August 21, 2001
When Kaye had quickly informed me about her classes for clay, I only got one sentence at the very end of a phone call: "Monday at 1:00 is sign-up." Thus, I thought we would only be doing the paper work, getting an orientation, studio rules, place assignments. Yet something in me hoped we would also get to dig our fingers into a bit of clay before the day was over. I was not prepared to find myself hugging a bag of clay right off the bat – within five minutes of my arrival.
Also, I was surprised to find my former neighbor Sandra there. How much easier I felt having her friendliness right at my elbow! She had been coming here for four years so in the familiar sound of her voice I felt I had my own personal guide, orientation booklet and teacher.
And this was the biggest adjustment. To go from being my own boss in my own studio to being a newbie student in a strange place. Everything was so familiar, so much a part of my life and being and yet it all had to be relearned. This is the stoneware that looks gray and fires buff; this is the sculpture clay; this one is red and that one is brown. It was like a mighty shifting of gears, a huge sliding down a slippery slope. While Kaye taught the others how to wedge clay, I sat in a corner making one of my pinch-pot persons – probably the 1, 789th one in my life. Kaye was gentle and kind enough to ask me what I wanted to work on for the class as she knew of my former life and complimented me on my drawings. Yet she seemed slightly surprised that I was starting out with a simple pinch pot.
She was even more surprised when she came back around later to find me following her instructions. She had shown the group how to put clay-weld two pinch bowls together to make a larger hand built form. Somehow I had never thought of this method, nor had done it, so I began to try this idea that was new to me. By the time I got caught up with the others they were putting the finishing touches on their pots and I only had this ten-inch potato in front of me. I had no idea what to make out of it. And now began the best part of the class.
I love working myself into the unknown; into that space where everything is new and possible and I have no idea of what I am going to make. I was perfectly happy to keep smoothing the sides as I waited to hear or feel what the piece needed. Someone who saw me drifting off into dreams over this odd-looking form, asked me what I was making.
"Only God knows. And it hasn’t told me yet."
I meant the remark as a small joke but the lady asking lowered her eyes as if she had seen me naked. Only then did I realize that this was the complete and honest truth. So, what shall I make of this? The potato shape bothered me a great deal. Then I remembered that one of my goals for this class was to make ‘people pots’ so the next step was surely a head (and ahead). I began making the larger version of the kind of head that the pinch pots have. The others sitting companionably around the tables were talking, their voices becoming a drowsy drone with the late afternoon sun. My hands took over my mind and the head formed itself. As soon as it was joined to the top of the form, the potato look disappeared into this long elegant being. Ah, this was already better. Still I was unhappy with the basic elongated shape of the being. I got the idea of cutting into it to open it up and from that feeling came the idea of wings. I became excited as I thought of cutting out wings and then bending them outward but I knew I was too tired to make such an important cut and I knew I needed to think more of what shape they should be. So I made some hands thinking that they would clasped together as if in prayer, but when I started to stick them on they slide apart into the ‘welcoming Madonna gesture’ which I found a great improvement over my idea. I added some tiny nipples and a belly button. It was truly just a button stuck on the tummy and one lady remarked that my figure had an ‘outie’ instead of an ‘inie’. I thought about what she had said, but decided to stay with the idea of a ‘button’.
The lady to my left, who had already put her work away for the day, began talking of how she wanted to make a pumpkin jack-o-lantern the next time with this method. As I listened to her I realized I was too tired to go on and that it was time to quit. As soon as I relaxed into the car, I saw how the figure wanted to be! A candleholder. The light from the candle could shine up onto the wings drawing their shape in the darkness! Perfect. And a small hole under the face would permit the light to make that radiant. And that button belly button had to go. I would make a star-shaped hole – a tiny point of light coming from inside the figurine.
All evening I planned the cuts: debating what shape to make in the back as opening in order to insert the candles and to light them. I even got the idea of making tiny holes below the hands so that a tiny streak of light could illuminate the thumbs. I put more tools into my purse so I could use a really sharp knife and a spoon to clean out the inside walls. Over and over I rehearsed the cuts, changing the possible wing shapes until I was glad to go to bed to stop my work with sleep. Before I drifted off, I clearly saw how having the input of the various members of the class were influencing what I was making. If I had been alone in the studio (as I would have thought myself to be the most happy) this figure would never have appeared under my hands. It was not mine alone, but had grown out of the group experience.
August 20, 2001
Last week at the drumming session when I was recapturing my love affair with a barn, I peeked in the windows of the downstairs area where Kaye has her ceramic studio and a thousand memories emerged out of my past of the condemned building in downtown Dinuba where my studio had been. I was the tiny agricultural town’s token hippie. The worst thing they could say about me (and they did) was that I did not go to the beauty parlor and did not wear nylon hose. When I got involved with a few others in protesting the Viet Nam war and wrote slogans on the huge front windows with poster paint, even the trickle of customers slowed to a stop. But by then I was selling all but my seconds to a gallery in Los Angeles so I advanced to putting up such slogans as "Let the Bluebird of Happiness fly up your nose" and "Question Authority".
