

not one I know

just one who was around

asked if I could talk
for 15 minutes

indeed, he said
a difficult situation

you know that the person won’t change

echo
won’t change won’t change

I believed this
for two days

then I remembered
why I am a doctor
my secret weapon
my healing talent

I always have faith in change

everyone
has choices

“I can’t stop smoking.”
says the man

“My father quit three years ago.
55 years of two packs a day,
unfiltered Camels.”

“Camels!” says the man
“Those are bad!”

“You can quit too.
It might take more than one try.”

Why would I go to work
to talk about hypertension
exercise, birth control
obesity, heart attacks

unless at my core

I believe each person has choices?

Sometimes the choices
are between miserable
and horrible

life and death

still
whether a person is 9 or 90

they are graced
by choice

The photograph is from May 2012, at the memorial for my sister. My father is on the left, sitting, wearing oxygen.

grounded

This is a poem that I wrote in 2015 or before. It was previously posted here and on everything2.com. I just read a blog where two hockey dads are dead of covid-19. The author is writing about grief. I wrote this when I was struggling with grief and how to really let it in.

grounded

grief is an ox
that stands in the room with me
and overshadows
everything

no
grief
is a plow
pulled by an ox
I try to guide it
in the furrows

no
grief is the heavy ground
the plow turns it
the ox pulls
I guide it
in the furrows

no
I am grieving
I let it be close
I don’t push it
in to an ox
in to a plow
in to the earth
I let it in
I grieve

I have seen the frogs

I have seen the frogs
in the northwest

all you have to do is be quiet
near the puddles
or a pond

walk there very very quietly

in the spring they are singing
to each other
calling
a symphony of longing and joy
and they don’t hear me
when I walk very quietly
at the end of the world

as a child my father teaches me
to catch frogs

very quietly
approach the pond
or puddle

if the frog hears you
it will duck under water
you will only see a ripple
spreading out

or it will hop
into the woods
and hide

my father
would occasionally use frogs
as bait
to catch northern pike
a live frog on a hook
frogs scream
when you stick a hook through their back

I hope they go into shock then
and don’t feel much

one we’d seen this
my cousins and my sister and I
when my father got his fishing rod
we’d run through the woods
yelling “Hide the frogs, hide the frogs!”
and we would catch any frog
that was dumb enough not to hide
and quickly set it in the woods
to hide it from my father

we would check the puddles, too
feeling in the brownish muck
to make sure no frog was hidden
in the shallow puddle
come out, you must go in the woods
to survive

to catch the smart ones
normally
we would tiptoe to the puddle
hoping a frog was facing the other way
if they saw us, they were gone

slowly bend down, hand out
behind the frog
reach gently
grab just above the back legs
not too hard, don’t squish it

I was under ten
on a canoe trip
when I run to my father
“A frog! A frog! The biggest frog I’ve seen!
Papa, come help!”
My father comes.
An enormous frog is beside the canoe.
“Catch it.” says my father.
“Please! You catch it!” I beg.
My father creeps up on the frog.
His hand moves out slowly.
He grabs the frog, who tries to jump
and croaks, a bass, huge mouth.
“It’s a young bullfrog,” says my father.
“It will get even bigger.”
He hands it to me.
I take it carefully, shaking a little.
“We could eat it’s legs.”
“NO!” I say. I just want to hold it for a minute.
I turn it over and gently stroke it’s throat.
The frog goes limp, mesmerized.
I set it down gently, right side up,
near the water.
I squat by the frog and wait.
I am waiting for it to wake up.
The frog is so beautiful.
I wait until it wakes up
and returns home.

long white gloves and an oxygen tank

I am invited to a Sinatra party, formal dress.

Let’s see. I have a sprained left shin. I fell on Monday, walking around a piece of property trying to find out if it had two streams. It doesn’t. It has one, three feet deep and over 18 inches wide. Who cares? Well, if it’s over 18 inches wide, it’s a salmon stream and to build a house you have to be 150 feet away. Which means you can’t because it cuts diagonally right through the property. Darn. I did not fall in the stream. I fell into a nice hole by a tree and rolled my left ankle a little. My ankles are pretty strong from dancing. It seemed fine.

So the next day I hike the beach twice, with my daughter and then B, maybe 6 miles. I am tired of hiking boots and try the toe shoes instead. “You have toe SOCKS?” said my minimalist daughter. “Of course,” I said, “Otherwise they are uncomfortable.”

