Single Words and the Puddle-Wonderful

161094133_da2df8c7f0

I am amazed at the powers of friends to inspire me. Today I sat drearily trying to figure out what to write. Not a single idea would gather together. That is, till Sonia F. Bañeulos (whom I think of as Sonia Buñuelos just because) wrote a quote on facebook:

A single word even may be a spark of inextinguishable thought. Shelley

There are times when things are said, or not said – that shift a person’s world entirely. With one word. Or for the lack of one word . . . life-altering decisions can be made.

I remember several times when words, all by themselves, made me decide to take action.

One time which remains in my mind happened when I was fourteen. I had a week at home with my mother before she would be sending me to the juvenile home before (hopefully – who really knew if anyone would ‘choose’ me) giving me up to foster care (her own decision). A guy I knew (he was about 23 and actually I thought he was a jerk. And I remember his name – John – he had long stringy blond hair and was a stoner but that wasn’t what mattered. He was merely the deliverer of the words . . .) said to me ‘You won’t be able to take that. You don’t belong there,’ and my false nonchalance, the frozen acceptance of my fate began to melt as those words began to hum in me. The words hummed until they made more sense than what I was headed for. And so I followed them and struck out on my own – to make my way in the world.

And it turned out pretty good, give or take this or that.

A single word. This morning I was thinking about Spring Cleaning. Of how important it is! And how it’s not only about the house, the clutter that piles up which must go to make way for the new – but also about life. In the Spring Cleaning of one’s life, examining the words that have stuck or the words that have lacked is vital. As with any sorting task the question has to be asked: Is this useful? Has this proven true and good?

Which words remain in mind? Were they true? Did the actions of the person who voiced the words (or who didn’t voice the words when it felt as if they should have) match the words?

A single word. It can create a world by being. It can destroy a world by not being said. It can create inextinguishable thought. Listen well, with your ears of instinct.

Spring

when the world is puddle-wonderful

e e cummings

Time to puddle-dance?
(I’ll be right out after Spring Cleaning!)
a

Breakfast In Bed: Two Ways

3513069058_4f43d62e62

It’s awfully kind of those frogs to jump right into the geese’s waiting mouths! And I wonder if the chickens already ate their soft-boiled eggs – for the egg cups seem to be empty. They seem rather blasé about it, if so! And  what is that the cats are feeding each other . . . bacon?

They appear so calm about the whole thing. But George Augustus Sala had a different take on the subject, as he will tell you in his very own words:

Aha I I hear Hircius and Spungius cry when they open this sheet and see Breakfast in Bed at the head of the page Now we have him on the hip Now we will gird at him and snarl and glose and make his life a torment to him Yes H and S so shall you do till you swell and burst with venom if you like the sport Oho Hircius and Spungius continue Breakfast in Bed forsooth Here is another sample of literary vanity His lordship breakfasts in bed does he and not at the penny coffee shop What does he condescend to take at his breakfast Chocolate frothed in a silver mill devilled kidneys muffins [ . . .]

Why not Breakfast on a doorstep Breakfast in the workhouse Breakfast in gaol Well all may be on the cards for the life of mortal man is full of strange vicissitudes Meanwhile I am content to Breakfast in Bed Do You my reader want a reason for a decidedly indolent and perhaps unhealthy habit You should have a hundred were you so minded I breakfast in bed because I like it because I am much given to sitting up all night with cats and owls and friends and books and things because I am generally very tired when I go to bed and my poor feet require rest as well as my poor head because a cup of tea taken between the sheets tastes more sweetly to  me than the family souchong on the ground floor because I am much given to quarrelling with my bread and butter at breakfast time and alone in bed there are but two parties to the quarrel  instead of three or four because there is a bell close to my hand which I can pull viciously when I choose because one can get through the perusal of six daily newspapers much better in bed tlian in an arm chair and finally because when in bed in the fresh morning and wide awake not in the incoherence of drowsiness one can think plot devise arrange decide upon the momentous Yea the irrevocable No bid farewell to the evil welcome the good and rise a new man

Never mind what my sleeping apartment is like Damask hung four poster ceiled with plate glass feather bed and down pillow or iron pallet with straw paillasse and hard stuffed bolster what does it matter I ask not Hircius and Spungius what their hammocks

From: Breakfast in Bed Or, Philosophy Between the Sheets By George Augustus Sala 1863

Dear George. I can just imagine the pen and ink flying about.

