Archive for the ‘Have a Chair’ Category

Santa Fe Post # 6 Cement floors,   Leave a comment

Two days ago after I began feeling somewhat settled with everything unpacked, Ed said, “I’m thinking we should do the floor now.” My entire body rebelled at the idea of moving all the furniture and stuff that I’d just gotten into place back out again so we could stain and seal the floors. I wanted the floors done, but this again felt never-ending like we are stuck in the Twilight Zone. When we packed the house and studio in Scottsbluff, Ed kept finding things and finding things that he wanted to take with him that looked to me like they could very well stay right where they were.  But with a night’s sleep, I was ready.  Having a garage door in my living room has again proved to be quite convenient and we moved everything the next afternoon and evening except the big items which were easily placed outside through the big door the next morning. I’m probably projecting, but the dogs look at us like we are crazy every time we start moving furniture again. “Crazy humans! Why don’t they just lie on the couch and watch TV like they used to.”

I drove the dogs to spend the day with a lovely woman who does dog day care in Eldorado and after getting lost as is usual for me and which added to Tucker’s sense of panic at being in the car too long, we made it to Laura’s home and her eight acres. The dogs immediately began sniffing and peeing on every plant in sight. When I got back, Ed was cleaning the edges of the floor around the doors and corners, then we swept several times and put on our ventilator spraying masks to apply the muriatic acid, after that we mopped the floors four times and then had some fun smearing powdered colors of burnt sienna, yellow ochre, and various other red, oranges, and black onto the floor to add some interesting mottling and depth to the floor before we sprayed on the stain and sealer. Our friend and artist Becky Deem came over to help spread some color. We laughed at some of our attempts and debated what worked best in our practice spots.

The finished floor looks much more inviting than the gray cement. Aahh! Exhausted but the satisfaction makes it worth the effort.

I cleaned up and drove out to pick up my puppies. Laura said Brando missed us the most and looked for us and whined a little as he waited, but they had a good day and were dog-tired when we got them home. Laura’s 18-year-old daughter bonded with Brando and told me that he is the most beautiful dog she’s ever seen. I agree. He’s not only beautiful, he’s interesting and wise and loyal etc. etc.  Tucker decided she’d rather stay with her new friends than ride in the car, but once home, she was happily carrying her football around waiting for someone to play with her.

We are making this space a home! And once I have banana bread in the oven, it will really feel and smell like home. I feel my mom is here cheering me on. She moved so many times before settling for a good many years in Bridgeport, Nebraska, and she welcomed new places even though the situations were not easy. Thanks to all the brave, inquisitive women I know – the ones who stay in one place and the ones who move about!


Posted June 11, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Have a Chair, Uncategorized

Santa Fe post #2- Moving to NM, Pablo Neruda and Mandalas   2 comments

“Life transcends all structures, and there are new rules of conduct for the soul. The seed sprouts anywhere, all ideas are exotic, we wait for enormous changes every day, we live through the mutation of human order avidly; spring is rebellious.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                Pablo Neruda

Just a few minutes before I read the words above, I typed an email to a friend and said that I can’t let a structure (my house) determine how to proceed with my life. Well, of course, I can’t and I won’t. Security is an illusion.

My house is a mandala. I’ve created a mandala in the sand and it’s time to let it go. My thoughts are chaotic as I type this post. Does everyone feel so yin and yang, so up and down, black and white, gray and tan, turquoise and brown? I’m a late bloomer. I matured early. I had the height and body that a fourteen-year-old girl should not be allowed; I bought my first very own house when I was 44 years old. I understood the ways of the world at eight years old, but didn’t have my own private checking account until I left my husband of 27 years. I earned my BSW and MA after that, but often felt like a fraud in the workplace like maybe I would be better suited for mowing the lawn or moving furniture. I supervised people but never wanted to be the boss of anyone. I hate meetings. I like people watching. I’m shy but must express myself with words.

