Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Poem and A Dream

Last night I spent time in my creative space making cards for some friends. I had the music going and felt very peaceful. It was nice.

As I headed upstairs, I glanced at a book I bought at a used book store entitled, Our World. It is photographs by Molly Malone Cook with text by Mary Oliver. I bought it after a workshop with Zelda Lockhart. She suggested that we take a few words from a poem and free-write on them. I love writing from photographs, so the book seemed just the perfect prompt provider.

I opened the book to this poem:

Walking Home from Oak-Head

There is something
about the snow-laden sky
in winter
in the late afternoon

that brings to the heart elation
and the lovely meaninglessness
of time.
Whenever I get home - whenever -

somebody loves me there.
I stand in the same dark peace
as any pine tree,

or wander on slowly
like the still unhurried wind,
as for a gift,

for the snow to begin
which it does
at first casually,
then, irrepressibly.

Wherever else I live -
in music, in words,
in the fires of the heart,
I abide just as deeply

in this nameless, indivisible place,
this world,
which is falling apart now,
which is white and wild,

which is faithful beyond all our expressions of faith,
our deepest prayers.
Don't worry, sooner or later I'll be home.
Red-cheeked from the roused wind,

I'll stand in the doorway
stamping my boots and slapping my hands,
my shoulders
covered with stars.
~ Mary Oliver ~

My dad came to me in a dream last night. We walked around his buildings and talked and he gave his approval of some of the things we had decided to do since he died. In one of the scenes of the dream, there was a movie of us as young children showing on the wall.

The poem or the thoughts of those for whom I was making cards - I'm not sure what brought him into my night wandering. But this morning I did feel comforted.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My Dad and the USofA

It doesn't take much right now to bring me to tears about my dad's death. Dealing with the surgeries and upcoming treatment, photographs, music. The song, "The Weary Kind" from the movie "Crazy Heart" does it every time. During the days when we were exhausted, spending hour after hour by my dad's hospital bed, I played this song every time I got in the car. These lyrics particularly speak to my state of mind:

Somehow this don’t feel like home anymore

And this ain’t no place for the weary kind
And this ain’t no place to lose your mind
And this ain’t no place to fall behind
Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try

The last time my dad went into surgery, as I may have said before, he told my sister what he wanted at his funeral. And I keep coming back to one thing he requested. He said, "I want them to play 'God Bless America'." And then he started crying. "I love this country so much."

Of course he was a member of the Greatest Generation, and he did love all things American. He never understood why I would buy a German or Japanese car. He loved war movies and was proud of his time in the service. He criticized the government with care, and never hesitated to remind us that we lived in the greatest country in the world. He believed the US was the peacekeeper and caretaker of the world.

We buried him with military honors, draped his coffin in the American flag. It was folded by a military guard and presented to my brother, his only son.

Back at his house, after the funeral, I noticed a small American flag by the chair he had been using after he broke his hip. It tore me up.

When I get in my car, I can turn off the music. I can ignore the photographs and don't have to play the voice mail where he tells me that Joshua Bell is on PBS and to be sure to watch it. But almost everywhere I go, there are American flags and I'm reminded of my dad and the way he loved our country.

Monday, September 20, 2010


I spent the weekend in the darkroom developing the old negatives from my dad's house. I explained the development process in this post.

When I have arrived at the perfect exposure setting and time, I can run several pictures rather quickly. The minutes-in-solution times can be synchronized so I'm moving the photographs through in production. It's easy to get caught up in running several because I'm so pleased to be producing the actual picture.

At home, I will have anywhere from five to seven prints of a photograph. Then the question becomes, "What do I do with all the prints?" This has led me to examine why we take pictures in the first place.

1. We want to remember an event: who was there, what the venue looked like, what the activities were.
2. We want to document something, for instance a house we are building for a client.
3. We want to measure a life through the years.
4. We want to capture something beautiful, grotesque, intriguing.

And other reasons.

In developing these old negatives, I have other motivation.

Mostly I want to see emotion in people's faces. There is an interaction between the photographer and the subject. I've seen the happiness and irritation of my subjects many times. In a picture of my mom and dad, both of them impeccably dressed (Easter?), she is smiling broadly, he is not. What does this tell me about them? Is it something about their whole relationship or was it just a second of their life? Who took the picture? In an oddly parallel photo, my brother and sister are in dress-up clothes. She has on high heels and he is a cowboy with a play guitar. She is smiling broadly; he is straight-faced.

