Monday Feature: Michaela Kahn on Georgia O’Keeffe’s Winter Road

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Winter Road (1963)

I fell in love with Georgia O’Keeffe’s work (the landscapes in particular) long before I moved close to the place where many of them were painted.

However, by the time I did move to Santa Fe I had seen so many reproductions and copies of particular pieces (mostly the flowers) that I had in all honesty gotten a little bit numb to her work. The bright colors, the sensual edges – its not that I didn’t like them, I just couldn’t really see them anymore.
Then I took at trip to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum downtown. Seeing a painting in person always changes the dynamic. As good as a reproduction might be, there is something about being right there, inches away, that makes it more vivid and helps me to see, to cut past any preconceived ideas. The colors are true, the brushstrokes (or lack of them) are clear, the way the light changes the painting as you walk back and forth.

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So I was already warming back up to O’Keeffe when I walked into a back room and found “Winter Road.” It stopped me in my tracks. Pure white, but for that gently curving line of off-black. The way the line almost disappears, suggesting a gentle hill. It is one of the least representative of O’Keeffe’s paintings I’d ever seen. I didn’t read the title until after I had been looking at it for several minutes and it took me a long time to see a road. Even after reading its title, as I stood there the painting kept switching back between being a road in the snow and being just a line – an elegant black line through white space. Its minimalism allowed it to be many things. It woke me back up to the significance of lines and edges – a road in the snow, a dark curl across a cheek, the curve of a feather, the brittle margin of a leaf.

I walked back out into the world, paying closer attention to the edges of things.

 

Would You Rather Be Happy or Loved?

Would you rather be happy or loved? It’s an odd question, unsurprisingly, because the person asking it has dementia. Yet I am taking care of this person who wants an answer from me, so I think about it.
Odd because we usually equate being loved with being happy. But I find myself saying that I don’t believe either of these is a real goal. After all, who can predict if we will be loved or happy, or what choices might ensure either? And both states seem external—based on circumstances or other people, which I don’t like in terms of a goal.
I’ve always felt it was better to love than be loved. After all, I can love people, animals, places, ideas, art, things, activities, even God or myself and I don’t need to be loved back for the situation to feel good. When young, I felt safer, more empowered, as the lover than the beloved. I loved partners who certainly loved me, but my focus was on my own feeling of love—expressing it, cultivating it, deepening it. This is still true, although I’ve softened more towards being loved. The people I’m closest too tend to have rather cool demeanors and not be gushy, so their protestations and gestures mean a lot. And I’m more willing to see and appreciate these.
As to happiness, it isn’t really an attainable state. At least not for me. I’m super restless, and my feelings mercurial—I can cycle from ecstasy to boredom to irritation before an afternoon is half done. I’m with Thomas Jefferson on the right to the “Pursuit of Happiness.” I like to pursue it—actually I adore pursuing it—and if I don’t capture it I might get adventure or amusement or serendipity instead. I find serenity an acceptable goal, but it isn’t a static state. I can’t say “I am serene,” but rather that I’ve flipped out just a little and am now returning to balance.
Hidden within this strange question seems to be the sad sense that being loved doesn’t always make a person happy. Love can be controlling, critical, and downright violent. Well, you might say, that isn’t REALLY love but I’m thinking it is at least love’s shadow side—a part of love and not a part of indifference.
I don’t know if feeling loved or happy is possible with dementia. Well, that it isn’t quite true—feeling loved and actually expressing affection still seem to be there for some folk. I can tell my listener doesn’t care about the answer, while still being glad with the appearance of conversation.

Teaching—I’m SO In It For The Money–Miriam Sagan

Teaching—I’m SO In It For The Money
Recently I’ve noticed a discourse—across the state, across the nation—on public educators saying “we’re not in it for the money.” Or, conversely, other folks saying it to us.

I understand that this is meant to communicate:

Teachers are underpaid.
Teachers are idealists.
Teachers are not motivated by salary.

Well, two out of three isn’t bad. (Still a failing grade, though). But it isn’t good either. I’ve taught community college as an adjunct, half-timer, full time faculty, and 3/4 time faculty. I’ve been grateful for every cent I’ve earned. More than that, let’s be blunt, these earnings have been the difference between stability and economic disaster for me and my family.