Ankle is fine.

Next day I end up moving furniture. Ankle is a little sore.

Next day I hike a couple miles of beach in the morning and then a friend from Portland and I do the spit. We get to within a mile of the lighthouse, which means we hike 5-6 miles out on sand. It is gorgeous. I am limping on both feet by the time we get back, but left shin is worse. It’s really dumb to hike 14 miles in shoes that you have only worn once in the last year. I elevate my ankle once in the car.

View from North Beach

The NEXT day B and I are on a jaunt. My ankle now makes it known that it is NOT HAPPY with me. We stop at the store for fud, as my son calls it, and I get an ace wrap and wrap it. Later we pay $1.00 at a Fast Food Joint for a cup of ice water and I ice it. At his park unit he mows and I limp along the river until I am in the sun. Later we hike Rialto Beach. I wore my hiking boots. My ankle is not appeased.

Now we are at yesterday. I have tickets to the Sweet Honey in the Rock on line concert. At noon. Junteenth. Ooops, no, at 3 pm. Ooops, no, on the west coast at 5 pm. Then I can’t make the stupid ticket work. I am really really frustrated. Well. I send them emails, try to get a new password, I have the ticket number. I keep getting a 503 server OVERWHELMED. Dang. I give up after an hour.

But I am invited to a Sinatra Solstice Juneteenth Bash, formal dress up. In my town that means wearing anything you can think of. I put on a gray dress, sleeveless but it has little gray flowers with silver gray pearls in the middle, all over the front. I have above the elbow white gloves. My ankle has a snug wrap and I put on dark gray hose and silver shoes with a 1.5 inch heel. I won’t dance, too hard on the ankle. I have acquired a set of gray pearlish beads which is so long that if I do not wrap it around twice it reaches to my knees. Mysteriously enough, it has a clasp. Why does it have a clasp? So some giant can put it around their neck? I complete the outfit with lipstick and my oxygen tank. The tanks are lighter than the concentrator, though bulkier. They are slightly bigger around than a tall oxygen tank but are light. I change the tank before I go. A full one lasts about 3-4 hours.

It is an outdoor party, there is tons of yummy food and there is wine and mead but no beer. I brought one beer along with my contribution, so I nurse my one beer… and dance. My ankle does not like this, but the music is so fun. Our host sings sets intermittently and then there is a DJ. The above the elbow white gloves are very fun to wear dancing and I have to try not to whack people when I spin with the awkward oxygen tank.

One gentleman thanks me for dancing. He says I am having so much fun that he’s having fun just watching. Cool. I LOVE to dance. One woman says something about wanting to pick one of the gray flowers off my dress, and I say dramatically, “No, I shall not be deflowered!” A line that one cannot use often… People have wonderful costumes and feathers and gloves and hats. It is fun just seeing what people are wearing. People were asked to come only if vaccinated and I am mostly distanced. I mostly dance alone, but have a couple of dances with guys. It’s a bit tricky to spin without whacking them with the tank. Tank girl, heh, heh.

At last I get home. I got to the party at 6 and it is not dark when I get home. Maybe 8 or 8:30? I lie down on the bed with an ice pack, propping my pissed off shin up on a pillow, just for a few minutes. Crash and wake up three or four hours later with the light still on. I turn out the lights, move the ice pack and go back to sleep.

Long white gloves and an oxygen tank. I am so grateful for the oxygen. I feel better than I have in the last seven years….

….and today I might just rest the ankle.

Here is one of my favorite Sweet Honey in the Rock songs:

Sweet Honey in the Rock “breaths”

Happy Father’s Day. My father died in 2013, emphysema from unfiltered Camel cigarettes. Damn cigarettes. I miss him.

Sweet Honey in the Rock: Let There Be Peace

Liars and the lying lies they tell

This blog post: hanging from a telephone wire intrigues me.

Why do the liars lie?

I disagree with Ms. Kennedy.

The liars lie for the same reason that addicts lie. They are not lying to you or to me. They are lying to themselves FIRST. They want to believe what they say.

“My marriage is perfect.”

“I love all my children the same.”

“I never make an error.”

“I talk to my mother every Sunday morning because we are so close and love each other so much.”

“I can see right in to your head.”

“I don’t care about anything.”

“I am happy all the time.”