The building had once been the printing shop for the Dinuba Sentinel (a weekly). It was a huge L-shape that curled around a Mexican restaurant just off the main intersection of town with a second-story loft in the back part of it. In the high area above the wheels, in the rainy season, pieces of plaster rained down from the ceiling. The old lawyer who owned it, by default, charged me $20. a month and carefully ignored what we did there. The walls were covered with the slogans of the era; the beginning of the graffiti art. Kids who got kicked out of school began showing up here because there was usually a warm spot near the wood stove and a place where they could play their loud psychedelic music. Among my operas and show tunes, he kids would stash their own records (that I often suspected of still be warm from the drugstore or had been forbidden to be played at home) so even with my back to the stove I could know who was there by the music being played. The holey Persian rug, the assortment of chairs from the dump, the batiks with quotations from Kahil Gibran’s The Prophet, the incense, the dogs, and the racks of pottery displayed on broken furniture made it a spot of Berkeley in the San Joaquin Valley.
Shortly after getting the store (1966) , named I AM JAN, Bonnie Reese showed up and became my partner, best friend and sister potter. She was a triple Virgo and kept the place as tidy as one can be with clay and her good looks made the place even more attractive. Kit Kittenger, whose painting studio was around the corner and down the block, took his breaks with us. The staff at the welfare office found our atmosphere more congenial than their desks for lunch, so they began to brown bag with us. After a school teacher was sent down to investigate us, because of the kids hanging out there, Andy began to come to lunch with us.
Later when I met Marilyn (yes, the Marilyn in the Martin Prechtel ceremonies) and we began filming together, Andy, the school teacher worked with us and let us use the school lab for our still photography work. By then, the loft had become an emergency crash pad for kids too stoned to go home. The only rule was that the building had to be empty when I arrived at 8:30 in the morning. An undercover dope agent even lived up there a several nights. The place was raided a couple of times but after the Wyatt Earp-type sheriff was greatly embarrassed himself by turning in seeds he found on the carpeting that turned out to be sesame seeds from crackers, his visits became friendlier. Once, while sitting on the toilet, I could see through one of the many holes in the wooden flooring, a plastic bag hanging from a nail. I walked over to his office, asked him to come and get it out of there. Nothing was said; nothing happened, the bag disappeared and no one complained. I cleared the rent and bills by selling velvet purses I made, bells, incense, papers, pipes and posters.
Ah, I digress. Talking to Kaye the other day on the phone, I asked when the next semester of classes was to begin. "Come Monday at 1:00." Last night, I drew the designs for the pots I plan to make. I wondered if I could really go back 25 years to reenter a phase of my life that had ended in the cold reality of Germany where itinerant potters were not welcomed.
I was recovering from a long illness for which I had to use a lot of special equipment. I was a young girl and it was my dad who had the job of packing up the bed, the racks, and machinery. He was very unhappy about this extra job and, as he was, able, he let me know how put out he was. Somehow I was not prepared that he was to do the job this very day, so I was still in my nightgown. I hopped out of bed and pulled off the linens as he began to disassemble it. Rather shocked and still weak, I just sank down on the pile of sheets and blankets and watched in dismay as he struggled to pack and load the heavy equipment. I thought that when he had gone, I could reorder my life, get dressed and get on. But my mother came into the room, also very angry with me. She was insisting that they wanted me to go with them because since they had to make a trip to the city with this stuff, they might as well take me to the doctor once more.
I was very disorientated without the furniture with which I had lived for so long. I could not locate my closet or any of my things. I wrapped a sheet around me and began to wander down a busy section of town. I walked into a clothing store with the idea that I would buy some new clothes for this new era of my life. The clothes section contained dresses on the round racks as in a K-Mart, but which were suspended from the ceiling high above the reach of the customer. It was hard to determine what the dresses were like, looking at them from below, but I was more interested in getting covered up than setting a fashion note.
My mother, who obviously had been looking for me, came in and was very angry with my idea of buying something new. I pointed out a blue and white checked gingham dress that I was considering getting. She began to ridicule me for wanting such an ugly dress. I thought it was rather attractive with the lace inserts in the bodice, the full skirt, the belted waist. But she insisted that it was ugly and that it was made of plastic. I was sure it was cotton because it was gingham but she was so loud and overbearing that I just shrugged and walked away. As I walked out the store, I saw her at another rack, taking a blouse off and holding it up to her chest as if trying to see how it looked on her. It was a poisonous green and yellow slimy polyester.
I still felt I should be getting dressed and I did not want my dad to get even angrier with me if he had to wait for me. I slipped into a hospital, thinking that there I would find a simple gown which no one would miss. I had to keep dodging people who worked there as I looked for the linens room. Finally I found the laundry room, which was overflowing with garments. From a pile of freshly dried gowns that had not yet been folded, I pulled out one and hiding behind some carts, I began to dress. I guess I had my eyes closed because when I opened them I found out that while I was pulling the gown over my head, someone had taken all the racks away. There I stood exposed in the middle of the room in my stolen gown.
August 19, 2001
My first thought, as I awoke, was that the 23rd Psalm drastically needed to be changed. Word for word I went over it in my mind trying out this idea and then that one. How I got dressed and had my breakfast with my mind so far away was surely the first miracle of the morning. I was so eager to get the ‘corrections’ in that I even by-passed my morning devotions with a serene heart. While my computer got itself together I began to make notes of my thoughts so nothing would be forgotten when the words were actually on the screen.
Then what a surprise! As I read what was on the file, I saw that nothing needed changing. What was written there was better than all my ‘new ideas of the morning’! It had been done as well as I could do it. With a twinge of regret, I saw that the work was done. This was it. It no longer needed me. Oh sure, I know there are commas missing and semi-colons which have slid into oblivion, and a typo or two, but that is the nature of manuscripts and the fallacy of the printed word. But the work on the PSALMS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT was done for now and it was time for me to leave it alone.