No longer are teachers single school marms waiting for a cowboy to sweep us into domesticity. We support ourselves, our children, and our parents. Our salaries are economic development—we buy houses, and cups of coffee.

And here is something else—I never want my students to think I am indifferent to money. I’m not marginal, or Henry David Thoreau, or living on air. I share their concerns. I’d never tell THEM that they aren’t in it for the money.

I started wondering, who IS in it for the money? Obviously workers in terrible poor paying jobs—that’s survival. And investment bankers—maybe ”survival” of a less sympathetic kind. But folks the world over take pride in what they do—whether decorating a wedding cake or brain surgery—and yet no one tells bakers or surgeons “Well, you’re not in it for the, gasp, money!”

I would not do my job for free. Does that mean I am any less caring or committed a teacher? No, it does not.

So let’s stop saying we’re not in it for the money. A glance at our cars and clothes will tell you instantly how un-avaricious we are. But we need to care about our own basic needs. And I think this should come first before we can “afford” to care for others.

Obsession – Craig’s List by Mark Sloan Thacker

More from Terry Wilson’s writing class below!

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Obsession – Craig’s List

The other day my buddy Duane asked if I had joined the 12 step Craig’s list program yet. I said,” I’m not a Craigaholic, I just buy too much stuff”. Whatever, anyhow, as I tell my friends all the time, it’s not Craig’s List, it’s God’s List. Every time I need something it is right there, even though I did not know I needed it till I saw it and bought it. Then it all makes sense. Glad God is looking out for bargains for me; it’s amazing. Almost as much as the cool badly needed stuff I get it’s the people I come in contact with that keep me addicted. They are people that I was supposed to meet, only briefly. It is profound.

My Living room

I treasure the quality, fine, soft, horse dung brown leather couch and recliner with matching coffee and end tables from the melancholy woman off San Eldafanzo Road moving to their dream retirement home in Pagosa Springs. She was so sad to be leaving the hill and home she was accustomed too for decades. The dream home was already furnished. So her furniture replaced my old cloth set with the obnoxious southwestern pattern that was donated to Habitat for Humanity because Good Will won’t do pickups any longer. That stuff by far was the biggest bitch to move of anything I’ve gotten on God’s List. My TV and cable receiver sit on a stand from Eldorado, formerly owned by an artist who airbrushes murals on room walls while in the nude. The behemoth 15 x 12 hand dyed and woven Pakistan rug that looks as if it was made for my living room did not come close to fitting in the retired school teacher’s new condo she bought to be near her son. The stainless steel and copper swirling abstract wall piece caught my eye and my new house called for that visit to Barry Js Santa Fe funk factory that was littered with buddies in town for skiing crashed on every bed and couch, ended up coming along with two incredible outside stainless steel silhouette pieces, a large breasted naked woman and the torso of a male body builder, a 7 foot wrought iron abstract THING he said was an owl, two top quality unused glass exterior doors he needed to toss that are now entrances to my studio, and an old telescope, all because Barry J’s Mama had sold the house in the hills above the plaza and he was moving back to TX I cherish them all.

My BBQ

Every week I thank the tattooed hippie trustafarian in her early 60s from the north end, who was moving with her partner to Canada, for the wonkin tonkin deluxe Weber natural gas grill she practically gave to me. Never mind I had to pay $800 to get the gas line installed; it will last forever and came with BBQ utensils and a split leaf philodendron.

My Bedroom

Literally the day before moving my old ugly outdated “80s” style king size bedroom set from the second floor master in my house in Chama, the exquisitely hand carved Mexican southwestern bedroom set, king mattress and all, came to me from Joan, who was renting her off the grid, collect rain water and bird shit from your roof, rattle your car to death on the dead end road, house up against the cliffs with endless views in Pecos, who needed to dump the set fast. She was really groovy, really, and the next weekend hired my buddies to move the rest of her stuff into her new place in town next to the animal shelter she worked at. She thanked me over and over for taking the time, and later called me to discuss the ins and outs of rental property ownership with her, I have 6 so she thinks I’m an expert.

The Piano

A mentally and physically challenged, much less fortunate man than myself, now daily plays a piano in his living room for free thanks to God’s List calling me and I said I’ll take it. He has played since a child and it is in his own words his “most cherished possession”, it was a mother to move.