The first day I walked into my house with the realtor, it was jam-packed with the belongings of a single mom and her three children.  Stuff and toys everywhere. Fake flowers stretched from the overhead fan in one bedroom to each corner of the room. But I could see underneath the clutter, it was my house. My first place to live all by myself that would be mine, and it was perfect for me. It had a staircase!  Imagine a floor on top of a ceiling. Since I was a little girl, I wanted wooden stairs, convinced that upstairs led to magical places.  I grew up in rental houses and trailers. We moved so often that my sister and I burst into laughter when we picked up a mattress to carry to a pickup truck. Our floppy mattress was difficult to carry and it made us laugh when we tried to maneuver it here and there, up basement steps, around corners. It became a giggle trigger. If we just put our hands on it for another move, we cracked, and had to stop every few steps to get a grip – on the mattress and ourselves.

The realtor showed me the little house. It had an upstairs for a futon, a library, a computer and with the two bedrooms downstairs, I would have room for my three children and their significant others when they came to visit. Those babies of mine! It’s as if they emerged from my body as extensions of myself. Complete little individuals, but with a visceral connection that I had not experienced before. I licked their slobberiest ice cream cones and gave it back to them, wiped their noses with my hand if needed, and loved their open-mouthed baby kisses all over my face.  Even though they were grown, I still had to have place for them. Ideally, that’s what I still want but know that we can figure that out wherever I land. Finally, I am accepting that they are not extensions of me, but whole adults. Maybe my mother had to die before I could believe this to be true.

This house had a dog door to the back yard for the puppy soon to live with me. Perfect! And now after eight years of hauling wheelbarrows of dirt enough to fill several dump trucks, and pulling the same amount of weeds, and painting every room in the house, and laying a wood floor and carrying flagstone until I ached, putting in a wood stove, hanging my mother’s paintings, and my son’s and his wife’s and placing my partner’s art in just the right places, and knowing the comfort of all that, and knowing that if I keep this house, I will have a place of my own and it will be paid for when I am old. I doubt that owning a home will happen if I sell this one but realize that just as my children are separate entities from me, the security of place is an inside job, not a structure no matter how cozy or secure. It is time to reach out my hand and muss the mandala and let the next life enter this structure to abide in it or love it.

Posted April 23, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Essays, Have a Chair, Uncategorized

Santa Fe Post number 1: Moving to NM   Leave a comment

I met  Woody Vasulka at an art opening at Site Santa Fe Gallery.  He and his partner Steina escaped from Czechoslovakia in the late 60s when the Soviets were invading. Woody knew I planned to move to Santa Fe where he and Steina have lived since the 1980s after running an alternative gallery for film and video called  “The Kitchen” in New York City.

Woody asked me, “Will you die here?”

I shrugged. It was not a question I had considered.  Will I die here? I have not completely absorbed the idea that I will live here.

Posted April 21, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Have a Chair, Uncategorized

Catch 22, life is a joke played on all the unsuspecting, babies, etc   3 comments

Because it’s a joke that life plays to keep us humble. Just the thing we trust we did well spins around like the devil’s head in the Exorcist and spits green slime on us and does it with a smile. Sort of like the point of having children must be to keep us humble and we have not one child but two or three, because they advertise sweetness in their breath and chubby rolls and irresistible laughter, and for the first few years they cannot wait to see you even when just waking from a nap, and you feel the same way towards them(still do). They want YOU. Then their lessons begin as when your pre-school age child says something in class about the only black kid in her group and you are mortified, (of course another mother heard and must tell you). You’ve prided yourself on lack of biases, delight in differences, and talked about this subject with this little daughter, about everyone being equal and if you’d just kept your mouth shut, your child would have been her usual egalitarian self.

And so you learn your lessons and begin to feel smug that you know that the world is unexplainable, and the more you know that you don’t know the wiser you are. See what a Catch 22 that is, because as soon as you think you are wiser while thinking you know nothing and feeling wise about that, you get knocked back in place. And the funny thing is that it doesn’t just happen at 25 or 35 or 45, but also at 53 and 54. It ain’t gonna stop.

Smog clears a bit here and there; you glean bits of understanding about yourself. No matter if your intentions were good, they cannot help but be outlined in self-preservation or what you think are your own needs of self-preservation, you make mistakes or what others point out to you as mistakes, and then the doubt increases and you wonder if you’ve really screwed things up, but also know that if you don’t follow drives, desires, instincts, you either get sick, depressed, mean, or, at the least, become an undeserving martyr, but this could all be wrong because if you think you have one thing figured out – look out.

