Saturday, November 20, 2021

Origin Story

Cultures around the globe have stories about how they came into being.  From the sky, or the seas, or magical animals. The stories gave meaning and context to their lives, a beacon of sorts.

I don’t know how the following origin story provides wisdom to my family, but it has been one of our favorite stories throughout our lives as a family unit.  It is the story of how my younger sister came into this world.  She would be the third and last of the siblings.


My parents were living in Carmel, California.  On Rio Road, close to the Carmel Mission Basilica, built in 1797. We lived across the road from the Beardsley family, who were fictionalized in the Lucile Ball movie, Yours, Mine and Ours.  One or two of the older girls provided babysitting services for my parents.


Mom was on the precipice of birthing little Shannon.  She called my dad’s office and told him to come home – it was time.  His office was in nearby Monterey, and he was in no rush.  Mom had many incidents of false labor.  He coaxed the gray Volkswagen Beetle over Highway 1, and then dipped down the hill into our neighborhood.


When he arrived to find my mom in full-blown labor, they hustle my older sister and me into the car.  Mom was in the front passenger seat and we set out for the babysitter’s house in Carmel Woods.  Dad was off-loading us in a hurry, and when he returned to the car, he found a quiet and still baby in the front seat with his wife.  (If you’ve ever been in a Beetle and if you’ve ever birthed a child, you know what a feat this must have been.) He assumed the child hadn’t survived, but took off at full speed for the hospital in Monterey.  Somewhere on the pine-studded hill of Highway 1, a motorcycle cop pulled him over for speeding.  Being the law-abiding citizen he was, he stopped the car along the highway.  The cop took one look inside and said, “Follow me.”  He gave my parents an escort to the hospital front door.


Dad leapt out of the car to find help inside the lobby.  While mother and baby were waiting alone, her obstetrician showed up, assessed the situation, jumped into the driver’s seat and sped my mother around to the Emergency Entrance.  When dad rushed back outside with some assistance, the car was gone.  His wife was gone.  His (probably) dead newborn child was gone.




A quick thinking staff person figured out what had probably happened, and led my dad to the Emergency department, where they found my mom being taken in.  Dad told the doctor he would park the car and be right in.  The doctor stopped him and encouraged him to go home and hose down the interior of the car.  “You’ll never get that stuff out of it dries,” he advised.


Dad was hosing down the mess in the driveway when a neighbor approached him;  “Boy or girl?” he asked.  “I don’t know!” he replied to his mystified neighbor.


Dad made it back to the hospital to find his wife and baby girl, very much alive, settled into a hospital room.  For some weird hospital policy, sister Shannon could not be in the nursery with the other babies since she was born outside of the hospital.  My poor exhausted and undoubtedly traumatized mother tried to get her rest while her baby exercised her newborn lungs.


I don’t remember any of this, being two and a half years old at the time.  It’s all from the tongue of my dramatic story-telling father.  Verified, wearily, by my mother.

Here's another good birth story:







Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Sweet Dedication

My dad has a lovely habit of writing about his life.  He has always been the family storyteller, and it now continues in his many volumes of memoirs.  This latest one is subtitle "Volume I" so you know more is already in the works.  I enjoy his pithy writing style; the style in which he speaks.  I can hear his voice as I read the words. This latest book is dedicated to my late mother.  He writes about her so tenderly.  His books are the place where he lets his vulnerability show.  In life, he has quite a stiff upper lip.  

My mother was a saint, truly.  Dad is a benign narcissist and our childhood household revolved around him and his every wish. I'm positive he mansplained everything to my mother.  My mother was a very intelligent person and didn't require his hovering absoluteness.  He still tells his daughters (all in our sixties now) the proper way to, say, slice a tomato.  My older sister simply drops the knife and steps away. "Well, you do it then."  Of course he clutches his pearls at this robust assertiveness.  Lest you think I don't love my dad, I do.  Very very much. He was tough to be around when I was a teenager.  I bent my friends' ears complaining about his ways.  They remember some of those stories to this day.  It's true to say I don't like him much (he requires too much energy and attentiveness) but I do love him.  I also love his stories, and they provide keen insight.

At 89 years, with a heart condition, he hopes to get Volume II out in the next year.  He is coming to stay with me at Christmastime, into the hotbed of Covid-19.  I doubt Colorado will be any better in six weeks.  We are at levels were at last November, and the hospitals are full. (Insert picture of me pulling my hair out.)

In addition to this heartfelt book dedication, he has started a scholarship in her name at Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie NY, his high school alma mater, where he is on the board of directors.  They also donated money to the capital fund at Oakwood to build a new theater, and have their names in bronze.  They will live on.

In my heart, always.

Monday, November 8, 2021


"Trigger Warning" This not an inspirational post.

Whoooo-eeeee.  What price, knowledge?

I recently watched the 4 part series on HBO called "Exterminate All the Brutes."  A gripping and crippling look at colonialism beginning in the 1700s in Europe.  Spain, Portugal, UK, Belgium, and others raped the world's resources and killed (or enslaved its people) for financial gain, and framed it all in a picture of moral, religious and cultural superiority.  Beginning with the Spanish Inquisition where blood purity was the standard for being favored by God and Man, all the way to Charlottesville and the killing of Heather Heyer by a white supremesist, the brutal history of the have and have nots is laid out in horrific detail.

Do we humans deserve to live on this earth?  In church this weekend, the minister put forth the question of how we, as part of a humanist philosophy and organization, are supposed to come to terms with how devastatingly terrible humans can be.  Such questions go unanswered.  Except to say, on my part, I seek the stories that also highlight the best of humankind.  It's the only way I can carry on in a world filled with hate and violence.  When I connect with loving and kind humans, I know how the world at large could be, and how it falls awfully short.