All day yesterday I had had a recurring desire for a slice of chocolate cake. This desire came more as a call than an actual need. You know the difference? How when there is new chocolate in the fridge or cupboard how it calls to one across the rooms? It is an audible smell that the mind registers. If one, (I), ignore it, it becomes a nagging like the lost book I needed to return to the library as a child. It leaves no peace until one pushs aside all resolutions, goes to the kitchen, and quiets the soul with the taste of the passion. Well, there was no chocolate cake in our house, but still the call came through loud and clear.
This morning, then, Werner went off to the bakery in Point Arena, I thought for fresh bread, and came home with one of those fragile, white pasteboard boxes. Ah. It was the middle of the morning and none of the mealtimes were even close, but we did not let that stop us. As I slit the tape I was chanting to myself, "celebrate, celebrate". Two pieces of the most beautiful chocolate cake with fudge frosting and raspberry cream filling lay there on the paper lace in absolute splendor. In less than a minute we were seated before our plates and a second cup of coffee.
About two years ago I had been diagnosed as having type II diabetes, so this was only my third piece of cake since then. This was a big celebration. When that first taste of real sugar combined with sugar hit my taste buds I realized what a fake world I have been living in. The pleasure was so great, I actually wondered if I would be able to put the second bite across my lips. If you are holding your breath – I was able to take a second bit, and then the third.
The Guatemalans believe that chocolate gives a ‘shine’ to one – that sexual glow one wears when first in love. According to Martin, the only offences punishable by death in their society were killing a certain bird and eating chocolate outside of religious occasions. Death by chocolate. The meanings spread out around me with my thanksgiving for these marvelous flavors. And then I was full. Still 2/3 of the slice lay on my plate, but I was satisfied. The call was answered. My job was done. The reward was complete. My decks were cleared. There was only the calmness of a beautiful summer day before me. So I cleaned house.
August 18, 2001
I have a love story for you. An online love story.
At the Matsuyama University in Japan, in the days when the internet was very new (1995), a group started a list called The Shiki Haiku Salon in honor of Masaoka Shiki, the famous haiku-tanka poet, who had lived and died in Matsuyama (1867 – 1902). The established paper haiku scene pretty much tried to ignore this up-start organization and their weird idea that haiku could be shared, fostered and nurtured with something as flaky as electrons, ASCII language, and binary connections. At best, the list was seen as something to watch but not the proper thing in which to participate. Because of this attitude, most of the early members were novices in haiku writing; an additional reason for the elite to keep their own worthy works above this level of hurly-burly. The most frightening thing for many was the idea that here there was no editor, no controller, no pope regulating the stream of haiku flowing in and out of Matsuyama. The quality of these beginners’ haiku (like everyone’s had been at some time which they conveniently forgot about) ‘proved’ to many that this system of unmitigated sharing was wrong and would eventually be the death of good haiku. They said among themselves, "You cannot flood the world (ha!) with haiku not yet ready to be published, not ripe to be edited by an elder, not up to (my) standards." But they were wrong. Joyfully, delightfully, marvelously WRONG.
With the magnificent freedom allowed by the organizers of the Shiki List, the participants jostled, and even fought some heated battles, but in the end haiku (and tanka and renga) won. Many people who were online at the time, who had heard of haiku from their reading, but had never attempted to write one, were suddenly given the courage and encouragement to find their own haiku within themselves. On the Shiki List they found a group of persons with a similar interest in the form. I will not say the group was ‘like-minded’ because that would be too far from the truth for even a story. Often the only thing we had in common was an interest in haiku, in writing and our own gigantic egos. Sometimes an especially huge ego would appear and would threaten to dismantle the fragile structure of our sharing. But time and time again reason would return, apologies were made, filters were set on personal computers, and we learned how to get along with each other through the impersonal face of email.
Which brings me to Emile. Emile Molhuysen of Holland. You could see him as the ‘poster boy’ for the Shiki List. He had first read haiku in 1963, but it was 34 years later, on the Shiki List, where he first published his first haiku. I admit I do not remember his first haiku, and I am going to let you look back through the whole Shiki Archives for it because I am sure you will find many more treasures there. One of Emile’s haiku that has stuck in my mind is:
to talking to each other
As Emile gained confidence with his own haiku, and as other Dutch persons joined the group (Gerla Brakkee, Fred Flohr, Wilhelm Haupt, Jan-Burger Troost, Max Verhart and Arnold Vermeeren), it came time for them to produce their first book. It was Emile who came up with the fascinating design for Toetssteen – Keywords, a fitting title for haiku shared over computers. Wim Lofvers, the editor of Woodpecker, helped with the typesetting and the group came together to hand-sew the 400 copies into being. It seemed it was Emile who had the ability, and the desire to make connections within the whole Shiki Lists. (There were now several: one for haiku, one for tanka, and one for a workshop.) It was Emile who took upon himself the job of tabulating addresses for all the members so we would be encouraged to meet one another without the connecting grout of the online lists.
One day, over a year ago, there was a curious change to the list. Pamela Gary began posting her messages under Emile’s name – from his computer! Soon this mystery was explained by an announcement that the two had decided to meet and Pamela had gone to Holland and was thus using Emile’s computer.
Then yesterday I received a charming photo of the Old Town Hall of Delft ( I remember the square before it well). On the back of the card was the message:
Emile Molhuysen and Pamela Joy Gary
visited the old Delft Townhall
and were quietly married
This is not the first happy ending to an online romance, but I do think it is the first time haiku has brought two non-Japanese together.
her green eyes
to drown in
Joy, happiness and a long life together with many haiku to brighten your years, is my wish for the couple. And thanks to Emile for his newest book of haiku which was tucked in with the announcement.
