Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Rifles in the Woods

A little over a week ago, my oldest had her wisdom teeth out. The next day, she went on a scavenger hunt all over town and had a blast. (We are tough women in this house when faced with pain and physical adversity. Perhaps not so much existential adversity, but that’s another topic….)

The second day, she went shooting in the woods with her fellow “viper assassins,” as their beloved Tae Kwan Do teacher and mentor likes to call this girl cohort of spectacular teen martial artists—two black belts, four red-black belts approaching that milestone.

The teacher is a Marine, a grizzled martial arts and self-defense expert who mixes his dedicated teaching with standup comedy (a combination that goes over extremely well with the under-18 crowd), a voracious reader, and a flaming political progressive. When he asked me if my daughter could go, I felt it was in part a test of me and my biases, and I have to admit that I quailed a bit, inside, at the thought of sending my child out into the woods with guns.

However, I immediately and pseudo-confidently gave my public permission, and decided I could think it over on my own time. Who knew, maybe her father would veto it?

He did not.

However, in my conversations with several friends, a number of them did. Veto it, I mean. I am firmly against gun ownership and use, despite having grown up in the Midwest with shotguns in the house (I never had the slightest interest in them, and steadfastly refused the occasional duck, pheasant, or deer flesh that landed on our table). But aside from my initial hesitation (largely due to the unexamined safety issues), I didn’t see that learning a little bit about gun use necessarily went against my opposition to private gun ownership.   

One friend, whom I respect deeply, was shocked and expressed the fear “what if she really likes it?”

I have been thinking a lot about this decision, and its implications, and how we make these incremental, sensitive, potentially consequential decisions. Many emotional responses come into play in doing so, without our even being fully conscious of them: fear is a big one—of the unknown, of tangible dangers, of exposure to who-knows-what; unfamiliarity and its evil twin, avoidance of displaying one’s ignorance–I suffer a lot from this, especially in meeting international acquaintances, as I am mortified that my knowledge of so many cultures is woefully superficial; self-consciousness—political, moral, socio-economic (as I made clear, this one conditioned my immediate response in this instance); the list is long. 

However, in my life, I am trying increasingly to allow a desire for new experiences that will stretch me and my loved ones to govern my decision-making.  As I look back on my life, my adventurous choices are the ones I remember best, treasure most deeply, and learned the most from. The moments  (surprisingly, more than a few, in my previous incarnations) where someone asked me to do something because they knew I was a risk-taker, or would be open-minded, or was someone who was up to an adventure, carry a special glow in how I conceive of myself. The moments where I allowed myself to quail, or focused on the inconvenience or difficulty a challenge might present, rather than the possibilities it might offer, are those that I still occasionally struggle to put into perspective.

As for the guns in the woods…. No one was injured. Everyone had a great time. My daughter didn’t think she was up to the kick of the shotgun after the oral surgery, and didn’t try it. She preferred the slim, easily handled .22 and its low recoil.  Followed by the AK. The Glock was attractive but hard to stabilize.                                                                   
 A bold  addition to the metaphorical arsenal of her life experiences, and by extension, mine.

Mary for the Poplar Grove Muse

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Traveling Journal

The Traveling Journal
May 13, 2012
Someone said the weather is very passionate today. Aye, that it is, wind and rain, wave erasing wave. I like dramatic weather, as long as no one gets hurt, so I don’t think it’s the weather that’s causing me to feel unsettled, not sure what it is. I feel like the heron gull, totally controlled by the wind, buffeted this way and that, not able to make headway, find direction, not really able to focus. I want to be like the guillemot, who sees her target beneath the water, dislocates her shoulders, locking her wings against her body, she dives like a needle between the waves, spears her prey and heads for the surface. As they say in Scotland, done and dusted. 

Everyone in our group is so excited to be here, rushing around outside in gale force winds, happy ducks in a blustery puddle. I seem to be quite content to sit here in the sunroom at the Argyll Hotel and stare at the constantly changing water.  I don’t feel like writing or being productive. It’s been a hard winter and I think my body is telling me to Sit Down for Pete’s sake. Don’t feel guilty. I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to be constantly productive. I’m finding it hard to stop the momentum of the last nine months. I’ve spent nearly every day coordinating this writing retreat on Iona, sort of like a gestation period. I’ve given birth, the baby is healthy and now it’s time to let it thrive on its own. 