My garage

This is the holy grail of Craig’s list for this junky, at least so far. It’s all about transportation. I have always wanted to ride a recumbent and God’s list listened. I just took my 7th journey on the thing and I am as of yet unscarred, but time will tell. A woman recently retired from Los Alamos lab had lovingly let it sit in her garage and collect dust for a decade and gave it to me for a quarter of what she was possessed to pay for it originally. She was now going to try mountain biking. Its candy apple red, super long, has 20-inch wheels and sissy bars and is called a Tailwind. It is easy for me now to understand why you don’t see more of these things on the road; they are a bitch to ride to put it nicely. They are heavy, very unstable, and in general, dangerous. I love it, though a challenge God’s list granted me. I have ridden it up Cumbres Pass and blown my quads up; I have ridden it down Cumbres Pass and scared the livin shit out of myself at 42 mph. I have ridden it here and there and plan on riding it everywhere eventually. For the last 15 years I have ridden tandems on and off, mainly off, since it’s hard to convince anyone to ride with you. Men are homophobic about them and woman just aren’t interested, but thank God’s List for the black 1994 Burley, hand built in Eugene, Oregon, I now have leaning against a wall in my garage. Chuck got it after the 2000 world cup from his son, an ex-Navy Seal and bike racer, so it’s blinged out and built for the long haul. Chuck and his wife did the Santa Fe Century on it a couple times, in days gone by. It is a magnificent steed just waiting to be saddled; I am currently looking for a Stoker (rear passenger) on God’s list to fire it up. Lastly there is “Loydd” my 2000 Mercedes Benz C280; he is silver, solid, and sturdy, very different from the 91 year old Loydd I bought him from, who last drove the car into the side of his garage in 2011. I have fixed the bumper and enjoy driving him immensely usually with one of my many bikes on the back and deafening loud classical music blasting from the Boise stereo out through the sunroom – life is good.

Other gifts from God’s List

There is so much more: the lattice arches from Larry the drunk remodeler who was full, so full of advice, the free office set from the grandparents raising their granddaughter, the Nordic Track from the out of shape guy who hustled me away before his wife found out he was selling it, the patio set from the realtor who sold the house of an old couple who had moved to Florida, just next door to Loydd’s place, and told me I was a nice man, the wrought iron gate that keeps my big dog out of the Zen Sauna garden, the patio fire pit with animal cutouts that came with the best hug from the hippy chick in Tesuque, and the mixed pinon and juniper fire wood from the no-speaka-english guy that will keep the kiva going all winter – thank God.

On Going Home by Bibi Deitz

On Going Home 
by Bibi Deitz

My mother lives one hour from New York City, where I live and where I was born. She lived in the city for 20 years, the last 12 of which were with me — in the East Village and on the Lower East Side, then in Windsor Terrace and Greenpoint in Brooklyn. And then she moved (along with my brother and me) to New Jersey. And there she has stayed, while I’ve followed a scattered trajectory (Vermont, Colorado, New Mexico, for a hot minute the South of France). 

When I moved back to the city a year and a half ago after living in Santa Fe for seven years, my mother and I were so excited: Now I would live an hour’s bus ride away. I made my prodigal-daughter return, but with a twist: It’s rare that I see my mother more than once a month. Sometimes a couple of months sidle by without any face-to-face contact (save an errant FaceTime or two while walking down the street, perhaps). 
 
I think there are several reasons for this. First, I have settled in Brooklyn, which is actually two hours from the New Jersey town in which my mother lives. The bus takes an hour (on a good day, without any traffic), but the train from Brooklyn to Port Authority Bus Terminal doubles the commute. 

Also there is something daunting about “going home,” though I have always considered New York my home more than New Jersey. I lived in New Jersey on and off for 11 years, between the ages of 12 and 23. Those years were fine, but I’ve always had a bit of a grudge against the state: It ripped me away from my beloved New York. I returned for dance class every weekend; but still. I found it profoundly unfair that I had been relegated to New Jersey, a place I saw as vastly inferior to my home state from a young age. 

And then there is the consideration of family itself. I love my mother beyond measure. She’s amazing, more of a friend than a mom at this point. We talk or text nearly every day. But family has an intense element to it. As much as I miss my mother when she’s not by my side, I also like to be on my own turf. She recently visited my new apartment in Brooklyn for a few nights, which was wonderful. But the mix of being in the house where I felt so stifled as a teen, being with family and being in this tiny rural New Jersey town where I never felt at home can be difficult. 