(All the haiku today are from Emile Molhuysen, borrowed from his books Toetssteen – Keywords  and haiku, an anthology ).
August 17, 2001
I was awakened by such incredible beauty today. My eyes opened to see, just skimming the dark edge of the row of Bishop pines across the road, the slender silver ship of the moon with Venus at its side. In the blue of a sky still holding a few stars, the two bodies gleamed with a similar brightness. Their light sparkled with the hardness of diamonds set in platinum. They were so close, and the slant of the curved moon, made it seem as if it was being pulled across the sky by the eye of a dolphin.
As I lay there watching the two marvels, they would occasionally blur as if an Adobe tool had been dragged across the sky. As the dawn gathered speed in its coming, I could see it was the wisps of ocean fog drifting over the picture. Still watching, still fascinated, these north wind driven creatures changed from their pearly white nature into rose, gold, and finally into a deep red orange. The play of colors between clouds and sky was in constant adjustment; as if the darkness from the sky was given to the hue of the clouds as it became a lighter blue and the clouds grew in mass and red energy. I felt I could see the color flow out of one aspect of the view into the other. And higher and higher rode the wisp of moon with its bright companion until it crested the top of my window, sailed off into the universe and I slept again.
the court is far away
when I have seen the sun emerge
over and over like a tune
the wind took up the northern things
those finial creatures whoever they are
Today was publication day for the Psalms. I thought by simply putting them up on the web instead of touching them under covers, I would by-pass publication jitters, but that was not to be. When I took the first bite of an early lunch my innards turned over in that sickening lurch I know so well. And I thought I was over this kind of nonsense. Maybe my mind is, but the dear old donkey has not given up its muscular methods yet. Disregarding a pile of mail on the counter, and plans for working on the web site, I fell into a funk on the couch. I held a book by Virginia Woolf before my face, but had no idea of what I was reading. Finally I was able to sleep with the hope that would wipe my nervous slate clean but I woke up as frazzled as before.
who is the east?
perhaps I ask too large
I am struck
by a nature and god I cannot know
the brain within its own groove
Werner offered to take me to Mote Creek Beach. I was wondering why he was so insistent that we go. Only later, when that visit failed to change either my guts or my head, I realized he has often seen how going there completely changes my mood and was trying to help me out of my pit. I had not been in my prayers and the ancestors did not bother to notice them so the beach remained a pile of rotting seaweed and rocks. A bit more thankful for all the times this place had feed me, but still vacant and lost, we came home. Again the couch claimed me. At some point I told my donkey, "well, you can have this one day to grub and gruzzle, but tomorrow I expect to be back to work!" and tried various tricks to restore myself to myself. I even tried to crochet potholders – my lowest activity, but it was just too much work to sit upright.
Before going to bed, I began to feel a curiosity of whether anyone had even looked at the Psalms. Wouldn’t it be a proper joke if I had felt all this insecurity and defenselessness and no one in the world had even bothered to read them! Ah, there were three comments.
From Connie: "How very awesome that on my haiku path I would encounter words dealing with the concept of God! I have not read all of your writings but I certainly embrace what you are saying. I have been feeling unsettled for some time about my religious background and 'accepted' beliefs. I have been moving away from the dogma of religion to a more spiritual connection. Thanks for having the will to share this. I believe the God Spirit in all will expand, and this work of yours is a blessing."
With one breath my mood did a 180 degree flip. Gone was the gut pain, the vague lost feelings in my head, the emptiness of spirit as if no one was home in me. One person had been touched in a positive way and all the work was now worthwhile and there was no need for my funk. Galloping and charging again, riding into the wind again I read the next email from Gene:
"I've only had a chance to glance at your Psalms and bookmark them, but they are lovely. I read the first two and am very impressed. Over the years, I memorized a number of the Psalms, so your version resonated with the Jerusalem Bible and the Grail Psalter--and stands up very well, especially in the tone, the attitude that you capture. I really suspect that David would approve of your work. Your introduction sounds really close to the way Quakers talk, by the way. (I don't know any Quakers who use "plain speech," BTW; no "thees".) I plan to tell people who will appreciate your Psalter about it. Thank you for doing the work and making it available."
One person’s approval had seemed enough but now I had double riches. And I got a smile thinking of King David reading my hack of his songs! And I liked the word "Psalter" – salter. What a great idea. The salt of life, the songs of thanksgiving. I had read the Grail Psalter, on the internet, but seeing the word from Gene, it took on all new meaning.
And then I opened the third email which said in part. ". . . Although I realize and can appreciate the amount of work involved in putting together your version of the Psalms, it is of little interest to me personally. I am a Jew who prefers the passage below (from "Gates of Prayer") which epitomizes my belief system. ‘Behold, I have given you a good doctrine, My Torah: do not forsake it. It is a tree of life to those who hold it fast, and all who cling to it find happiness. Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace.’"