When I get home, I will start organizing my move toward retirement, so maybe my brain, body and gut are telling me I had better rest up while I have the chance.

My world has changed forever with the losses death created this winter. I need to stop minimizing that and not move out of the grief too quickly. Iona is just the place for that. She lifts her veil and removes all boundaries, requiring you to be who you truly are, where you truly are. So I’m just going to sit here for however long it takes and let Iona work her magic. Give her time. Give her time.
Rebekah for the Poplar Grove Muse

Tuesday, July 17, 2012



I don’t understand rituals.  I don’t get the need for them or the pleasure received from them.  Somehow I feel cheated.   Maybe a better word would be puzzled.   Does that make me non-spiritual if I don’t feel the spiritual ritual? Does that make me non-patriotic if I don’t feel the patriotic ceremony?

 Why don’t I feel the need or not recognize the need for an outward expression of an inward conclusion?    Is it that I have cut my living, my life, so close to the emotional bone that I am unable to experience the centering that is anticipated with the repetition of ritual?
I can see the peace and settling that comes to those who use ritual.  They see it for the symbol that it is and feel its power.   It is evident that it gives them strength.  Yet I don’t feel a connection with rituals.   

Could it be that I do have rituals and ceremony in my life I just don’t recognize them as such because they are mine?  Is such a simple thing as always putting your left sock on first, a ritual?  Does it bring steadiness, peace to you?  Maybe it  does, maybe it gives you a feeling of control over your day.   If that is the case then the use of ritual to stabilize our lives is not only the big gesture but the small and everyday gesture.  The always wearing Mom’s ring on your pointing finger and the making sure you give three good-bye kisses not two or four are rituals as important as saying “I do” at the end of a wedding ceremony.

Are these then our unconscious rituals that we use incessantly to keep us centered and connected?  If that is so, then I do have rituals that guide me, they are my personal, comfortable, unconscious ones.
Does this mean that conscious rituals are a learned behavior and by repetition of the act and the conviction the power of the ritual is felt?   Is that the secret of the ritual?

Diana, for the Poplar Grove Muse  

Monday, July 9, 2012

People Like Us- a movie review

     PEOPLE LIKE US is under the radar. Its just a little movie but with recognizable actors. Unadvertised, no media blitz for this modest film, but what a bittersweet tale of family ties, secrets and betrayal. We need more small movies like this low-key tale of redemption. The movie is based loosely on writer/director Alex Kurtzmans real life story that brings a heads up quality to the action.
     The tale begins with a RAIN MAN like scene of a fast taking businessman, Sam (Chris Pine). He is making things happen at various goods production factories where non-selling items are remarketed to make some sort of monetary return on poor performers. Unfortunately his expired soup explodes in an unrefrigerated train on its way to potential Mexican buyers. While negotiating around his boss's less than happy ultimatum on these losing results, he keeps declining his mothers unusual cell phone interruptions.
      Upon returning to his NY home, his paramour, the understanding but no fool Olivia Wilde tells him the sad news of his dad's death. Sam tries to invent many reasons not to attend the funeral in LA but finally he arrives at his mothers (Michelle Pfeiffer) home intentionally late enough to miss the service only to be greeted with a well-deserved slap on the face.
     The fathers lawyer later tells him that Sam is bequeathed only the record producing father's LP collection. At the same time, he is given his Dads shaving kit filled with  $150,000 and a note to deliver it to a name and address with an added sentence to "watch over them".
     It now gets messy. Sam discovers, at this address, a beautiful although skanky-ish  single mother Frankie ( Elizabeth Banks) and her prepubescent  borderline JD son (Michael Hall D'Addari). Sam learns (while following the young woman conveniently to her neighborhood AA meeting) of her fury at her non-existence by reading aloud her exclusion from her/ their fathers obituary. It gets complicated as Chris Pine ensconces himself in their lives while never claiming his identity. 
     Bar scenes with his not yet acknowledged half-sister reveal parts of her life with their common Dad while Sams independent interactions with the 11 in years almost 25 in sophistication nephew whose love of music matches Sams, links them genetically to the dead father/grandfather. The mutual anger of his half sister's desertion by their father by age 8 as well as Sams own rage at a father never being there for him culminating with no inheritance swim over the two siblings. The story meanders with interspersed confrontations with his mother and her overdue admittance that she insisted the egocentric rock music producer husband/father chose between the two families.
     Genetically similar distancing skills and irresponsible tendencies include using the system for their own selfish benefit permeate the brother and sisters interactions. The undercurrent of incest between the two until the truth is told is always present but happily chaste, for the audience's sake. The siblings need unconditional love more than romantic love anyway.
     As one can imagine in a Hollywood movie, everyone comes out ok in the end but this reviewer was left with a sadness of parental poor choices and secrets soiling the next generation for many years if not an entire lifetime.
     Its worth seeing but it will not be. There are too many heavily advertised movies this summer and many with 3 D enticements. But some night at home around 10:15pm or 2 am as your remote lingers on the title; watch it and you will be in for an unexpected treat. Or plunk down the cash now at AMC or eventually Netflix.  It might make some of us happy we grew up in the homes we did or remind others of us that secrets seldom serve the righteous and typically each player suffers as a result.

