Well, things have been rough at RT’s premises lately. The roughest event was the accident his mother has been living through the last 4 or 5 weeks: at the beginning of July, she fell and broke her leg above the ankle. Now, things have gone well for her and are going better in the last couple of weeks. She had surgery on the day of the fall to repair the leg and then was transferred down to a rehab facility, a good one, as it turns out, in Winchester. She caught pneumonia, but the medical center in Winchester pulled her through with a blood transfusion and the last week or so she’s been sounding sharp and is making respectable progress in the various therapies she is receiving. Her ultimate status is still unclear, but she does seem to be moving in the right direction.
In related news, mom’s memoir, A Daughter’s Song and Dance, has been making excellent progress. RT is looking for manuscript readers even as he begins to assemble print-ready pages for the first two of the story’s three parts. The book is 260 double-spaced pages, but will be longer when RT has finished adding such minor items as an introduction, and it will contain photos and various ornaments, drawings, and scrapbook material. It is turning out to be a bit of a pot-boiler, but of the classier sort, and certainly mom and I have learned a lot about her childhood, early adulthood, and the times she grew up in (not least of which, for RT, has been discovering that the classic Hollywood film, Grand Hotel (1932) has survived; RT wants to buy a copy & watch).
RT is waiting for reader feedback before he makes any decisions about probable publication dates. He does, though, plan both publication online and via a print run of 50-100 copies. How he will finance the print-run remains unclear; perhaps through a crowd-funding site.
RT’s other writing projects have not gone away. Working with a prose project like the memoirs and editing a narrative voice as distinctive as his mother’s has given him some perspective on Gilgamesh, and he thinks that when he returns to the poem (as he most likely will after DS&D is published), it will be with renewed enthusiasm. The Dragons of Grammar, a collection of RT’s posts on the informative and entertaining creatures, may well be the other project that can completed in a reasonable short period of time.
RT’s blogs have also been on his mind now that things are better with mom, and doubtless he once again will be expostulating on his favorite topics and bloggers.
The DoGs send a fond smoke-ring or two in the direction of loyal readers, and RT adds a wink. RT
Photo: John Barrymore and Greta Garbo in Grand Hotel. Publicity Still. WikiCmns; Public Domain.
The Muse has been fickle of late. RT is continuing onward with his writing/reworking of his mother’s childhood memoir, A Daughter’s Song and Dance, which has been making surprisingly good progress of late, subject to the odd bad signal or two on his emotional railway. But then, a couple of days ago, one of RT’s friends demanded to know how Gilgamesh is coming. Then someone else asked the same thing a little while later. Well, RT doesn’t receive too many requests for status reports on his years-long project to turn the ancient story into English verse, so he allowed as how he was honored by the questions. But the report itself was rather brief: no progress in the last several months, mainly as a result of the memoir showing signs of falling together into a coherent story.
Where does the strength come from to finish the race? This quote, from Chariots of Fire, RT believes, has haunted him over the years of his struggle with absent-mindedness, and now he has to admit that he has been feeling nostalgia for the decades of his 20s and 30s. The past is with us always, but we can never return to it. Songs that were once brand new on the radio are now being covered as classics by emerging artists, all of them born after RT’s graduation from college, in hopes of attracting more attention to the current hip generation.
I could talk about the unbearable lightness of being, but that would only make matters worse. And seriously considering why RT never became a mega-phenom like, say, Don Henley, is only going to poison his pen. In the midst of this bluesy moment, maybe better help is available from another old classic, the novel Dune. RT has borne with him these unmentionably numerous decades the image of holding back your hand, waiting for the right moment to reach out and grasp the long-desired object. Mastering this art, the art of using time wisely, is one of the chief signs of adulthood. Life isn’t about success; it’s about getting what you need.
Some things are leaving; some are waiting patiently. Knowing where they are and when to engage them is a part of what makes a person greathearted. We’re still in the game. RT
Photo: Don Henley. Author: Steve Alexander. WikiCmns; CC 2.0 attribution/share alike.