Finally, there’s this esoteric quality to New Jersey: I can’t quite articulate it, but when I am there I feel different from when I am just about anywhere else. I blame this not on family or memories but the state itself: I simply don’t like it there. Blame it on its aura or whatever. 

I know this feeling is not related to my family because I don’t feel it when my mother visits me. Quite the opposite: When my mother was in my cozy new home last week she brought so much joy, showering me with gifts for the house and hanging out while I wrote in the afternoons. Her presence across the table at my favorite café or across the room in my living room while I wrote was lovely: comforting, cheerful. 

Recently I planned to take the journey to have a sleepover at my mother’s and attend a rummage sale in the morning. It’s not any old tag sale: a conglomeration of tents occupy a grassy lot the size of a football field and I always find the best vintage furniture and clothes. I planned to hold my breath, trek to the bus station after work and dive in. 

There is some menace to that liminal space through which I pass as I sail along Interstate 78 on the bus toward home, or one iteration thereof. It’s never felt like home, and it will likely never be home again, but at one time it was home. Plus, the location where one’s immediate family lives often holds a connotation of “home,” no matter if it really is one’s place of residence or not. That menace is based in a feeling of not-knowing. There are so many unknowns, from the possibility of getting stuck in traffic (NBD but infuriating) to the possibility of getting into an argument with my mother or brother (hasn’t happened in a long time, but the threat remains) to the possibility of falling into a depression (again, it’s been a minute, but New Jersey still holds the perhaps-promise of a state of doom and gloom). 

I didn’t wind up going home the other day. It wasn’t only the trip, the rigamarole of going to the bus station and waiting on line and sitting in an itchy seat next to a person who would probably be doing something annoying. It was also pouring and I’d had a stressful day and I wanted to go home and make butternut squash lasagne and curl up with a book. So that’s what I did. 

The nice thing is that my mother is the most understanding mother in the world. She was actually congratulatory when I called to tell her the news: That’s great, she said. The rummage sale is going to be insanely muddy anyway, so good on you. 

I can’t say when next I’ll go home, or “home,” as home these days is at my excessively comfy spot in Brooklyn. I’ll see my mother next week, when she brings another load of furniture to me. And perhaps that’s the way it’ll mostly be for now: She’ll come here, and I’ll be happy to have her. She misses New York and loves having a reason to drop by.

I’ll go back to New Jersey, of course. I love my mother, and I know how much my visits mean — to her and to me. There is much to be said for seeing family regardless of the emotions it brings up, or even in celebration of those emotions. Family always makes me think of what Owen Wilson says in Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited: “I want us to be completely open,” he tells his brothers, “and say yes to everything, even if it’s shocking and painful.” Indeed. 

Bibi Deitz is a writer, editor and native New Yorker. She holds an MFA in fiction writing from Bennington College and lives in Brooklyn. Recent work has appeared in Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, The Huffington Post, Bustle, Vice, Bookforum, The Rumpus, Berfrois and BOMB.

Musing in Autumn: Missed Meeetings

I was thinking about life driving to work. I’m giving myself a B+ this week for how I’m doing. The blissful feel of the summer is gone. There has been a fair amount of stress since August, both good and bad. But I feel like I’m back in the grove.

Quite suddenly I saw myself as an undergrad standing on a wet windy corner in Cambridge, outside the Harvard Coop. I’d just won a poetry prize, and the judge had asked to meet me. She wasn’t the most important poet in America, but well known enough in my circles. I was excited. A grown-up, a writer, was taking an interest in me.

She never appeared. After a few unpleasant minutes I could tell she wasn’t coming, but I waited at least twenty, growing sadder by the moment. Wet and disenchanted, I finally left. I think she left me a garbled message a few days later about a headache. In any case, we never met.

Recently my husband Rich reminded me that we’d seen W.H. Auden at a Tolkien Society Meeting in Manhattan when we were young. Reminded, though, is the wrong word. I couldn’t remember at all. Then I had an image of the poet, old and frail (he died soon after) bundled in an overcoat. Can this really have happened? And how would I not remember seeing the most famous poet of the time?