As my oldest grandson would say: "okaaaaay." and my smile grew wider and wider. The longer I thought of these words, their incongruity with the actual words and philosophy of Old Testament Psalms, and the person who sent them, my face felt as if it was that morning moon as it shined against the darkness of a new day. I could hardly brush my teeth for the smile on my face. I went to bed and slept the sleep of those granted great happiness.
my river runs to you
the heart with many doors
not to be forgotten
now when I lie down to sleep
as summer slips into autumn
August 16, 2001
I suppose I conveniently forgot to mention here last week that I had gotten a postcard beginning with: "Thank you for sending your book to Hampton Roads Publishing Company, but . . . The Psalms of the New Testament, which I had thought was so perfect for them, had been rejected with a 4 x 6 inches of paper. With company in the house I had an additional reason for hiding the card from myself with the hope I would forget that that avenue of hope had been closed down. Cleaning out the nest around my chair I found the card again on Sunday and filed it away saying to myself that I was not affected by it. But having to write to Danny (Lliteras, whose books are all published by HR) to let him know the results of our combined efforts left me with wet cheeks and a small ragged pile of self-esteem hardly worth gathering up. The thought crossed my mind that the proper thing to do was to get the manuscript back into the mail, but the rejection was simply too fresh, large and weighty. It was easier to put the whole thing out of my mind as if it never happened.
"Turning the Psalms in peaceful portions! Unbelievable! Of course I'm interested. My 'confrontation' with the Old Testament resulted in 'Vales full of Ducats' in 1982 already. I grew up with psalm fragments in the Liturgy of H. Mass, every day. Since my study I understood their contents as a 'picture of ancient times' and good for the inevitable wars for ground, in which folks of deserts were enveloped. Their image of Divinity was created for support and survival. The mountaintop-God of fire and thunderstorm became a guide on their wanderings and conquest. Around them lived most agricultural nations with Goddesses and partly still a 'maternal' organization. In many of their prayers the prophets try to banish these religions by proclaiming their own God as the Only True One. This concept is still to be seen in the fundamentalist branches of all our old monotheistic religions.
As a historical phenomenon and as literature I can appreciate the psalms, but I lost totally my 'religious feelings' for them."
Somehow a great sadness filled me as I thought of her cut off from the beauty of the Psalms because of their philosophy that to us today is unacceptable. As I was thinking of what and how to send some of the files to her, when the idea came to me of simply putting the whole book up on the web. How perfect! No days of composing letters to publishers, the back and forth of opinions, no rejection and no piles of books to pack and send out if it was published. I thought: "On the web I can give back to the world the gift I have been given this year. I have two weeks before I must start typesetting Lynx. What better job could I do than ‘publishing’ the Psalms?" I figured it would take me at least two weeks to put in all the ‘soft enters’ in the couplets – a very boring job, but maybe the best way to end the summer and to wait out the fog.
In a matter of minutes the first ‘book’ of 30 psalms was loading into FrontPage. And then the miracle occurred! The lines were perfect! I did not need to put in the ‘soft enters’! What a surprise! Evidently, because I had composed the book in Word 2000, FrontPage accepted the line spacing in my documents perfectly. I could hardly believe my eyes. Whatever this miracle was supposed to mean, I took it as encouragement for me to use this way of ‘getting the book out’.
I worked until 1:00, my usual time to shut down for the day. But I was too excited by the ideas and the way the work was going, so I went back after a rest and worked steadily until suppertime. And I got the whole thing up in one very amazing day.
Werner cooked the potatoes, bok choy and leftover roast beef while I laid on the couch as if run over by a truck. After dinner, after looking at the book on the web, he came back downstairs and said that he "felt we should be having some kind of a celebration for getting out such an important book. And it looks so nice!" We usually do not spend much time patting each other on the back, so his comments meant a great deal to me. I still have some tweaking and polishing to do, but on the whole I am feeling very grateful. You are invited to see PSALMS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
August 15, 2001
The new (to me) Adobe Photoshop Elements program arrived yesterday from Amazon.com. I was glad to find a paper user’s manual in the package that gave me something to read in the evening. I love having an overview of the program and what it does and what I yet cannot do. However, by the time I get to the back of the book I am thoroughly confused and even wonder how to spell my own name (it has two h’s). I needed the program because Emiko Miyashita of HAIKUKAI (Haiku World) had asked for haiku and a photo for her column.
The haiku were the easy part. Those went out the next day. The job of getting a photo of me was a bit more involved (ahem). This means that Werner must take my photo. I usually know exactly what I want: the angle, the light, the background. He, however, thinks he has the right, because he has the camera in his hands, to decide these factors because he is a professional photographer (this family is full of them). So while he is pointing the lens at me, I am telling him: "you must hold the camera lower / higher", "stand more to the left / right", "did you click on the fill-in flash?". And he is telling me, "look a bit friendlier!" in his grumpiest voice. This escalates rapidly, because he hates to be told what to do, and I hate to be looked at so critically and to not be obeyed. Then when we finally get agree on all these factors, when I have tried to hide my frown with a fake smile, he cannot hit the shutter with the beginning of my smile. Oh no, he takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly and all the time my impatience is causing me to grit my teeth which is a death knell to a smile. When we look at the results we blame each other for every fault of the photo.
"See, you got that tree in!"
"You should have seen how my neck wrinkled!"
"You look so grumpy!"
"Where is the flash?"
We had taken the photos when Florens was here and when I saw his forehead wrinkling in concern over our gentle little ‘disagreement’ I gave up. There was lots that needed to be fixed which the simple camera program could not do. I needed professional help and here it was.
I still have memories of how hard program were to add fifteen years ago, so it is always a surprise how quickly they can zap themselves into today’s computer. I was also surprised how much easier Elements were to handle than Adobe 4.0 which I had had, had tried to use and finally gave up on it. On my second try I was able to crop out the trees, blur out the scar on my lip, cut some fat off my neck, blur out those wrinkles, fix a skinny place in the braid and lighten my face enough to please me. I was truly pleased with the results.