Whew. A totally easy list to come up with and I could go on and on and on…. and so could you. When someone says something like this… I am always (fill in blank) or I never (fill in blank)… stop. Think. They want to believe it. They might like you to believe it too. They might even kind of know that it’s a lie and very convincing one but the best liars have convinced themselves.

I saw it in clinic all the time. Over and over and over.

It’s the glitter that gives it away. When they come in all glittery and sparkly and their eyes shine and they are too beautiful for words and they charm your socks right off…. check your wallet. They are an addict or a manipulator or they WANT SOMETHING FROM YOU. And there are people who just do it automatically. They lie all the time.

Whatever. When someone reminds me of my mother or my sister… or the other extremely well trained enablers on the maternal side of my stupid family…. ooooooo. The person has my full focused attention. Which thing is the lie? What do they want? What are they going to try to get out of me?

When I trained in buprenorphine treatment, the guy (enabler) that I was dating was horrified. “You can’t treat addicts!” he said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“They LIE.”

I laughed. “ALL patients lie. There are studies. They lie about whether they are taking their blood pressure medicine. They lie about how much salt they are eating. They lie about exercising. The first question I ask if someone’s blood pressure is too high, is “Are you taking the medicine?” More than half the time I get a sheepish, “Yeah, well, no, I ran out of it two weeks ago.” “Yeah, well, then I can’t tell if it’s working or not, can I? And you’ll have to redo the stupid labs once you have taken it for two weeks and come back for another check.” “Ok, ok, I get it.” If you lie to your doctor, well, you might get hurt. Tell them about the pills your friend gave you, tell them about the supplements, and that infected toe? Might help if you tell the truth about it. Even though it was when you um inserted well we were just, like he has an infected um. That is important information and changes which antibiotics I use plus now I want to check for chlamydia and gonorrhea and same sex male so we gotter talk about HIV prophylaxis and this is a 15 minute clinic visit? I am now running late and annoyed. You need another visit in 1-2 days or else I gonna hospitalize yo dumb self.

And WHY do people, and especially people in addiction, lie to themselves?

Damage. ACE scores. Adverse Childhood Experience Scores. They wish that they were that close to their mother. They long for a perfect marriage. They were beaten in secret by the perfect father. The famous man, their grandfather, sexually abused them. The list is endless.

And how do we help? The person I just stopped dating told me that his children said to him “My picker’s broke.” Our pickers are not really broken. We are attracted to the people who can teach us.

In the book Passionate Marriage, the author writes about how we are attracted to the people who have what we lack. What we want to learn. What we are afraid of. What we need to learn. I needed to learn how to really look at anyone I date with my full on intuition right away and also that it is seriously Not Nice of me to get curious, activate my inner scientist and stick around. I recognize the projection on me at some point and then the scientist in me is intrigued. Really? The most recent one said that inside me there is a sweet innocent joyous tiny girl.

Well, I thought. No, not really. There certainly is a baby. But it’s a baby honey badger or a baby Iron Bitch Alien Lizard. Don’t care what you call it. But it is about as sweet as a pissed off porcupine or skunk. Polecat. Octopoggles done got us! Squirting ink and sliding into an impossibly small space and escaping from the acquarium over and over until the captors let me go…..

And that was actually the moment I should have spoken up. Calmly. Kindly. “Um, no. I was never a sweet innocent joyous tiny girl. I was bathed in antibodies to tuberculosis in the womb and no doubt alcohol and my parents were newly married and I came out saying, “What is happening now? Some new torture? Augh! Bright lights! Is there food? I am really really hungry. Feed me or I will eat YOU.” And then I lost my mother for nine months so that I would not catch tuberculosis from her and die. I didn’t really understand it. I thought people kept giving me away and that you couldn’t trust those evil adults.

In the end this is all actually necessary, says the Passionate Marriage author. WHAT? WHAT? Well, in a truly loving relationship, both people will withdraw the projection. The projection is the “falling in love” where the person is golden, perfect, your true love. No, they aren’t. But you love that aspect of them that you want/need/can’t do. True love is when you withdraw the projection and you see the real person and you love them.

It isn’t easy. But people do it. Birds do it, squirrels do it, trees do it, even elementary bees do it… let’s do it… let’s fall in love.

Mother’s Day Songs: motherless children

A friend and I are talking about Mother’s Day yesterday.

Somehow having a song about Mother’s Day came up. “Bet I can think of one.” I say.

“Humph.” says the friend. Or some skeptical comment.

I start singing.

“That’s NOT a mother’s day song.” says my friend.