At what point did I go from waiting for life to begin to feeling it had? Maybe when I was about fourteen, and had my friends from summer camp and the run of New York City. But instead of feeling blessed I was just angry about all those wasted years of childhood when I had no agency, was under the power of others.

At what point will I go from looking forward to looking backward? It has started a bit already. I ask myself, did you get what you wanted? If framed a certain way, the answer must be yes. I wanted to get out of New Jersey, be a poet, and have boyfriends. These seemed like lofty unattainable goals, and perhaps for me they were. They seem curiously unambitious at this remove, but they were not easy to attain.

And I would never leave a young poet on a windy corner, unmet.

A Beautiful Essay on Giving–“Strengthening the Generosity Muscle” by Rachel Sagan

Strengthening the Generosity Muscle

by Rachel Sagan, ABUW Executive Director

Generosity is arguably a human trait that comes naturally. However, to truly realize your generosity potential, it needs to be continually exercised and strengthened.   Generosity involves sharing our time, our treasure, our possessions and our passions. Developing a practice of generosity makes it easier to give, creates flexibility, and develops creativity. Just as strengthening your physical muscles has many benefits, strengthening your generosity muscles will benefit your life in a multitude of ways – connectivity, purpose, positive energy, and more. When we give, we are less isolated, more connected to communities and issues greater then ourselves. Giving truly can result in greater joy and a life full of meaning.
Barriers: Generosity does not always come easily and there are many real barriers. In a culture enamored with celebrity and great wealth, many people believe that their time and charity is too small to make a difference. This can lead to a feeling of isolation and hopelessness. But truly, every bit of generosity makes a difference, and small sums add up to a greater whole.  In both of his elections, President Obama raised his impressive war chest not only from mega-gifts, but also from hundreds of thousands of smaller gifts from around the country.
Another barrier is information overload. With the explosion of technology, we are receiving an avalanche of solicitations from every possible avenue. The sheer volume of requests from so many charities can make us feel overwhelmed and we may tune out.
There are several tools and techniques that can break down these barriers to help you actively build a practice of generosity that will expand your world. 
Stretch: One technique is to give a small amount to every request that comes directly from someone you have a relationship with. This takes away the anguish of deciding what is, or is not, a worthy cause, and weeds through the piles of requests. If someone you know decides that a particular cause or illness or social crisis is worthy of their time to run, swim, bike or call, just make a small donation to everyone. The amount can be modest and will not break your budget. You can opt out of any further correspondence from a charity so that your generosity does not backfire and result in even greater requests.  As you build your generosity practice, you will begin to educate yourself about the many issues and organizations. This can help to alleviate information overload as well.
Bend: Another technique is to mark every special occasion as an opportunity for generosity. Whether it is a birthday, wedding, or the loss of a loved one, including generosity as part of the experience adds greater meaning and helps to mark the occasion. It is an easy way to honor someone’s passions and connect to something beyond your self and your own experience. When planning a special event, a donation could be an essential part of the celebration and even part of the budgeting process. Giving to others as an essential part of every special event can be an expression of the shared passions of those involved. 
Flex: Another tool is to have a little stash of money that you can give spontaneously, emotionally and impulsively.  It could be a bag of change that you keep in your car or some bills ready in your wallet. You can keep a few cans of produce on hand so that you can easily respond to boxes collecting for a food pantry. Maybe it is the kids sitting outside of the supermarket raising money for a particular illness or a bell ringer at the holidays. Prepare for these moments of spontaneity to make the most of them.
Rotate: Donating and/or recycling your possessions is an easy way to engage children in expressing their generosity. As they naturally grow out of their things, consider working with them to find an engaging way to donate their old cloths or toys. Let them explore the possibilities and decide – kids in a homeless shelter, the charity clothing box at a place of worship, the donation box at the town dump. This provides a natural cycle for talking about those in need both in their own communities and beyond.
Exercising the generosity muscle on a regular basis can only make it stronger. The actual act of giving builds knowledge and confidence and yes – joy.
Rachel Sagan is Executive Director of the Acton-Boxborough United Way and an advisor to foundations.
Reprined from http://abuw.org/index.php/en/

“…off to “Work” we go?” An Essay by Audrey Powers

“…off to “Work” we go?”
15 December 2013
CONFIDENTIAL
Anyone
123 Any Street # 456
Anywhere, Any Country 78900