Posted February 1, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Have a Chair

A testament to your time on earth   Leave a comment

Words from Christian Wiman poet and editor of Poetry about being the judge of your own poems and not being obsessed with recognition. Wiman says about poems, “They’re a testament  to your time on earth, and to how well you’ve stood up to it. In the case of my poems. I feel confident–not about quality, but about their necessity in my life.”

Posted November 5, 2010 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Art, Have a Chair

Run, Chase, Laugh   4 comments

Run, Chase, and Laugh

After your second parent dies, it changes your place in the world, not that anyone else notices, because they are busy not losing their own place for this or other reasons. But it feels to me like I am standing on the top of a mountain looking down on both sides. I know how fast those fat little babies will be leggy teenagers, and now I know that death is not nearly as distant a place as I had imagined up to now. I have been present with two people when they died. My first experience was two years ago with my mother, and it  was amazing, heartbreaking, and a last gift, mine to her and hers to me. The second time, I understood that dying is a process, different for each person,  fascinating, and difficult as laboring to give birth. A couple of weeks before my father died, he said, “I’ve always been able to get out of anywhere I needed to.” And he did.

He died on September 28th, and a few days before that when I knew the end was coming, but he was not “actively dying” (a term I know much more about now) I bought paint to touch up the metal on the awnings outside. While I painted on that perfect September day, I felt gratitude for both my parents. They did their best or their near-best, and here I am, living in the moment, in the sun, in the world. There is no place in this moment for regret or blame, just gratitude for both of them, an unlikely pairing of personalities who had five imperfect children who care so much for each other that these parents did something right.

While I stand on my mountain looking at each side of the slope, I think of both of my parent’s funerals. My mother’s was so painful, my grief so intense, I barely recall the mass or the priest’s words, but I do remember the clouds separating at the cemetery and the eagles we saw on the way to my sister’s house afterwards. I am told there were eagles at the cemetery for dad, and I do remember large birds as we left, but my mind was elsewhere. My dad always loved the babies, and at Dad’s service, it is those little great-grandkids of his that I will remember. Five-year-old Curtis in the first pew, nodding in agreement, and saying yes to the minister’s words about good memories. Curtis who enters any room with polite greetings like he’s a middle-aged man, but with eyes ready for the wonders of living. He sang along to King of The Road with Roger Miller and a few others. It was the last song played at the funeral. Eight-year-old Jared crying hard before the service started. He recently lost his lifetime pet, Sadie, and understands the emotional loss of what “forever” really means.  When the minister read funny memories about Grandpa, Ava who is almost three, used her best and loudest fake laughter to join in with everyone else. Baby Monica sat behind my partner Ed. She spent the funeral time feeling Ed’s arm, squeezing it with her little fingers, checking out the feel of bone under cloth, learning, testing, discovering more information to store away in her gathering mind. And best of all was three-year-old Eli, who had been still and quiet for so long, breaking loose at the cemetery and running across the land of tombstones, touching some, squealing as his embarrassed mother chased him. I wish we had all broke loose and ran, the whole group of mourners. I wish we had run and laughed and been chased one last time by our mother, by our father.

Good Bye Dad

This morning’s September sky,

striking as a blue-eyed dog,

is the day we say good-bye to you.

Your once strong hands now rest.

Those hands that waved

from the cabs of trucks,

hands that became as soft as aged leather.

Hands that tickled little bellies, pulled

wrenches, patted dogs and buttered

those good homemade rolls

will wave no more to us,

but we will remember

their young strength

and their softness later.

Somewhere tonight a dog will raise his muzzle

and howl because you have gone.

And somewhere a father will sing,

“Hey Good Lookin’

“I got a hot-rod Ford and a two-dollar bill
And I know a spot right over the hill.
There’s soda pop and the dancin’s free,
so if you wanna have fun come along with me.
Hey, good lookin’,
Whatcha got cookin’?
How’s about cookin’ somethin’ up with me?”

And the child will smile at their dad,

and remember the songs of his life.