“Well, it is if your mother is dead.”

“It’s not cheerful.”

“Yes, that’s true.”

So here is a recording. I haven’t learned the guitar part yet so I thought… well heck, why not sing along with Dave Van Ronk?* This is the third take. Might replace it with a later take later today.

Trigger warning: I miss my mom. This is about missing our moms. Hugs, all.

sing along with Dave Van Ronk

Happy Mother’s Day and hugs if you miss your mother.

*Is this a copyright violation? It probably is. Someone yell at me if it is. My brain is muttering something about sampling. Let’s see, from circa 1959 to 1961… does that make a difference?

found

Going through boxes, I found this photograph of my father, Malcolm Ottaway, working on the Cornell cycloton. He engineered and built the stand, which had to be mobile but very very stable. I suppose it is called something other than a stand, but he died in 2013 so I can’t ask him. The photo would be from 1964 or 1965.

I framed it. What was the excuse for not framing it before?

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: excuse.

Ottaway back porch

My parents’ time warp Beatnik household, 1978, before I went to be an exchange student in Denmark.

We had a German exchange student living with us. She had been placed with a couple with no children, a military family, and was unhappy. My parents agreed that she could move in with us for the rest of her year. I decided to apply as an exchange student. I have not heard from her in years. Blessings, where ever she is.

My father’s mother’s father

The eldest gentleman in this picture is Fred Bayers, my father’s mother’s father. And his family.

My father’s mother’s mother is present as well. Let me not overlook the women.
Gertrude Bayers.

My father is there and his two sisters. Their spouses and children are present.

My mother is there. My father’s mother and my grandfather and my grandmother’s siblings are present.

I am there. So is my little sister.

Look at all the love there. We need our families so much during this pandemic.

Sending love out.

All love comes back to me.

I hope it comes back to you too.

The Brewer’s Big Horses

This is one of the Songs to Raise Girls, songs that I learned before Kindergarten. A very weird list of songs.

This song comes from my maternal grandfather. My mother said that it was a Congregationalist temperance song….

The photograph is Morris D. Temple and his grandson, F. Temple Burling. F. Temple Burling is my maternal grandfather. I am related to Temple Pumps. According to my mother’s stories, Morris Temple was more interested in Japanese art than in Temple Pumps and the company eventually folded. I don’t know if that is true, or if it was a different Temple then Morris. However, my middle name is Temple.

This song is one that I don’t have memorized, though I know the tune. I have my mother’s handwritten lyrics, with her drawings framing it. There is a tape of my grandfather singing it in the Library of Congress, according to my mother. I would like to go listen to it some time.

I’ve copied it just how my mother wrote it out. There might be an issue about political correctness, but I have a picture of Morris Temple in the 1860s, in his civil war uniform, with a sword. You will have to wait for that post to see which side he fought for….. I presume that my mother wrote it down as she was taught it. I am not sure who talked like this in Iowa in the 1880s, but maybe it was most people.

The Brewers’ Big Horses

O, the brewer’s big horses, comin’ down de road
A totin’ along old Lucifer’s load
Dey step so high and dey step so free
But them big horses can’t run over me

Chorus:
O no! boys O no!
De turnpike’s free where ever I go
I’m a temperance ingine don’t you see
So them big horses can’t run ovah me
Repeat with “toot toot toots”

O de liquo’ men been actin lak de own de place
A livin’ off de sweat o’ de po’ man’s face
Dey’s fat and sassy as dey can be
But deir big horses can’t run ovah me

Chorus

I’ll harness dem horses to de temperance cart
I’ll hit ’em with the gad fo’ to give ’em a start
I’ll teach ’em how fo’ to haw an’ gee
So them big horses can’t run ovah me

Chorus

It took me a while to find this song on the internet. It is listed in temperance songs in wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperance_songs and is mentioned in The Christian Advocate under lyrics: The Brewers Big Horses. It is listed as written in 1913 by JB Herbert and HS Taylor. Isn’t it interesting that Budweiser still uses the Brewer’s Big Horses in advertising?

Again, this is a song I was learning way before I know what a brewer or a turnpike was. My parents stopped singing a bunch of songs when they realized that I was memorizing all of them. They did not want me singing certain songs in Kindergarten.

They did not need to worry. I shut up when I got to school, because no one wanted to sing and no one knew the songs. They all talked about television and we didn’t have one.

I was very disappointed in school. Not enough singing and it was lonely.