I remembered, when I was in my twenties, sitting in church looking at the old Mennonite ladies. Some of them had hard, used-up looks and others had such a gentleness about their faces. The light seemed to actually come from within them, shining through their now transparent skin. As I would look at them, I would pick out the ones I wanted to look like when I grew old. It is rather amazing, to me, that I am growing into the person I wanted to be over half a lifetime ago. Seeing the photo I felt, not only accomplishment with Adobe, but also with myself for becoming the person I had idolized.
In the evening, still in the glow of my success, I thought I would finally try adding some haiku to other photos which I had been saving for this purpose. Ha! the limits of my abilities had been reached in the afternoon. There was no way I could manage to get the text on to a layer. Totally frustrated I gave up, played with Buddha until he gave up in kitty exhaustion and put him to bed so I could be finished with this day with compline.
August 14, 2001
Just one year ago today my Aunt Evelyn died only three months before her 97th birthday. She had been my dad’s oldest sister and the backbone of the family. Dad’s oldest brother, Raymond, was very soft and pliable (like my dad) and during the Second World War had gone to Florida where he worked for the government in radio communications. He married, and divorced, and remarried there where the rest of the family was glad to have him for doing such a terrible thing. So from my earliest memories of my father’s family, Aunt Evelyn was the centerpiece. She never married and had always lived with her married sister, my Aunt Naola and Uncle Joe. My parent’s first home was only three blocks from their house, so when they needed to park me somewhere in the evenings, I often ended up falling asleep on their couch. On her bed was the quilt that she had made for her hope chest. Though I do not have that quilt, I own one that matches my memories of hers.
Aunt Evelyn’s first job had been at Gregg’s in Lima and she stayed with them until her retirement at 65. Even when I was a small child I knew she was the buyer for gloves and lingerie and ran (probably with an iron hand) that department. Every trip to town included a stop by her counter so my mom could catch up on the latest family gossip. I would be plopped down on one of the high wooden stools so I could not run around and touch things. The only way to get down was too fall off and I only did that once. Most of the time I sat there staring at the displays of mannequins wearing skimpy undies. I am sure that my later interest in merchandising and display came from the forced moments of contemplation on the way fabrics were draped, the pearls, the flowers, the compositions and admiration for the calligraphy on the signs.
Aunt Evelyn was always on my side in any debate with my parents. When my folks bought a piano and started me on lessons when I was six, it was Aunt Evelyn who said it was wrong to say the piano was my whole Christmas and to not give me any personal gifts. Thus, it was that she (and Aunt Naola) who borrowed one of my dolls and together made many new outfits for her as if she was a new doll. From a mateless glove, Aunt Evelyn made tiny leather shoes for her. When it found out that I could not play the piano, it was Aunt Evelyn they called in to check out the reasons. Well, I could play okay as soon as I had memorized the piece, but I could not read music. For seven years I took lessons, starting over from the beginning with three different teachers trying to determine why I couldn’t learn. Finally everyone gave up on me. Only when I was an old adult did I find out that dyslexia wiggles the lines of the staff so that I cannot read music. To this day, to read music I must hold a piece of paper under the note to figure out which one it is. I think I was a big disappointment to Aunt Evelyn because she prided herself on her musical abilities. She always played the piano at her church and later sang in the choir. When she could no longer sing she stayed active in her church. She never preached at me, never quoted Bible verses (as my father did) but one knew where she would be on a Sunday morning.
She supported me whenever she could by filling the gaps in my parent’s care. When I was in high school and supporting myself even though my parents had more money than she did, she supplied all my briefs and bras and pajamas with generous gifts on the slightest occasion. It often seemed to me, that I constantly ‘owed’ a letter of thanks to her. Even after I married, was divorced and remarried, she would send me fabric to make clothes for myself or my children up until they graduated from high school.
My mother grew to dislike Aunt Evelyn (and about everyone else) so while my parents were living, those two kept a wide demilitarized zone between them. But after my parents died, I turned to her as model for my good mother. Like most daughters, the last thing I wanted was to be like my mother. I saw her as the best example of how I wanted to be when I grew old. She was tough and independent, strong-willed and righteous, out-spoken and yet very kind. We often talked on the phone between California and Florida where she had gone to retire. She was always cheerful, full of happiness and contentment. Up until the last winter of her life, she rode her three-wheeled bike nearly everyday. From the comments of her neighbors, I felt they must have seen her as quite a character. Once she told me of an old guy trying to ‘hit on her’ as she rode along the street. From her reply she let him know in no uncertain terms that he was out of place to speak to her on the street! She was not that kind of woman and wanted nothing to do with that kind of a man!