Monday, July 2, 2012

..excerpts from The Girl Swinging Into The Sky...a work in progress.

--December 1994
It is almost Christmas.  I started writing poetry yesterday.  I am keeping it hidden, in my own binder so no one looks at it.  I made a blue binder and painted the front with all the paints that I had and then made a collage on the back.  Mostly of band pictures, musicians that I like and some outer space stuff.  The first poems were easy to write, like they were already there.  I think I am going to number them and see how many I can write.  

Dad deleted all my writing I had on the computer.  But first he read it all.  He called mom on the car phone on our way to Metamora for the women’s holiday shopping trip.   I could tell something was wrong when she picked up, mom’s face frowned really hard, and then she glared at me and said,

“Okay I’ll tell her.”

“Your father found your writing” she said.

It felt like the blood in my body turned cold.  Mom only uses the word father when there is something bad about to happen.

“And he saw that you talked about drugs,”

I also talked about how I hated them.  I wonder if he saw that.  It was hard to walk around Christmas town and shop all day with the women and know that I was really in trouble when I got home.  I don’t know how mad dad is going to be, or if he will just not talk to me for a while.  

--February 1995
Mom was crying in the doorway of the den.  Something was wrong with her.  Dad was sitting in his recliner facing the tv.

She saw me,

“Your father has been asked to leave the soccer club.”

Dad didn’t say anything, he turned the TV volume up.

“Everything is falling apart, this is our whole life, and now it is gone!”

Mom started breathing heavy.

“Don’t you even care, Dave?”

Dad flipped to another station.

“Am , I the only one in this family who cares?”

“Who is going to be our coach?”  I ask.

“It was that stupid Rick Mann, who reported your father, I know it.”

Mom put her fingers in her mouth and started pacing.

“Who’s going to be our coach?”

“Your father never liked Rick Mann, he should have cut Jenny from the team.”

She put her arms in the air and walked in a circle.  I went to the fridge and found the ½ full soda can from lunch, walked through the sitting room back upstairs.  Eric was playing world wrestling federation in the Nintendo room.  I went to my room, shut and locked the door.

--March 1995

“I found a new team for you to play on.”

Mom was waiting for me on the porch when I got off the bus.  I sat in the wicker chair next to her.  

“It will just be until you can try out for Dynamo, but their tryouts for next season aren’t until May so until then, I found a team for you.”

She was holding the cordless phone and staring at me.

“What team?”

“It is an all boys team in Perry and the coach’s name is Len, they said they will take you right away, you don’t have to try out.”

“If it is all boys how come I am going to play on it?”

“Because you are better than all the girl players in that county, they have a terrible soccer program.”

She continued,

“I told them where you were from and they said they’d take you right away and then I said that I would bring you over to practice tomorrow night, your first game is this Saturday.”

Allison 07/02/12