The kids going to prom, 2012

My daughter, second from right, is now a U.S. history teacher at our local high school.  She takes crap frequently from parents about her teaching of history as it really was, not as the story of the victors.  Not there story I grew up with, certainly.  Where natives were brutes and savages, killing innocent white settlers who were only trying to 'civilize' this country.

How do we move forward, recognizing and honoring the story of the vanquished, making reparations where possible, and having true national reconciliation?  Is this even possible?  I know this for sure -- nothing will happen as long as the old stories that hide the truth are the dominant stories that we all hear.  The more our fragile white selves push away the truth and deny the experience of indigenous and people of color, the longer it will take for us to mend and heal.

And that's too bad.  And it's not only in the United States -- it is throughout the American continent.  European powers wiped out the people of an entire continent in their quests for gold and other treasure, and their insatiable need for slave labor.  Which leads me to laugh at the supposed efforts by the summits that convene to address the climate change issue.  It is a continuation of greed and gluttony that has led to our climate crisis.  I have little hope that the world will be able to join together to end this crisis.  We will watch the tides rise and the extreme storms and droughts continue.  Because people are getting rich from it.  And that seems to be all they care about.  The earth and its resources are just another version of conquest -- a wild thing to be conquered and killed.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Roasted Chicken a la Bob

I had quite a satisfactory day yesterday.  Such is the life of a 64 year old retiree...if I can have a satisfactory day then I am pleased.

I received a letter in the mail from a dear friend of 40 years.  She is such a good writer; we met in creative writing classes in college.  She wrote about the service for her much older brother, on a remote and rugged island in the Puget Sound.  Her sense of place is extraordinary and made me feel as if I were there with her, standing shoulder to shoulder.  How I wish she would write a novel.

I swept the front patio, buried under a good two feet of leaves.  Seems as if all the leaves in the neighborhood end up at my front door. The day was warm, sunny and bright, and my dog Lucy sunbathed on the lawn as I did my work.  It was a joy to be in the fresh autumn air, working up a bit of a sweat.

Inside, I had a whole chicken roasting in the oven with onions, carrots, and small potatoes.  The aroma wafted out the screen door and into the neighborhood.  Any passerby would notice that something good was cooking.  And good it was.  Lucy was served her fair share.

I ran into my friend Elizabeth as she slowly, painstakingly made her way to the mailboxes.  She is legally blind, and has had many scary health scares of late.  She can be cranky, but who can blame her?  Today she said, "This is not the life I expected!"  I responded, "Yeah, this is not what you signed up for, is it?"  "Damn right."

I made a foray into the land of Medicare Advantage plans, on-line.  I'll be 65 next year, so I'm trying to plan.  I was horrified to see how much my plans will cost, and it's because I am on many prescription drugs.  Holy smokes!  Higher premiums, lower deductibles, substantial out of pocket was a dizzying experience! How the hell is anyone supposed to figure this stuff out?  I left it after an hour to catch my breath and move on to something less stressful.  I'll get back to it.

After dinner I was watching a 2004 60 minutes interview with a then 63 year old Bob Dylan.  He was cogent and engaging, which is not what I expect from him, given is dislike of the media, and his history of messing with reporters who asked him questions.  I don't know much about the man's life, but he talked some about his wife Sara, for whom he wrote Sara, and Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. Naturally, I went on to view videos of these songs on Youtube.  He talked about being divinely inspired, with the songs flowing through him.  I know of what he speaks -- some of my best poetry was divinely inspired.  It was effortless to write, as if it was all planned ahead of time and I was just the instrument.  It's a magical and glorious experience.

So ended my day.  A good one.  I hope for more of the same.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Future Times

I watched NOVA last night, and it was all about edible insects.  Did you gag just then?  I know the feeling.  But I kept watching the program, and I found my gag reflex diminishing.  A lot of insects, like crickets, can be made into a powder and added to smoothies for protein.  They sell it on - you guessed it - Amazon!  I was fascinated by the show, and intrigued by the suggestion that if the world population grows as expected, edible insects could save our ecosystem and contribute to our health.  We can't keep growing cattle to keep the pace with population, that's for sure.  Insects require much less water and feed.  Much.

If you can watch the show, I recommend it.  Especially if you are squeamish. 

The world news on the lack of action regarding climate change mitigation's is alarming.  I'm sorry, but Silent Spring came out decades ago.  So did An Inconvenient Truth.  The UN said this week that we are digging our own grave.  We are. One billion people each year have mobilized for Earth Day since 1970.  How'd that work out?

To further my mild anxiety, last night I watched an interview with Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens.  He predicts that humans will be hybrid human/machine/computer in a century or two.  (Find the interview on 60 Minutes.). Hopefully, Mother Earth will have killed us all by then.  Or shall I say, we killed ourselves?

Feeling powerless to influence any of this frees me from terror.  There is nothing to do but live my life giving and receiving love and kindness, and appreciating the here and now.  Is it maturity or exhaustion that leads me to the conclusion that we cannot affect change?  Of course people, and movements, have moved forward such issues as human rights, drunk driving and the like.  But to influence the global corporate juggernaut seems out of reach.  To wean our world off fossil fuels - it is a pipe dream?  (No pun intended.)

"What a world, what a world," said the Wicked Witch.  A tip o' my hat to Halloween.

Ode to innocence.

Yellow Cottage, Part 2

I have a dear friend who I met in my Creative Writing class my freshman year in college.  I sent the poem to her for her comments and edits ...