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:

April A to Z reflection

April was a very interesting month! I went to Europe for the first time since 1988 and got covid, so had to stay an extra 8 days. The version I got was a mild cold and my lungs did not get worse. Traveling on oxygen is really challenging. I was anxious to get home because my son and daughter-in-law got married after postponing in 2020 and 2021, so they married on April 30th! It was a wonderful wedding!

So, I had to do some planning for the A to Z, writing about women artists, mostly Helen Burling Ottaway, my mother. I took a number of my mother’s etchings to give to friends in Europe and used those because they were what I had. In typing up her resume, I learned more about her! She was a prolific artist and I want to get more of her art out there. I had originally planned to set up an on line shop of her work, but the Europe trip, covid and the wedding derailed that idea! I still want to do that, but I am a bit slow about it. I need to catalog and photograph her work, after I recover from the wedding extravaganza.

When I got home from my trip on April 12, I started doing two posts a day. I did the present letter and then worked from the end of the alphabet, setting up Z for Zarathustra to go live on April 30th. By the last week of April, I had it all set to go live day by day. This is good, because there was no way I would have posted from the last Wednesday on!

I did not get to surf other writers blogs as much as I had planned. Too busy in Europe and too busy with wedding. This week I mostly want to do not very much. I am sorting wedding photographs, the ones I took, and sending them to the new bride and groom.

The picture is of my two aunts at the music rehearsal. I was cantor and led the two hymns. Both of my father’s sisters are church organists. They played four hands for the processional and the recessional and were wonderful! With both my parents gone I was very very grateful to have them present.

Stages of Peace Playlist I

Dang, I’ve got a lot of stages. So it is a long playlist! I can’t complain (yes I can), after all, I wrote the stages. Hmm, to work, to work, to play, to PEACE.

Twisting words- The Grass is Blue – Dolly Parton

Confusion- Get it Worked On -Delbert McClinton

Denial- Old Number 7- The Devil Makes Three

Bargaining – Gallows Pole- Alvin Youngblood Hart

Anger- Joanne Little- Sweet Honey in the Rock

Bitterness -The Wound That Never Heals – Jim White

Revenge -Silver Dagger- Dolly Parton

Acting Out – Pills I Took- Hank Williams III

Oppositional Defiance- All Hail- The Devil Makes Three

Grief -Days Like These – Over the Rhine

Acceptance- In my time of dying – Alvin Youngblood Hart

Forgiveness -Jesus on the Mainline – Mississippi Fred McDowell

Healing- I be your water- Sweet Honey in the Rock

Hope – So Glad I’m Here- Sweet Honey in the Rock

Reconciliation – You are loved, Victoria Williams

Peace – Everybody Ought to Know (and) Redemption Song- Sweet Honey in the Rock

N is for Normal.

I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway.

My family was not Normal. No, no, not normal. I don’t think anyone is normal, really. In clinic one year I think, wow, all of my people are SO interesting. Why am I so lucky to have all of these wonderful people? And then I think: OH. Everyone is interesting. No one is “normal”. They may try really hard to pass for normal. I certainly had MY work cut out. And why is that, you say. I am so glad you asked that question!

My parents were both obsessed. My mother was obsessed with art. With music, a secondary joy. My father was all about music. Mathematics and language was his secondary joy. By age nine I discover poetry and that is it for me. That is the be all end all. I am so obsessed that I am amazed at age 40 when I make a discovery: poetry is not it for everyone.

I am fired by the hospital for fighting a clinic quota of patients. I might have kept the job if I had shut my mouth and been diplomatic, but I was not diplomatic. I write a protest song and sing it at the open mike and sing it into the CFO’s voicemail. I think I could be the poster girl for the opposite of diplomatic, right?I thought about quitting and then thought, no, I stay and fight this for my patients. I am fired the next day.

A group of people try to intervene and get me rehired. At some point I suggest sending one of my poems to the hospital commissioners. Six people email: NO!

I am confused: What do you mean, no? Why not?

YOU DO NOT COMMUNICATE WITH HOSPITAL COMMISSIONERS VIA POETRY.

I am still confused: I communicate by poetry. Poetry is the highest form of communication.

HOSPITAL COMMISSIONS DO NOT LIKE OR UNDERSTAND POETRY.

Ok, THAT is mind blowing for me. I call my father. What is this about?

My father says People are afraid of poetry.

I say You are kidding me.

My father says Poetry is magic. People are afraid of magic.

I say I’m not afraid of poetry.

That is because you are a poet, says my father.