Posted October 10, 2010 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Essays, Have a Chair

Last Nursing Home Days   Leave a comment

I arrived at the nursing home yesterday, September 27th,  around 11:30 am, and dad was awake and recognized me. I was shocked at his shrinking appearance after only a couple of days. His lunch tray came with his pureed food. The aide fed dad the mashed potatoes and some kind of chicken, and dad ate both of these rounded mounds on the plate. The male aide is young, a big guy who talks encouragingly to dad, pats him on his back, offers a drink frequently. The aide is called away, so I continue feeding dad. Before the aide left, I asked what one dish is that looks like malt-o-meal. “That’s his bread” I’m told. Yuk! I know I can’t give Dad a spoonful of that. He finished the last bite of his chicken stuff, and asked if the next pile on his plate is a cookie. The shape does look like a puffy sugar cookie, but it’s green and must be peas, I’m guessing. It looks almost as bad as the mushy bread in a bowl. The aide must not have wanted to feed him those two things either, the green pile and the mushy bread, because he had not attempted to try them on Dad. Dad eats better and is more alert than he’s been all day. His dessert is chocolate banana cream pie but pureed looks like chocolate pudding, which is the most attractive thing on his tray. I give dad a bite and he says, “Not bad.” It’s one of the few words that I’ve been able to understand when he talks. I’m not sure if it is because he is so weak that he can barely speak or make it audible. Last week, he could speak just fine, and get himself out of bed at night. His bed was lowered to the floor and a mat was beside it, but he could get himself onto the mat, which set his alarm off, but he could do it. This week there is no way he would have the strength to do that. After dad ate, he slept, so I went home feeling sad, wanting some comfort, so I drove to the Dairy Queen and had an ice cream cone.

“You scream, and I’ll scream, we’ll all scream for ice cream.” I remember him saying that when I was little, and knowing that we would get some ice cream.

My sister called after speaking with the hospice nurse. Dad has quit swallowing. Hospice will see him again tomorrow.

I bought paint to touch up the metal on the awnings outside. I moved the little radio/CD player closer to where I was working. I had “a moment” thinking about him and mom and tears dripped onto the cement where I squatted opening the can of white paint. I slid the button from radio to CD. I knew there was a disk in the player but had forgotten which one. It was Nora Jones, the CD we always played for mom in the hospital when we left her room each night. She spent six weeks on the acute rehab floor. The first few times I heard Nora Jones voice, it were hard for me, but today when the music started, and I began to paint, I felt differently. The day was warm with no breeze, Nora Jones sweet voice floated across the yard to me, and I felt a strong sense of gratitude for my imperfect parents. I am here, sensing and feeling this day, because of them. They did their best or their near best, and here I am, there is no place in this moment for regret or blame, just gratitude for both of them, an unlikely pairing of personalities who had five imperfect children. Children who care for each other and know other good things that our parents showed us in this imperfect world.

I drove to Bayard later in the afternoon, and was surprised to see Dad awake. I greeted him and he seemed to know me. I asked him if he knew it was me, and he nodded. His eyes have a vacant look, but yet they seem to look and register my face every so often. I talked a little more, but wasn’t sure if he knew what I was saying or not. Becky and I spoke earlier, and I said that maybe we needed to tell him it was okay to go, so I did. “Dad, it’s okay to go. You don’t have to be afraid. You’ll see mom and Fred.” “Can you hear me?” He nodded yes, but I’m not sure he understood what I was saying or not. We tried more times to communicate, but when he tried to say something, I could not understand him. I thought he said, “I need to go.”

“You mean, die?”


A young aide came in to give Dad a message from his granddaughter, Mariah.

“Joe, Mariah called to tell you she couldn’t come today, but that she loves you.”

“Thank you.” I said.

I don’t know if he understood, so I repeated that Mariah had called.

“You had lots of grand kids running around your house. Do you remember?”

He looked at me.

“Pat, Andrea, Josh, Nick, Beth, Katie, Mariah,  Andy, Gunnar, Will, Austin, Dylan, Jake and Addison.”

I saw recognition in his face as I said the names of his grand kids.

“Mom cooked for a lot of people. Do you remember her homemade bread?”

It seemed to me he said yes, but I’m not sure if I just hear what I want.

He fell asleep, and I went home to wait for tomorrow.

Posted September 27, 2010 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Have a Chair, Uncategorized

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