Experiment: “What’s New? What’s Now?”

Now.  What do we mean this is now? Then was now.  But now, then is not now. Because now it’s then, and not now.  My head’s now spinning.  Or then my head was spinning.  Or is it still spinning?  Is it spinning now?  Was it spinning then?

Stop!  Let’s talk about new.


New.  New compared to what?  Antiques?  Old-fashioned?  Retro is old.  Mid-century Mad Men décor, architecture, fashions, colors.  Retro is new, too.  Hip and cool now.  Hip and cool then.  But in between?

Ugly.  Oh my god, was it ugly.


Mad Men.  Grandpa and Dad’s era.  Bourbon on the lunch hour.  Wives with overly sprayed hair-do’s.  Were there hair “don’ts”?  When mom cut my hair, that was a hair don’t.

Bangs.  Never cut them straight across.


Green.  Then, it was a color. Now, it’s a way of life.  Then, we shopped thrift stores because we were poor.  Now, we shop thrift stores to be cool.

Recycling.  Even what’s cool is recycled.


Science.  Then, we thought it would save us.  Now, science tells us the planet’s dying.

Senseless.  Now, some deny science.


Then.  There was life.

Now, too.

Experiment: Forbidden Topics

“Forbidden Topics”

(Inspired by Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine)

When I was two, my mother went to the hospital to give birth to her second child.  But came home with vacant arms, a missing uterus, and erased dreams of the ideal two-child family.  Because I was so young, nobody told me what had happened. But my earliest memories start around that time.

One of my first memories of my mother is finding her sitting alone in her bedroom, sobbing with a grief I’d never imagined could exist.  Was she thinking about her lost child?  Her lost uterus?  Her lost dreams?  It scared me.  Then I started crying.  Mom held me, and rocked me in her arms.  We cried together.

Looking back now, I assume she cried for her various losses.  I cried for a loss, too.  The loss of security.  Of feeling my mother could protect me from the great sorrows of life.  If mom was unable to keep sorrows away from herself, I knew there was no way she could keep sorrow away from me, either.

I spent most of the next year living with my grandparents while my mother was in a mental hospital/asylum with what today would probably be considered a severe case of post-partum depression.  I’m sure it was a great sorrow for a two-year-old child to be separated from her mother for that long. I guess I didn’t need to wait long for that prophetic feeling of approaching sorrow to reach my life.

Back then, what did they call what mom suffered from?  A nervous breakdown?  Mental instability?  Depression?  A momentary loss of happiness?  I asked my uncle, my mom’s youngest brother, about it.  He remembers she went to a mental hospital up north somewhere.  In Burlington or Sedro Wooley.  But he was in junior high at the time and had preteen dramas of his own to think about.  His memories of what was happening with his married older sister are spotty at best.  He does remember something about electric shock therapy.

My dad never talked about it.  Ever.  Mom’s hospitalization was a forbidden topic.

Our family had a number of forbidden topics.

Poem: Wonder and Admire

lilyCento (collage poem)

Source Text: The Outdoor Life of Children

Wonder and admire —

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow,

from the ploughing of the land

to the getting of the crops.

By-and-by there is fruit.

Meadow and pasture,

clover, turnip, and corn field.

Some lovely flower or gracious tree,

the movement of branches,

shadows of boughs making patterns

on the white tablecloth.

Hum of bees.

Shines forth the blushing flower

to blossom —

to germinate —

to bear fruit —

Milkwort, eyebright, rest-harrow, lady’s bedstraw,

willow-herb, every wild flower.

Break off an elder twig in the spring

— describe the leaf

— the manner of flowering

— the dangling catkins

— rough or smooth leaves

— rough or smooth bark

Stare up into a tree or down into a flower

to see

the sublime

tender and living sculpture.

Poem: A Day in the Country

Cento (collage poem)

Source Text: The Outdoor Life of Children

a day in the country
off to lonely places
a dream of possible delights
the hot hours of the day
the vastness
the complexity
the mystery of Nature
a wild scamper
divested of garments
a spring shower is a sort of electric bath
nestling in the heather
Earth has a warm bed to offer
bodily vigour
clutches the grass
animal heat
deliciously soothed
by the cool touch of the air
the sights and sounds of the country
every one shall be delightful

Poem: The Outdoor Life of Children

The Outdoor Life of ChildrenI’ve been playing around quite a bit lately with erasure and found poetry.  Today I constructed a cento (a collage poem) made from words/phrases found in The Outdoor Life of Children by Charlotte Mason (a British educator from the last century).

The Outdoor Life of Children

A child has a natural interest in living things

Some children are born naturalists

A very prophet of nature

Communing with the larger Mother

Unbounded interest and delight

Capers about in endless ecstasy.

Drop seeds of truth into the open soul of the child

Make full use of opportunities

Watching the ways of sparrows

Infuse into them

A seed of sympathy

A love of investigation.

The sense of beauty comes from early contact with nature

A boudoir full of shells and fossils

Flowers and seaweeds

The movements of the bird, cloud, lamb, child

Unspeakable awe and delight

He is in bliss

The sad child-life from which bees and birds and flowers are shut out.

Let him work with things

Not with signs

The things of Nature in their own places

Meadow and hedgerow

Woods and shore.