‘The Little Engine That Could’ and the Outsider Mother

I’ve decided that, just as there is a thing called Outsider Art, that there is a thing called the Outsider Mother. We all know what a insider, or traditional mother is – she is the one who is (or who appears to be) ‘bien installe’. Well established. Married, solid family with solid family values. Children who might even say ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ if the geographic location is the South or if the family is a military one. Mother is honored with pink wines and floral bouquets on her Mother’s Day (children are reminded of their duty by their father and the scene is set for success) and all progresses in fine temperate ways.

Are these mothers myths? I don’t think so. There seem to be enough of them around. But over to the side there is a group of other mothers. These mothers – through whatever life has brought them – do not fit into the lovely role described above. These are the Outsider Mothers. And being such, they also are very similar to The Little Engine Who Could.

What makes an Outsider Mother? Divorce, illness, family problems. Sometimes becoming a mother as a teenager can make a mother an Outsider Mother. For some reason, these mothers do not fit in the pretty box with the pretty bow.

Many of these mothers raise their children alone. There is nobody to help when two children are upset at the same time, nobody to take over when exhaustion strikes, nobody to watch one child when the other has to be rushed to the emergency room for stitches (and as a matter of fact, nobody to watch the children when the mother has to go to the emergency room. Mother and children all go together, neat and tidy, little ducks following their Mother as she limpingly leads the way).

Once when I was a married woman I was in a Sunday School meeting. The discussion was about helping people. A list was being made of who needed help in the community, and of how the church could help. Somewhere in the middle of the list a mention was made of some single mothers. The commenter noted that there were ways in which help was needed – perhaps the lifting of something heavy in the yard that needed discarding . . . perhaps lifting the lawnmower onto the back of a pickup truck to take it in for repair or sharpening . . . the usual thing that ‘the man of the house’ might take care of – if there were one.

At first everyone piped up and agreed. Single mothers belonged on this list. But then there was a long, slightly strained silence. And one of the men in the group said, “I know they need help but I’m afraid to do it, myself. They might need me too much – there’s too much stuff to do. And I’m a married man. My wife won’t like me doing this.”

He had spoken the unspeakable. You could have dropped a pin in the silence that followed. And then the small mutterings began. “Yes . . .” “Mmm hmmm . . .” And the idea of helping this particular group was dropped from the Sunday School list.

The shift from married mother to single mother is a startling one. Factually, one shifts into belonging to a group with a different ‘rank and stature’ in the community. And not only does that change but so does the reality of being a mother. Depending on how involved the father of her children ends up being, the single mother now will have the task of doing on a daily basis the job of mother and father. She will teach her son carpentry – how to use his first saw and drill, by herself. She will try to teach her daughter the right sort of man to choose when that long-off time finally comes, by herself. She will have to find the answers to all the questions that come up in her children’s lives – by herself. There will be no close counsels, whispered conversations, balanced debates, under the midnight covers with arms wrapped close and perhaps a kiss at the end of it all.

The Outsider Mother could be still married. It is possible. The married Outsider Mother has secrets that she keeps from her friends. The secrets may be that her husband drinks, or is otherwise emotionally disabled. The secrets may be that there are other things going on in the family that she simply can not or will not talk about to anyone else. Some of these Outsider Mothers remain married till their children are grown – then divorce. Some of them remain married after their children are grown. For in the  years that have passed as have tried to cope more with their family situation than with their own self as ‘marketable item’ in the current economy they may have little chance of financial survival on their own.

The Outsider Mother is like The Little Engine Who Could. She must say “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!” And often, she can.

To all the Outsider Mothers in the world: You may think you are invisible, in this world of the Perfect Mother honored on this day in popular culture. But you are not invisible. Today I send you thoughts of The Little Engine Who Could. For you can, you do, you will.

And it can be managed, whether you’ve been invited to the Garden Party or not. In reality the Garden Party can actually be quite boring. To sit in your own small privately grown garden with a cup of mint tea (or with a plastic flute glass of cheap Champagne or with a big glass bubble of fine old Burgundy from France) can be the absolute ultimate in luxury and pleasure.

Happy Mother’s Day, Outsider Mothers! You are the Little Engines That Could.