When Aunt Evelyn retired, and Aunt Naola had retired from being a tailor at Lord’s clothing store (Uncle Joe never worked) the three moved to a mobile home court in Venice. This time Aunt Evelyn had her own place but she was just around the corner from Naola and Joe. Uncle Joe died in 1979 and the two women kept their own places but visited daily usually for dinner, and always for shopping. When Aunt Naola died in 1990 (she was 89) it was Aunt Evelyn who found her. They had planned to watch the TV show Jeopardy together. Aunt Evelyn had taken her bike ride before going over to Aunt Naola’s. Because it was such a lovely summer evening, (August 6th) she decided it was too nice to waste watching TV and made an extra round. When she arrived, Aunt Naola was lying on the couch, dead. Aunt Evelyn spent many months regretting that she had not been there with her if only she had kept their appointment. No longer having someone to share dinner with, she lost her appetite and about sixty pounds (which she could afford to do – us German girls have a great latitude). But it was she who managed Aunt Naola’s estate, sold her mobile and pulled her life together again. It was about this time she got her pacemaker installed, but other than this she had no health problems. When she was 92 she lost her first and only tooth! She gave up her car when she was 95. The neighbor lady would take her to the grocery store and she took a senior citizen van for her yearly check-ups and battery replacements. Only in the last year were her eyes getting too bad to crochet lap robes for the elderly! She loved designing pockets in them so people could store the things they needed at hand. Nearly every time we talked she was working on a new one and was delighted with her color combinations. She was determined to use up all the yarn she had inherited from Aunt Naola. Sometimes she would mention she needed more yellow or red and I would send her some from my hoard. She rarely ‘needed’ anything, which made her very hard to buy for gifts, but she seemed glad for flowers and foods. Once I surprised her with a teddy bear and she let down her strong image and cried. And she told me to never do that again!
August 12, 2001
In the afternoon we went to Point Arena because we had misplaced the funnel used for filling oil lamps. We knew that one of the shops at the wharf had them so we went shopping! I looked and looked, met our neighbors who had just brought their boat in (with one salmon and many rock fish), but found nothing to buy. We paid the twenty-five cents for the funnel and ended the shopping spree.
On the way home I was feeling I wanted to stop at Mote Creek Beach so I could give thanks for the good trip to the city. I had nothing with me for offerings. Even my flute had been taken out of the car and left at home. But still I wanted to stop.
One other couple was on the beach. We have seen then there before as they searched for artifacts from the midden. It was almost high tide so they had very little area to look over but they were busy thereat the north end of the beach and paid no attention to us. I did my greeting and prayed out my thanksgiving. Then I just stood there wanting to give some gift but my hands were empty. As I scanned the pile of rocks over the ship I noticed someone had seen a bit of the cloth sticking out and had pulled it out. Evidently it was still attached so they were not able to pull it lose. Yet it seemed unseemly to be so exposed. I bent down and began to recover it with rocks. Then came the idea of stacking rocks. So I made rock tower over it. As I balanced the last black flint on top I remembered where the purple spot had been in the photo so I started to build a tower there also.
The sea water was still and oily as the smallest little waves brought in more seaweed to add to the thick piles. The air was heavy and oppressive under the low gray sky clouds. Every movement in the rotting seaweed caused a small black cloud of flies to swarm up into the air before settling back down to their business of multiplying. Soon I was sweating from the exertion of carrying rocks. As I bent over the tower to balance on the top stone a drop of sweat fell from my forehead. Ah, my gift was complete.
As I was walking away I noticed a small square shape in the stones. Another crab claw that always looks to me to be a tooth. I picked it up with thanksgiving and as it laid in my hand I thought of Roberta. I wondered what this meant.
At home I found in my email a message from her reminding me that the drumming group was meeting in the evening at Kaye’s. I hate joining new groups, meeting new people, being in a strange place, but the feeling that I should give this to Roberta was so strong that I overcame my fears and went. Kaye’s place is less than a quarter of a mile from where we lived on the ridge. And she, too, had built a barn much like ours had been. I was not prepared for the shock of wonder when I walked into her place. I had forgotten how I love the spaces of a barn. The way the roof soars up in an arching bulge is so perfect for one’s feelings. I felt as if I had wings that opened up, reaching up, pulling me upward into a new shape of myself giving my shoulders new channels of energy. I had the feeling I stood taller, straighter there. While waiting on the others to get organized I let the middle of my chest open outward into these familiar spaces. I was home again.
When the drumming began for the journey it felt so good to be entering those spaces / places again. I had not journeyed since moving into the Iversen House. Yet how easily I slipped back into that experience. A door opened to a part of me that has been closed for almost four years and I felt very welcomed.
before the wide sea
the wish for a larger heart
or deeper soul
to house such majesty
one must dance and shout
August 10 - 11, 2001
Having Florens live with us was so easy, so welcomed, that we all felt sad as we each, in our own way began to prepare for the trip to San Francisco. Even the cat fell into a funk as he saw suitcases open and close. The great thing about having a family member as guest, is that they have similar ways of handling the many little jobs and anxieties of traveling. We were all ready the twenty minutes before we had agreed to leave, so the going out from the house was soft and easy with time for prayers and thanksgivings. The early morning fog had blown away so the sun was warm and welcoming for our journey into its land. We stopped in Gualala for apples and gas so briefly we were able to get away without being seen.
I sat in the back seat and was able to dream my way over the miles. As it got hotter and hotter I somehow had the thought that a great title for something would be Naked in Petaluma. I amused myself with thinking up stories and poem-ideas for the idea. Then I noticed a sign low in a ditch.
the wooden sign points to:
The Great Petaluma Desert
Even though there was some slow traffic over the Golden Gate, we had so much time before we needed to be at the motel, Werner offered to stop in the park for a walk. I was surprised that Florens said he’d prefer to get to his room for a little rest. Most of the traffic was always going in the opposite direction so we easily got through the city and quickly found Travelodge. When the receptionist saw we were together we were given adjoining rooms on the far end of the complex, away from the roar of 101 (which was still far too close). As soon as he had his room, Florens was his own sunny self – laughing and joking.
in the motel pool
We all took a rest and met then for dinner. The restaurant with Travelodge is an International House of Pancakes – which did not sound like a place for a farewell dinner. And we were right. But we knew the Holiday Inn’s dining room and it was just across the wide street, so we walked over there.