There we are on the steps of our house; why is my next-to-the-youngest sister not in the photo? In another photo I look about four years old and I stand apart from my sister as she sits in a rocking chair holding my infant brother, my mother protectively close at hand. I look straight at the camera. What am I thinking?

Pictures are chronicles not just of our lives, but our relationships, interests, happy and sad events. I'm fascinated by what I'm discovering in a dark room.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

New York Trip

This weekend we met our daughters in New York. It was a wonderful weekend with mostly cool and sunny weather. Usually on returning from a trip, I would call my dad and tell him all about it. He would love hearing the details. So this post is what I would tell him if I could.

First I would tell him about the view from the hotel, where every morning the sun came up, touching the tops of the high rise buildings. And about the sign that said, "Now more than ever, you need to be world wise."

We would laugh about the petty arguments and lengthy discussions we had about where to eat and shop. I'd tell him about what I learned: that we really don't have to spend every minute together for it to be a successful weekend. I would mention the museum where the exhibit consisted of things made from feathers and bones and dandelions. And the mall where a nude giant man and woman graced the lobby.

I would talk about the city lights and the fast-moving cars and people, the crowded streets and the alluring and repulsive smells of the city.

We met the girls' boyfriends, and we liked them, I'd say. Each well-suited to the daughter's personality. All three boyfriends are kind and good to them. He would know that a parent always wants the best for their kids.

Althought he never read this blog, I would talk about this post where I speculated about how my daughters' apartments looked, and how they were just as I imagined them.

I wish you could have been with us, I'd say, when we went to see the play Fela! The dancers and music were out of this world, and the story was disturbing (yes, children, it was disturbing!) and he'd say he bet he would have liked it. You need to go with us next time, Dad. Yeah, I will, he'd say, but we both knew he wouldn't go.

I'd tell him about the beautiful cathedral we went in...

...and that I lit a candle just for him.

At the end of the conversation, I'd tell him how hard it is to say good-bye to everybody after a nice weekend, and he'd know just what I meant.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


This week, I feel like I've finally crashed from all that has been going on. I've been so tired I can hardly stay awake in the afternoons when I get home from work, and yesterday, on my day off, I did basically nothing except for a few loads of laundry. At 8:00, I'm ready to get in my pajamas and go to bed for the night.

I still have decisions to make about my breast cancer treatment and am ready to move forward with everything and get it behind me. It has been hanging over my head since right after my dad fell and broke his hip. I'm just now starting to say, "I had cancer". But I can't seem to gather the right or enough information to make a decision about which treatment to do. Tuesday is d-day for coming up with the plan; thank goodness for deadlines.

I've read one book in a month and a half (I usually read 3-5 books a month), and that was Suzanne Collins' book, Mockingjay, something I've been waiting for since December. It was a perfect re-entry into reading: rapid-paced and engrossing without requiring a lot of concentration, something I'm low on.

I need to get my groove back, fellas. Weary is not fun.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Long Weekend in Pictures

Thursday Night:

Friday Night:

Saturday Night:

Sunday Night:

A wonderful weekend.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Losing Memories. And Finding Them.

(Yeah, I know the photo is a little crooked - my dad took it!)

The other day I was trying to remember the name of my first grade teacher. I couldn't pull it out of my brain. I realized something: my dad is the only one who might have known the answer.

So it seems, that along with all the things I forgot to ask him about our relatives--like who are those people in the pictures in the trunk, why did you save this obituary, tell me about receiving this honor--there are a few things I needed to know about me that are now gone. The one person who remembers my childhood intimately is dead.

This gave me a very forlorn feeling.

I was talking to my youngest sister about this, telling her I had tried to find the teacher's name on the internet and couldn't. She said, "I know where you might can find it. There's probably a report card in the trunk from first grade."

I haven't looked yet, but it might be there. And I'm beginning to understand the value to a person's descendants of leaving behind papers and letters and pictures. Regardless of whether that particular teacher's name will be retrieved, I know that my dad was thinking ahead when he put each and every thing in that trunk. Thinking about a time when I might need to know something and he wouldn't be around to answer.