Dear J:
Have you ever been on the other side of the question, “Why don’t you just get a job?” More importantly, why would you judge me if you know I have a disability? Why don’t you believe me when I tell you I am on disability? Why don’t you trust that the Social Security Administration, a federal government agency that determines whether or not someone is disabled, has deemed that I am unable to “work” based on my doctor’s reports? At times, I may look physically and mentally competent. However; many factors from the bi-polar and PTSD illnesses remain unseen. Oftentimes my emotional state looks like a Venus flytrap flower. This paralyzing instability has made me feel fearful about returning to “work” or volunteer “work” due to the stigma around mental illness. What do I tell an employer when I have so many medical appointments, when I have a relapse, that I can only “work” part-time, and that I will need special accommodations? If “work” is supposed to be, necessary for my mental and emotional well-being, then what do I tell myself when I’m unable to “work?” Dear J, have you ever considered the notion that “work” can have so many other possible meanings and that it may not necessarily involve a monetary gain?
For example, my personal experience continues to be that “work” is just learning how to maneuver around the “highs” and “lows,” the hallucinations (inconsistent or random), the leaving on of appliances and lights, and forgetting to turn them off. Sometimes “work” is hoping not to forget doctor appointments, to try to eat well on very little money with high inflation. Sometimes “work” is exercising to try to get physically healthy. Sometimes “work” is trying to balance out between increases and decreases with dosages of psychiatric medications. Sometimes “work” is attempting to hide the side effects of tremors, drowsiness, lack of concentration, diarrhea, and high blood pressure. Sometimes “work” is going to the Santa Fe Rape Crisis and Trauma Center to talk about things I wouldn’t normally. Sometimes “work” means asking for help. Sometimes “work” is grieving and recovering from losing fourteen members in my family. Sometimes “work” is just trying to write while resisting it at the same time. Sometimes “work” means trying to maintain a light bright enough to be seen in a dark alley. Sometimes “work” means trying not to die. So dear J, maybe not everyone can just get a job and this is what you can’t see.
In general, “work” or volunteer “work” gives me the opportunity to be a member of a larger society and allows me the ability to give back to my community. In addition, when I can help someone, even in the smallest of ways, I feel lifted up or encouraged. On the other hand, though, I have not worked in over five years and have been on disability. In an article entitled, “Dare to Tell: disclosure in the workplace,” Stephanie Stephens says, “High low, high low, it’s off to work you go.” When I did “work” at Dion’s, the roller coaster rides of the “highs” and “lows,” is what I brought to “work” with me. First of all, I had to deal with rude customers. On one night, a customer threw a plastic salad tong at me because it was broken. I was working in the dining room; therefore, I didn’t make his salad. I went to the kitchen to get him another plastic salad tong. When I brought it out to him, he said, “Never mind, we don’t need that tong, we found another way to get our salad out.” I was on the verge of tears. Then his wife left her purse behind on the back of her chair. I put her purse in the office and continued working. She returned saying she thought she left her purse behind. I went to get it for her. She didn’t seem grateful, nor did she offer a tip. From this experience, I learned that the customer is not always right. Secondly, I am tense working around too many people for large quantities of time. I discovered that I couldn’t handle six to eight hour shifts. Also, I was dealing with grief and loss from losing four family members in a whaling accident. In addition, I was coping with depression, PTSD, and bi-polar trying to “work,” and living in my first apartment. My short-fuse temper would ignite upon the management over menial tasks such as cleaning the restrooms. Not once, did I take into consideration what kind of day my co-workers were having. When I worked at Dion’s, I felt like I wasn’t meeting my own expectations of what meaningful “work” was, even though I was receiving a paycheck.
Currently, the closest I come to “work” is attending the Santa Fe Clubhouse which is a program run through the Lifelink. The Clubhouse is geared towards individuals with a mental health diagnosis or substance abuse issues. Their programming is structured after a 9 to 3 workday and includes a philosophy of side by side participation. A member can participate as much or as little as they want. All activities or groups can be joined on a voluntary basis. The Clubhouse has been necessary for my mental and emotional well-being; and my doctor seems to believe that this is a positive step in my recovery. Similar to my experience at Dion’s, I still feel stress from being around too many people. Also, as I continue to grow emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, I still find that I have to rely on an inner strength to stay present. My “highs” and “lows” interfere with my ability to interact with others. My concentration is limited, my mind wanders and it can have racing thoughts. This leads to confusion for many people around me.
However; attending the Santa Fe Clubhouse has provided me with a structure and a place to go. Joseph Epstein in his essay entitled, “Work and its Contents,” points out that, “The restorative effects of work seem to be beyond doubt. Being out of work, for some many, is the surest path to self-loathing. The loss of work isn’t only the loss of wages but the loss of an organizing principle in life.” I agree with Epstein’s statements because I feel like a loser for not “working.” I’m not earning my own money, but instead am relying on government assistance. As a result, I feel boxed-in to the category of one of those people who sit around all day and do “nothing.” In contrast, I feel that attending the Santa Fe Clubhouse will restore me into a positive role in the community.
P.S. Dear J,
In closing, there are many other meanings for “work.” Some of these meanings for “work” include necessities required for our emotional and mental well-being. Spirituality, exercise, eating well, recovery, positive relationships, physical, mental, and emotional health are just some of the additional meanings for “work.” So now dear J, do you believe that “work” can be more fulfilling and rewarding than just having a job that pays to remove “orange neon stickers” placed on your door by “PNM?” Alternatively, do I believe “work” has more purpose than to just receive a paycheck and fit in with the status quo?
Respectfully,
Anonymous