RT has learned from hard experience not to pronounce any manuscript of his finished, but he will allow that the latest round of corrections on A Daughter’s Song and Dance, his mom’s memoir of her childhood and early adult years, has brought that manuscript easily over the 200-page mark. What remains to be added? A new chapter to attach the last third of the story to the earlier parts, an epilogue, and a couple of sections here and there. After that? A read-through with his mother, accompanied doubtless by debate over what to put in and leave out (not to mention themes). a further set of corrections and any adjustments to take account of theme and message, and then, RT imagines, fine-tuning. Getting another editor to vet the manuscript, and well, then RT might be willing to use the joyful word, finished. And what then? The vast vistas of publication in, say, 5 or 6 months. He will only mention in passing such objects on the distant horizon as Gilgamesh; he’s still there, and doubtless the GE fever will grip RT at some unpredictable point, but for now he is beginning to savor something like relief…
… and along the way, RT has learned that the first car his mother owned was a Willys Americar…but really, that’s not what he’s feeling. RT
Photo: 1940 Willys Coupe; Author: http://www.flickr.com/people/phyls_photos/; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/phyls_photos/2944955112/. WikiCmns; CC 2.o Generic.
RT has been rather reticent these past two or more weeks: it’s hard to be garrulous when your teeth are aching. Ouch! This particular ache was deep and throbbing and resulted in the extraction of two teeth on Halloween, one of which was infected. Penicillin (remember that?) and ibuprofen got our fearless writer through his convalescence, and now he’s going to present an excerpt from his mother’s memoirs, A Daughter’s Song and Dance.
Plane Spotting (Late 1941–Spring 1942)
War fever was at a pitch, and many people who were not eligible for the draft began “to do their part” in the war effort. Opportunities abounded: from volunteering for the United Services Organization (USO) to participating in neighborhood “scrap drives” that collected scrap copper and brass for use in artillery shells to growing your own vegetables. If none of this appealed, there was plenty of work to be had at war production factories. Many young women took the places of men who had been drafted into the military; for the first time in the country’s history, women were able to find high-paying jobs. They worked round-the-clock in factories that produced materiel for our troops: everything from boots to tanks to bombers to k-rations. The wages they earned gave them an economic freedom—and independence—that they had never dreamed of before. Although the old social taboos re-emerged after the war, this taste of freedom would lead to the rights-for-women movement. The war-time production effort marked the beginning of a profound social revolution.
All of this had an effect on my mother.
Early in the new year, Mama joined the Red Cross, rolling bandages and supervising the training of other volunteers. Then she heard about the Civil Air Patrol, the plane watchers who were supposed to spot Japanese planes off the coast. The romance of this appealed to her, and she signed up.
She and the other airplane watchers would go out every day with their government-issued kits and binoculars; they would stand on the bluffs overlooking the ocean trying to keep track of the planes that flew overhead; they had gone to class to learn how to tell the airplanes apart. It made them feel they were doing something for the country besides giving up cream in their coffee and butter for oleo. To be honest, I can’t remember how long she was a plane-spotter, but she thoroughly enjoyed her duties.
In the meantime, rationing was a burden on everyone. Almost immediately, we were issued ration coupon books for all the basic foodstuffs: meat, milk, butter, and bread. Bacon was an unimaginable luxury. Gas and women’s silk and nylon stockings were also restricted, so for many people life became boring, if not monotonous. California is car country, and with rationing came the end of trips to the movies and Lake Tahoe. But we were lucky in one respect: we were able to grow a wide variety of vegetables in our now-famous “victory gardens,” which made meals both tastier and more nutritious—and gave us something to do. Even the borders along city streets were used to grow produce.
But perhaps the oddest thing about these years was that it marked a much-anticipated milestone in the country’s history: amid the tight rationing regime, the Depression had finally ended. The United States could not find enough workers; many states even allowed teenagers to work in factories, and a guest worker program for Mexican emigrant laborers kept the fruit orchards of Texas and California in production. In fact, America’s entry into the war marked the beginning of a decades-long economic boom that would transform the country. …
Copyright © 2013, The Rag Tree
Molly Hunt is remarkable, a poet struggling to overcome some of the bigger obstacles the world can toss in our way; she has kindly volunteered one of her poems for The Rag Tree. By all means, visit her web log, Maple Warrior, and read more of her powerful work. RT
Papa has red hieroglyphics on his forehead.
We study them closely—
*****A bird ascending to a cloud.
*****A flowering plant in a pot.
We’re a family that loves ancient mysterious symbols,
and we all see something different.
I am anxious for a pic
in his striped red shirt;
he’s crazily handsome this evening.
Even with the bobby pin to keep his hair away.
I do sometimes think he’s a saint,
but if it’s a stigmata, there was no ecstasy with this new mark.
