Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Girl and Her Dog

A couple of weeks ago I was driving east on Third Street, as I crossed Rogers I saw the pair in the picture happily making their way home on a beautiful day, an ordinary scene, a girl and her dog. 
This pair is so far from ordinary that they bring tears to my eyes. 

Adria and her service dog Lucy, better known as Lu, are a magical team. One is autistic one is not. I met Adria when she became part of our Indiana Daily Student Family. She covered mostly city issues and did a great job. She is smart, funny and articulate. One of my favorite stories was the one Adria told us about her challenges with autism. She became disoriented easily and had a difficult time finding her way around the huge Indiana University Campus. It was hard for her to follow directions in order to get to class, a daunting task for any freshmen, let alone one who is directionally challenged. In her clever way, Adria devised a plan which she hoped would save her from embarrassment. She would adopt a French, Spanish or British accent when she approached someone to ask for directions. She didn't feel as foolish asking directions as a foreign student as she would have asking as a freshmen from Louisville, Kentucky. Brilliant!

Adria has met many challenges in her life, but had been unable to live independently, which was her hope and her extremely supportive family's hope. As many of you know who have adult children with disabilities, financial support and programs disappear after a child turns eighteen. 

But Adria found her key to independence, an angel in the guise of a service dog. Adria and Lu went through the training together. There was a very scary time when Lu had a joint problem that could disqualify her from the service program if she couldn't be healed. We all held our breath and tried to support Adria who was beside herself with the fear that her vision of freedom would evaporate with the loss of Lu. We heaved a great sigh of relief when Lu got the all clear. Everyone was doing a happy dance while Lu looked at us as if we had all lost our minds. Adria's zest for life is contagious. 

Her many friends have joyfully followed each of Adria and Lu's milestone each time she posts on
Facebook as Lu guides her around Bloomington. Her milestones are the "little things" that we take for granted every day, their first time to ride the bus, their first time to Target, the first time to the grocery and many other victories that gave Adria a life of independence that wouldn't have been possible without Lu. But Lu is much more than a service dog, she is Adria's best friend, her confidant, her constant companion who gives all what we crave, unconditional love. I love her posts about the funny things this amazing dog does and their adventures around town. Many of you have probably seen them, this pretty dark haired young woman and her yellow lab with the red vest. 

Adria pays it forward. She is a great spokesperson for the service dog program, gives talks to groups and is an inspiration to all her meet her. Everyone has a story and if you see this Dynamic Duo walking around Bloomington, you will smile because you know a little of theirs now.

Rebekah for The Poplar Grove Muse

Monday, April 20, 2015

In Service

Another WWF(a)C—Bloomington coming-of-age event marking ten-plus years of this remarkable community-in/of-the-making took place at the end of last month—our first Volunteer In-Service session.  Several of us confessed later that we had not wakened on that Saturday morning eager to spend the precious weekend day learning to volunteer for an organization many had already been working to build for years.

However, unlike any other in-service training anyone had ever attended, and LIKE pretty much every other event offered by this astonishing community of writing women, the day was surprising, thought-provoking, joyful, transformational.

Grounding rituals of candle-passing and check-in reliably create a trustworthy container. We opened with a beloved and (as always) perfectly chosen poem:

To be of use  by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Discussion and writing centered on work that is real, what constitutes that work, what spirit and aspirations, mission and values, reach and opportunity further it. A heady brew of words, laughter, creativity, community, and common purpose filled the container to brimming. A new outreach and potential partnership with StoneBelt staff and clients came into focus.  New teams of cleaners, grantwriters, table staffers, holders of yet-to-be-identified spaces, plotters and planners emerged. An optional afternoon session facilitated by the women who have held writing space in the Monroe County Jail now for coming-on-nine-years was equally rich and revelatory, and new volunteers to share that work are in the pipeline.  The transformational possibilities of community and common purpose firmly grounded in the presumption of goodwill were again revealed.

POSTSCRIPT A number of women gathered last night at a Stand up for Autism fundraiser at The Comedy Attic to celebrate the Semicentennial Anniversary of the birth of a beloved one of us. It was a joy to hear deep popcorn laughter flowing among us, in yet another outing, yet another setting, for women to laugh and celebrate one another. A hilarious aspect of the evening was that the headline comic got the idea that our party was a work group (which we are, but not in the way that he assumed), and that we were a government work group.  Moreover, as he unpacked his comic explorations of gender and sexual differences, he began (whether for the purposes of working the room or for real) to riff on another assumption, that we were “mad at him.”  Best joke of the night, imho.

Mary for the Poplar Grove Muse

Monday, April 13, 2015

Woman Troubles

Woman Troubles 

Was it the bad company, bad whiskey or bad habits and political excitement? Brain fever, congestion, or the Death of your sons in the war? Did you fall apart, disappointed in love, dog bitten or bitter, was it egotism, rheumatism, or a fall from a horse? Feebleness, jealousy or some other female disease? Was it the fire in the the farmhouse, the lost cat, your hysteria after his desertion and you with the 6 kids simmering on the outskirts of town? Was it uterine derangement, venereal excess greediness or Grief? What superstition, what time of life, what stroke of insight brought you through those tall oak doors hard slamming behind you, locked up for good with you and your domestic afflictions, your cardboard suitcase, and your deranged masturbations.

Woman Troubles. What troubled you, woman?  Auntie Cora who received no honorable mention at the family table. Only murmers and downward glances. Forks and knives placed carefully on the edges of our chipped china plates til polite conversation resumed and your name, sealed in  linen napkins on our laps, was simply rinsed out in the next day’s wash. Hung to dry. Carried away on intemperate winds.  

 BLR April 2015

Monday, April 6, 2015

Time to Be Gentle

No longer do we trudge, heavy with snow boot steps,
flatten the ground and carve sled tracks and snow angel imprints,
dream of greens freshly picked,
wonder when we'll welcome the rains of April and May.

Yesterday, covered from nose tip to toe tip, my children emerged
from the woods, just beyond our house,
smiling in a way a child does when mud soaks
through their shoes
and skin.

They told their father and me about tree shelters
and critters and shoes disappearingin "quicksand".

Their breath is quick as they finish each other's sentences and giggles,
and go off together to retrieve the lost shoe.
We remind them to stay outside and where to find the hose.

Later, I'll go down to see where their stories live,
watch how plastic army men zip line through the trees,
admire the fairy house freshly painted.

Together we'll walk lightly,
watch with purpose where our feet find ground.
There is mud, yes, to avoid or not,
but our eyes are searching for something else-
those first bits of purple and white, tulip leaves,
the daffodils declaring the season with yellow heads raised.

Each time our eyes find new life,
we celebrate by being still.
We shed a little more of any harsh winter blues that may linger,
and remind ourselves it's time to be gentle.
We no longer must trudge with heavy steps.