Cherish in each child

Their capacity of being pleased

Children are storing up memories of a happy childhood

Every hour spent in the open air is clear gain

poem: living on the borderline

he requires you to be irrational

for if it isn’t you

then who could it be

he’s unable to chance

being out of his mind

blame is easier

than self-reflection

or personal implications

even while ceaselessly

contemplating his own reflection

you’d expect he’d perceive

the reality and truth

but the warped glass

allows only distorted forms

accessible to countless


and misinterpretations

Revision: Doing Dishes (with textual photographs)

A work in progress.  This is a revision of an earlier post: Doing Dishes.  This revision also includes a series of “textual photographs” at the end.  For those who don’t know, a textual photograph isn’t an actual photograph.  It’s a picture in your mind of something you “see,” and then you use words/text to describe your mental photograph to help the reader “see” a scene that lives only in your mind.

dishwashing (2)by Debi

Even with an automatic dishwasher, the plates, cups, pots, and pans still pile up in my kitchen.  Maybe it’s not so much that I’m a lousy housekeeper, but that I’m a distracted one?  The dishwasher needs to be emptied prior to loading in fresh dirty dishes, but emptying the dishwasher requires I stop doing whatever else I’m doing.  It also just plain seems like too much work at times.  In reality, it isn’t a lot of work when I actually do it. But my mind tends to make emptying the dishwasher seem like a huge task looming over me that will somehow disrupt my entire day, taking me away from more intriguing ways to spend my time and energy.  Before reloading the dishwasher with fresh dirty dishes, the caked-on gunk needs to be soaked for a few minutes and lightly scrubbed or the dishwasher leaves residue.  Learned this the hard way after needing to rewash too many dishes.  Found it was easier to just soak and rinse everything rather than chiseling off the baked on goo left behind after the dishwasher’s drying cycle transformed food residue into concrete.

There’s something calming, almost mesmerizing about doing dishes by hand. The mindlessly repetitive, rhythmic movements. The soothing warm water. The fragrant lemon-scented bubbles, soft and silky on tired hands.  Sometimes I listen to music while dishwashing. My favorite dishwashing CD is the soundtrack to the No Reservations movie.  Usually I listen to the soundtrack in my head.  A song stuck in my brain, quiet random ruminations, a remembered childhood poem. There is satisfaction in the transformation of the kitchen from disarray to order. Hysteria to calm. Is it less satisfying on some internal level to only do little clean-ups here and there, but never have the transformational experience that comes from a complete overhaul? Is that why I procrastinate doing dishes?

Creative moments can surprise us. But times of quiet personal reflection are often a prelude to accessing our deeper selves.  Standing at the kitchen sink, up to my elbows in warm, soapy water, gently scrubbing my plates and glassware brings on a meditative state for me.  Standing in one place, actively involved with a mindless, repetitive, physical activity, releases my creative self.  Dreaming, meditating, creating—all part of the same deep interior well.

Many things I’ve written developed after a time of quiet personal reflection—believe it or not, usually while standing at the sink up to my elbows in warm, soapy water, gently scrubbing my plates and glassware.  Standing in one place, actively involved with a mindless physical activity, seems to release something creative.

Writers over the centuries have used walking as a physical meditative process.  For me, while I thoroughly enjoy a good walk, I find myself caught up in the sights and sounds, people and birds, creatures and weather around me, and my mind isn’t quite as free to wander as it is when I’m staring at a corner and small window of my kitchen.  The kitchen almost works as a sensory deprivation chamber.  There isn’t much to see, hear, or experience.  Just the warmth, the steam, the water, the suds, the rhythms of the washing.

I wonder why I delay doing dishes when it’s often such a fruitful experience?  I have no answer.

But on that note, my dishes await.  Meditation time draws nigh.

Photograph #1

Interior of author’s kitchen. Countertops, kitchen sink, and range top are piled haphazardly with dirty dishes, silverware, pots and pans, drinking glasses, and coffee mugs.

Photograph #2

Close-up of open automatic dishwasher filled neatly with clean plates, bowls, silverware, glasses, and mugs.

Photograph #3

Full kitchen shot, showing author removing clean dishes from automatic dishwasher.  Overhead cupboard is open, revealing small stacks of plates, bowls, upside down glassware, and mugs.  Countertops above dishwasher and to the left of the author are covered with array of dirty dishes.

Photograph #4

Close-up of author’s right hand putting the No Reservations CD into a portable CD-player.

Photograph #5

Medium close-up of side-by-side stainless steel kitchen sink with approximately 12 inches of countertop visible to the left of sink.  Several stacks of dirty dishes, glassware, and a bowl of sudsy water with silverware handles protruding from bubbles are just visible on countertop.  Left-hand sink is filled with water and a generous mound of white shiny bubbles.  Steam is visible above left sink.  Right-hand sink is clean and empty except for metal dish drying rack.

Photograph #6

Long full body shot of author standing at sink with both hands dipped beneath the bubbles.  Author is seen from left side.  A beam of sunshine is coming through the small sliding window over sink, lighting the author’s long straight dark hair and face (shown in profile).  Author is dressed in faded blue jeans, a plain black short-sleeved polo shirt, and red casual slip-on shoes. Fewer dirty dishes visible on countertop.  Automatic dishwasher is open directly to the author’s right, partially full of freshly rinsed dishes.

Photograph #7

Author’s clean kitchen with sun shining through the window above the sink and lighting up the countertop and the front of the automatic dishwasher.