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This was first published in the anthology Singing Under Water.

In The House of God by Miriam Sagan (#1)

So folks, I’ve finally decided to try and describe my near death experience of 40 years ago. More is coming soon! I welcome your thoughts and feedback.
xxx,
Miriam

In The House of God

I’ll tell this story.

Why? I am 61 years old, crippled on my right side, with half a lung. I am scarred over twenty-five percent of my torso. I’ve been in chronic pain for 40 years. Essentially I am disabled, a state I have ignored, treated, hidden, and expressed. Although each approach has seemed exciting and important at the time, something is always lacking.
A narrative.

How? Decade after decade, I will avoid this topic. Then suddenly I will find myself in the interior of Bluebeard’s castle, opening the frightening locked doors of my story. I am not propelled towards this by a therapeutic breakthrough, a traumatic event, or an act of personal redemption. My father has a stroke, and dies, and can’t read what I write anymore.
However, I cannot write this alone. My friend Kathleen and I have set up a series of writing dates—at her house, the library, a cafe. We each write our own material, and then read to each other.
Her presence makes this possible.

Where? I have actually entered another gigantic ominous building, a place of death and dismemberment, and perhaps survival. It is not Bluebeard’s fairy tale castle, but the Beth Israel Hospital in Boston.

What I Have Missed Out On (with Haiku)

One of the things I’ve enjoyed a lot at The Haiku Canada weekend has been the freebie table. Here, I found a little chapbook by Sandra Fuhringer (whose work I didn’t know, I think she is deceased), THE TREE IT WAS from Kings Road Press.

Her haiku: morphine mothwing

Folks were talking about it in a workshop–it really does deliver a haiku punch.

Terry Ann Carter gave me a lovely book mark with some of Kerouac’s haiku. I love his haiku, and she is also a fan, as well as author of a haibun memoir ON THE ROAD TO NAROPA: MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH JACK KEROUAC which I’m hoping to read.

From Kerouac:
Grain elevators, waiting
for the road
To approach them

And an honorable mention in The Betty Devniok Award:

child soldiers–
a young buck takes the moon
on its antlers

by Judit Katalin Hollos of Hungary.

So why am I wondering what I’ve missed out on? I went to almost every single thing in the conference until I got too tired (or my legs wore out–I’m admitting that all these days). I’ve eaten fish stew, 2 kinds of chowder, pancakes, eggs florentine, and drunk strong tea. Walked a lot in the neighborhood, been to Emily Carr’s house and garden, met people, and also lain about in a hotel room (My fave). I’ve had a picnic of bread and cheese by the Parliament building with its flower gardens and totem poles. I’ve written a one line haiku there:

pretty girl takes a selfie by monument for the glorious dead

And yet–my husband Rich would be sightseeing now. Someone more sociable would be networking at a late lunch or seeing friends between planes in Seattle. I’m just…watching the breeze in gauze curtains. Feeling pleasantly homesick and pleasantly not yet at home.

Making a list of things I’ve missed in my life.