And when I’m not admiring the bizarre aesthetic,
I am still terrorized.
It’s only been twenty-four hours.
Mom rushing into my room, saying something urgent; I
can’t quite comprehend through my ear plugs.
Until I do.
My debilities be damned,
I am a homing device for my father.
The pool of blood on the front walk
looking precisely like a spilled bottle of ketchup
in a cheesy horror film.
(He and I had been at the fridge the day before
looking for oils to soothe my skin.
He’d joked about using ketchup; I’d shuddered.)
Mom whisking him away,
but I had to get a glimpse,
hear his voice before they disappeared.
*****He spoke reassuringly and calmly,
*****but I could not see his face
*****behind the dripping towel pressed to it.
And the brand-new flattering beige shirt Mom had picked out for him,
that we’d delighted in and played with earlier in the day
(me teasing him while he explored all those secret pockets boys love)
was now splattered with leopard spots of blood.
(Car engine. They are gone.)
Dizzy, alone, I pick a careful route back into the house.
Close the door. What next?
My illness-compromised brain thoroughly addled, I deliberate.
*****At the sight of a blood-drenched rag on the floor,
*****impulse takes over.
*****I disappear it into the garbage;
loosed, I attempt to carry out his evening chores,
her morning chores, as if
that would bring them back;
and we could resume as if little had happened.
*****I ricochet from one painful-to-use phone to another for
*****updates from Mom trying-to-sound-soothing—long line,
*****power outage at the hospital,
need for CT scan, stitches, broken nose.
It would be late, at best.
Midnight, I force myself to bed, but
find myself catapulted out at dawn,
nearly crashing into Mom coming to tell me she was off to pick him up.
Upon their return he was not yet handsome again.
Dried blood everywhere, wan, glued to the couch.
An unusually bad fly season had begun;
I hovered, ridiculously waving away the ones on his wounds,
and picking the loose hairs from his face.
The three of us huddled together in the living room,
the way people do after a trauma,
sharing our respective experiences,
me overriding all over-stimulus signals.
Their bodies have dimmers like some lights;
they could doze.
My dimmer is broken,
it is only set to increasing electrification.
So all I know to do is retire to my cave and write this poem, as
if that might help.
Papa is eighty-two. When did that happen?
How do you carry your undeserved crosses every day, Mom and Pop?
It appears as if Papa’s is now emblazoned on his forehead;
Mama, don’t you dare do the same.
(How blithely I had imagined a different future for all of us—
including my caring for you two, one day.)
We never can really know one another’s experience.
That seems lonely. Mom once sagely pointed
out we nonetheless love.
True, yet ultimately we have to do our own suffering,
as much as love may want us to take on that of another.
*****It seems the heart can’t help but love,
*****like water can’t help but flow downstream,
Papa’s hieroglyphic evolves, a display of colors,
and settles finally into a scar—
*****a reminder, a
*****sign of honor, a mystery.
Will we decipher anything?
*****Or do we keep going, without the key?
–September 9, 2013
Copyright © Molly Hunt, 2013. All Rights Reserved. Published w/ author’s permission.
Photo: Royal Seal of King Sahure; Walters Art Museum. WikiCmns; Public Domain.
a wonderful essay on working with older folks… RT
(reposted from Melonie’s Poetic Life)
You read it here first, folks: the Rag Tree has crossed the 50,000-hit mark!!! Add to that 2,200 social media followers and RT doesn’t mind saying he is just plain proud of himself! But he will also add something he learned soon after starting his blog: blogging is mainly about the relationships it generates, that is, the amazing people that you get to know–and RT has met many in his nearly 3 years of blogging. & that reminds him of something he realized long before he began The Rag Tree: writing isn’t about getting published; writing is about community.
That being said, there is no doubt that publishing this blog has given RT a stronger sense of being a writer: of writing everyday (or so) for an audience. And that may have something to do with his continuing progress on Gilgamesh and improvements in other aspects of his life.
At 53+ and still kicking, RT has had a few recent reminders of his place on the timeline: a floater that appeared in his right eye and after several days vanished; a strained muscle in the right hip region (now better), the painless loss of a single tooth. His mother, on the other hand, seems to be doing better with her macular degeneration (she recently received freebies via federal program such as a powerful magnifying glass and a telephone with big numerals…she’s even been reading a bit!).
this is life… RT
Painting: Emma Zorn Lasande (1887); Anders Zorn. WikiCmns; Public Domain.