And I really look at my thoughts on writing and poetry. I realize that writing and poetry are SO IMPORTANT to me that I assume that EVERYONE WANTS TO WRITE AND BE A POET. I ask my group of people trying to get me reinstated. None of them want to be poets. I ask my father. He does not want to be a poet. I am completely floored. I realize that I thought my mother loves art but wants to be a poet. My father loves music but wants to be a poet. Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It must have been rather weird for my sister Chris, three years younger. She has three people who are all obsessed with their form of art. My sister Chris was a brilliant writer, an excellent musician and an artist. But I don’t think she was obsessed with any of them the way the rest of the family was. That must have been a little lonely.

The photograph is me and my sister in 1965. I am four and she is one year.

I say to a counselor once that in spite of alcohol problems in the family, the music was amazing and my sister and I learned it. The counselor replies, “Children connect with adults where they can.” I think OH. That is amazing. My sister and I see my father praise my mother for knowing all the words to the songs. She is always be the last one singing because she knows verse 8, 9 and 10. My sister and I assume that this is a woman’s job: memorize the words. We did. We photocopy the back of Beatles albums and on long car trips we memorize ALL THE WORDS. I think I can still sing Yellow Submarine start to finish.

I start school. I know there will be singing. No one knows my songs. The songs they know are the songs to television shows and we do not have one. I quickly go silent. I play flute and I sing all the songs in my head when I am bored, but I do not sing out loud. And I choose medicine because I want to understand people, for the writing. I still think people are very very weird. But I have written the whole time, every single day. And that is how my mother did art and how my father did music. Every single day.

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE #APRILATOZ

For more information about the #AtoZChallenge, check out this link

Playlist: Bands I have danced to

I have done two grief playlists. I will do more, but it got me thinking about other playlists. And we need distraction from grief too.

I am a swing dancer and jitterbug dancer. I lived in the Washington, DC area from 1985 to 1989 and then left for medical school. I spent a year being depressed about a breakup. The only time the depression lifted was when I went dancing. I started with contra dancing and then took a swing dance class. In the 1980s, we would have 400-600 people show up at the Spanish Ballroom in Glen Echo Park in Cabin John, MD, for a live band and a lesson, in a no alcohol venue. We would dance our socks off for three hours. We barely clapped for the bands, but they didn’t seem to care, because they liked watching us throw each other up in the air!

Marcia Ball

Daryl Davis

(You could watch his ted talk, too.)

Maria Muldaur

Uppity Blues Women

Little Red and the Renagades

Doc Scantlin and his Imperial Palms Orchestra – at the Kennedy Warren Ballroom in Washington, DC.

I took the photograph of the poster this morning. It is from the 1980s.

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

Lullaby of Birdland

Today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt is flute.

I have played flute since fourth grade. This pastel was done by my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway, in 1980. We lived in Alexandria, Virginia. I am playing flute and Johnny Johnson is on trumpet. My father played trumpet too. Johnny was trying to teach me to improvise. I had not listened to much jazz and was not very good at it. I was well trained in classical flute and could read music. Johnny said, “No, just LISTEN.” I did learn it and can still play it.

One night the three of us were playing. We had a knock on the door. It was an Alexandria policeman. “We have had a complaint about the loud party.”

We looked at him blankly. My father says, “Well, you are looking at it.”

“Three of you?” says the policeman.

“Two trumpets and a flute.” says my father. “We can make a lot of noise.”

“Hmm.” says the policeman. “Well, um, could you keep it down a little?”

“Yes,” says my father, “It is after 10, so we will play more quietly.”

The policeman left and we did.

My mother’s pastel is titled “Lullaby of Birdland”.

tree time

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is perpetuity. Trees have a different time sense then we do. They send electrical messages like we do, but they are slower. Still, the tree can change it’s leaves within hours, to taste bad or poison a pest. I wonder if we seem fast and short lived and impatient to them.

Here is my friend Simon Lynge’s Perpetual Now:

Simon Lynge Perpetual Now

Thank you for the music

I have been in Rainshadow Chorale since 2000. My father, Malcolm Ottaway, was one of the eight people who started it in 1997. He and my mother moved here in 1996. My mother, Helen Burling Ottaway, died of ovarian cancer on May 15, 2000. Rainshadow agreed to sing a Byrd Mass for my mother’s memorial. My father asked if my sister and I could sing in the chorale for the memorial. We were told yes. I had moved to Port Townsend at the end of 1999.

After the Memorial, I asked if I could stay in the chorale. The answer was yes and I have been in it ever since.

Our director, Rebecca Rottsolk, is retiring from the chorale after our next concert. She has picked favorite pieces. I have sung in nearly every concert since 2000, though I couldn’t sing in the one right after my father died in 2013. He followed my sister, who died in 2012. My throat wouldn’t let me sing that one.

So Rebecca, thank you for the music and thank you for being a wonderful director and forcing us to level up over and over. I am sending you peace and love and joy.

And everyone else, put this concert on your calendar.

Rainshadow Chorale practicing outdoors wearing masks in a fine rain. Dedication.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: thanks.