A little railroad engine was employed about a station yard for such work as it was built for, pulling a few cars on and off the switches. One morning it was waiting for the next call when a long train of freight-cars asked a large engine in the roundhouse to take it over the hill “I can’t; that is too much a pull for me,” said the great engine built for hard work. Then the train asked another engine, and another, only to hear excuses and be refused. In desperation, the train asked the little switch engine to draw it up the grade and down on the other side. “I think I can,” puffed the little locomotive, and put itself in front of the great heavy train. As it went on the little engine kept bravely puffing faster and faster, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”
As it neared the top of the grade, which had so discouraged the larger engines, it went more slowly. However, it still kept saying, “I–think–I–can, I–think–I–can.” It reached the top by drawing on bravery and then went on down the grade, congratulating itself by saying, “I thought I could, I thought I could.”
A little railroad engine was employed about a station yard for such work as it was built for, pulling a few cars on and off the switches. One morning it was waiting for the next call when a long train of freight-cars asked a large engine in the roundhouse to take it over the hill “I can’t; that is too much a pull for me,” said the great engine built for hard work. Then the train asked another engine, and another, only to hear excuses and be refused. In desperation, the train asked the little switch engine to draw it up the grade and down on the other side. “I think I can,” puffed the little locomotive, and put itself in front of the great heavy train. As it went on the little engine kept bravely puffing faster and faster, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”
As it neared the top of the grade, which had so discouraged the larger engines, it went more slowly. However, it still kept saying, “I–think–I–can, I–think–I–can.” It reached the top by drawing on bravery and then went on down the grade, congratulating itself by saying, “I thought I could, I thought I could.”

More on The Little Engine That Could

A Little More Radish in Story and Song

To accompany Radish-Tropia on foodvox today I thought I’d post a film and some music. The animated film tells the story of daikon in one woman’s life – with a bit about mother-and-daughterhood.  The song clip shows how one man made creative use of a radish.

“Daikon Ashi” is a Japanese term that means legs that look like white radishes.

I made the slide whistle by using the radish. The name of a song is “My Grandfather’s Clock”

Radishes. They are just troping about here there and everywhere it seems!

Naming of Parts

Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But today,
Today we shall have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighbouring gardens,
And today we have naming of parts.
Henry Reed 1914 – 1986

Naming of Parts has been in my mind. Naming of Parts can not be Twittered. Naming of Parts is not just about ‘pretty things’. Naming of Parts is about a stark reality and about the practicality of giving simple names to things. What may lay underneath the names is to be discovered – and each named thing can have vastly different meanings, depending on the reader and on the circumstance of the thing itself.

My Naming of Parts today is fairly straightforward. It’s a gathering together of things I’ve written. There are more writings to be found here and there if one searches, but I’ve plucked the several larger bits and named them as mine, all together right there on the top of the virtual page.

Summoning a name for oneself is a life-long enterprise. What am I? I’m a mother who raises her children alone. I’m a writer who has not tried very hard to make money at it. I was an executive chef in a high-profile position. I was a fourteen-year old whose single mother could not or would not care for her – which translated into being a fourteen-year old who left home and raised herself. And I was a VP in the Operations Division of a large investment bank – in charge of millions of dollars and of hundreds of people’s livelihoods.

I’ve been a wife who believed in being a good wife but a wife whose husband was not at all the person she believed him to be. And when I remember all these things I look at the wives with young children who are so sure of their security – so sure that their reality is true – so dismissive of the single mothers who to their minds simply must have done something wrong . . . thinking to themselves “that never would happen to me!” – for that is what one always thinks.

When I remember these things I look at those endowed with security in the form of credentials they are sure will hold them against any storm – those who feel superior to and dismissive of others without the same credentials.

When I remember all these things I look at the fourteen-year-old children in my town who are teetering on the edge of their own mother or father being unable or unwilling to care for them due to lack of ability, or lack of interest. And I can’t turn away. I can’t draw pretty little pictures of little hearts and joy and neat gardens and aromas from the stew-kettle that will assuage all ills.

So I write. Sometimes there is joy to be found. Sometimes there is no solace, and that is a part of life that must be lived through – and a Hallmark card just won’t make it all better, regardless of what the magazines say.

Here’s to a Naming of Parts. Here’s to reality! Here’s to more parts being found. Here’s to truth and here’s to all virtuous things.