As we walked up to the hostess station, there stood a beautiful Indian woman. She immediately saw the bindi on my forehead and treated me like her long lost sister. While the men were deciding which of all the tables they wanted to use (there was only one occupied) she and I talked bindis. We were having such a good time, we both hated it when she had to get busy again passing out the menus.
Florens had the salmon and Werner and I had the prime rib. Poor Florens got such a small portion of rice and meat that Werner and I shared our potatoes and meat with him. The vegetables were excellent and I would have enjoyed more of them, but we were full when we finished. We walked back to our rooms between the roar of traffic and the gentleness of the evening and the knowledge that this had been our last supper together.
only the music comes
from a city bar
Our rooms only had one chair each. We tried to bring one from Florens room, but we found that the chair was slightly too wide to get through the door. I suppose this is the only way to keep people from carrying them off. But I kept wondering how they got the chair into the room. Werner and his sore back got the chair and Florens and I sat on the bed with our feet under the covers. It was like some sit-com on TV to be in bed with my stepson while my husband talked to us. We hated to part so all we talked about were future trips that we might make together. Florens told us of places in Europe he and Dietlind had enjoyed the most and we pictured ourselves seeing and tramping to Mediterranean wonders. When we were each trying to cover up our yawning, we said good-night and good-bye.
I was afraid that I would sleep poorly because of the excitement of meeting Michael in the morning, but by covering up the red eyes of the clock, I was able to sleep until 7:00. It was only as I heard Florens going out his door, did I wake. I sent him prayers and blessings and then was too awake to sleep anymore. So I began reading the book he had left for me – Thomas Pynchon’s Vineland. We hear so little about Pynchon here in America that I was surprised to find his books translated into German. But as I read it, I saw why the Germans like his work so much. His characters are taken from the fringe and exhibit the worst aspects of American living. I wonder what people who have never been here think of Americans? That we are all freaks, high on a variety of drugs and flitting from one craziness to the next? Not a pleasant thought.
As Michael and I had arranged to meet at the airport for his lay-over, we both knew that upteen events could delay either one of us, so we had a long list of contingency plans. As I stepped up to gate twenty-six I saw a few persons sprawled in positions of long waiting. I was looking them over to see if any looked bookish, when I heard my name called. I turned and there leading the line of new arrivals was Michael. It was so good to meet him, to like what I saw after all our faceless letters, and relief that our plans had worked that we surprised ourselves by sharing a hug. I asked him if he wanted to go to a bar or a restaurant. He seemed more interested in finding a nice place than being interested in what they served. The plastic diner in red and white he refused, to my relief, and found a nice dark cave where we could talk over the silliness of the TV in the darkest corner.
After getting a tea for me and coffee and a jelly donut for himself, he began the talk with a discussion wondering why Basho had used for the last line of his famous haiku:
the old pond
a frog jumps into
the sound of water
The Japanese language has a charming way of using onomatopoeia (giving things a name that imitates the sound the object makes) so why did not Basho use "plop" or "splash" (as some translators now use for his phrase "mizu no oto" which is literally "the sound of water") for that last line? The way Michael spoke "onomatopoeia", repeating it often and unnecessarily, I had the feeling he was testing me to see if I knew what the term meant. I could not spell it (I just had to look it up) but I knew what it meant and how much the Japanese language uses it. In addition I was able to say that Basho had used the phrase "the sound of water" at least a year before in another poem, and that it surely was more interesting to work with the idea of the sound of water than the normal idea of the wetness of water. I think I passed.
We easily settled down to the business of publishing and easily agreed on almost every point. When there seemed a conflict, we were able to discuss that point and find a new agreement. We had a good time exchanging information about the publishing world. When we were discussing book reviews he was talking about how to write a negative book review. I think I surprised him when I said that every book had a worth to someone. The job of the reviewer was to put out the information in the book to attract the reader who was looking for this. I felt one could be honest about a book and the author; should be as honest as possible for the reader. As he asked me more questions on the subject, we realized how often book reviews are simply used as a place to "grind axes" or to "get even" for past hurts. When I said this was the hardest part to control, he said I was probably more mature than he was. I laughed and said that was because I was older than he was. He refused to get into this subject.
As the restaurant began to fill up with lunchtime diners, we felt our conversation was being overheard in the pool of quietness around us so we began strolling out of the terminal. Michael had warned me that he easily gets lost and by following him we did immediately get go off in the wrong direction. How we laughed as it took the two of us to get ourselves back to the right place. By now we were each needing to take care of ourselves, so our good-byes were quick and cordial.
I dashed out to the hotel shuttle stop but obviously just missed it.
at the stop
the missed bus
I stood there in the hot sun, watching bus after bus blow its stinking exhaust in my face. Once I saw one go by with the sign Travelodge on it but it did not stop. I was just thinking I would get a taxi when the right bus came. Soon I heard Werner’s voice calling out to me from the lobby and all the scary stuff was over.
The drive home was easily and quiet. In Bodega Bay we stopped for clam chowder soup served in a bread bowl which I love. Suddenly I was so tired as I came down from the intensity of my morning high. I wondered how the two travelers, going in different directions were fairing.
Copyright ©Jane Reichhold 2001
Continue reading at:
August 9 - 1, 2001
July 31 - 26, 2001
July 25 - 18, 2001
July 17 - 11, 2001
July 10 - 4, 2001