Colleen at Wordcraft poetry suggested writing a syllabic poem about our spirit animal. She provided a quiz to find our spirit animal. I took the quiz and discovered that at this moment mine is the turtle. The website, spiritanimal.info, says that “The turtle totem symbolizes our peaceful walk on this earth. It represents the path we take as we embark on our journey through life. In contrast to emotional or spiritual development occurring in bursts, the way of the turtle anchors our personal unfolding in a slow, more grounded series of steps and longer cycles of transformation. The turtle is associated with our physical and embodied evolution on the earthly plane. Call this spirit animal for help to be more grounded. You can also get help slowing down and pacing yourself, so you can take your next step with more confidence.” While I doubt my spirit animal is always a turtle it does fit right now. I’ve had this torn meniscus and other issues since January, and I am trying to resolve myself to stop fighting it and just proceed in the right direction, working hard at physical therapy, icing, and REST. Yes, this past week it was so bad that I actually rested, and wow, that actually helps . . . a lot. I had a good physical therapy appointment today. Fingers crossed. Moving at my turtle’s pace, in the right direction.
For this poem, I wrote a tanaga, which is a form from the Philippines. This is a 7-7-7-7 Syllabic verse, with an AABB or AAAA rhyme scheme.
Accepting the Turtle as My Guide
For this part of my journey
I learn to walk with this knee.
A turtle guide teaches me
to keep on without hurry.
Another thing that I like about a turtle is that while they are slow and seem clumsy on earth, they are quite graceful and fast in the water. With my Sun in Cancer, I was born under a water sign. And grew up in and around the lakes of Michigan.
When I was a little girl, I had a beautiful painted turtle as a pet. The turtle’s shell was at least 4″ long. I must have been about five. I took him or her outside to play a few times. She would fall into the window well and need help out. I recall my father helping me release her to live free, but I don’t remember the details. Today it is illegal to release a captive turtle into the wild. But I do remember that I felt wonderful letting that turtle go have her own wild life.
Then when I was in 4th grade, I was given two tiny turtles to live in an aquarium. I don’t remember what happened to those turtles, but I did used to love to feel their scratchy claws scrabbling at my palms when I held them. Looking back, I wonder if the idea of releasing the big turtle was sympathy for it because of it’s size or if I was too young to take proper care of it.
Colleen at Wordcraft poetry suggested writing an acrostic poem based on a word from a list she provided. She asked every line to be 8, 9, or 10 syllables long. I used the word ORACLE. Each line begins with a letter from that word so that if you read down instead of across you see the word oracle. I created a form of 8, 9, 10, 10, 9, 8 and rhymed same count lines with each other.
Voice of the Gods
On the sunwarmed rock she holds court
Ruling a man’s world with prescient words.
All listen and quake, even mighty kings
Clothed in velvet vestments and golden rings.
Love and riches–often doom–they heard,
Even took heed or to the heart.
A couple of years ago Memoryhouse Magazine published an acrostic poem I wrote using the title of my favorite Whitman poem, “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking.” Note that my title starts the phrase and then the first letters of each line the last part, “endlessly rocking.”
Colleen at Wordcraft poetry suggested we write a syllabic poem using synonyms for the word “work” and “play,” and to contrast the two for this week’s #TankaTuesday.
I have to admit that the synonym prompts are not my favorite. I prefer a little looser prompt, and this was even tighter by the need to contrast them. So go ahead and hate my poem, which is three Badger’s Hexastitch stanzas put together. I used that form because I LOVE the name. It’s like a cross between something a witch does as a hobby and the town that Loretta Lynn sings about in “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (Butcher’s Holler).
For work I used the word “toil,” because it reminded me of two of my favorite poems (see below). And for play I used “entertain” and “rest.”
like Hopkins and Shakespeare.*
Entertain sounds lazy
as if I should
does not toil much
except to wash himself
or hunt food if he must,
that I can be
more like the cat than me
and rest when I need to,
toiling just as
Hopkins is the Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem “God’s Grandeur,” and Shakespeare is Will himself, “Song of the Witches” from MacBeth. I loved to entertain my kids when they were little with the latter.
Here are both poems and you can see where I got “toil” from.
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
SONG OF THE WITCHES
by William Shakespeare
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.
Macbeth: IV.i 10-19; 35-38
Source: The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (1983)
Now if you’re still reading, here’s a sonnet that I wrote based on the Hopkins poem which was published in Last Stanza Poetry Journal by editor Jenny Kalahar. After that you can see a pic of my cutie pie Meesker.
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod* by Luanne Castle
and I am shackled to the backlit screen, subjected to technology’s caprice, my feet immobile, hidden, and benumbed, my thoughts dispelled by cumbrous messages of discounts, password problems, and a troll, and so I scroll my Twitter notices and scan What’s Happening, then Google God, procrastinating still and find, alas, my spirit drifts away, mere haze, but then the images of light dividing clouds is how we see the brightest wings and warmth and you appear and take me by my hand to share the garden, smell the sweetbush, hear the cactus wrens, and trill for butterflies.
With son and DIL living here, we have their dog Theo here as well. He’s such a little goofy guy, and I get to let him out when his mom and dad are both gone for three hours or more. I can’t physically handle walking him on a leash, although in a pinch I can take him on the driveway on a leash because he’s very good for me. But I like to let him roam the backyard, which is fenced. He’s very loved and what’s rewarding for me is that he loves his Grandma! In his photo you can see a very typical expression he gets on his face as he is always trying to figure out what’s going on.
“Mad Swirl is excited to bring a new artist, Luanne Castle to the Mad Gallery, with work somehow as whimsical as it is haunting. Luanne brings us these magical collage pieces from Arizona, USA, and we must say, her passion for poetry and art is evident in the way she uniquely blends odds and ends of both together in her eccentric and intriguing work. I’m not sure what it is, but there’s something very Alice In Wonderland about her collages – a little mystical, dreamy & strange, like maybe we’ve plunged into a rabbit hole ourselves. ~ Madelyn Olson”
Language is part of these pieces, whether you can see it all or not. There is also a word some might not like so if you are sensitive about cussing you might not want to check out the images (or read too closely into the screen shot). If it doesn’t bother you, I hope you like them!
Colleen at Wordcraft poetry suggested this beautiful photo byTerri Webster Schrandt as a prompt for this week’s #TankaTuesday.
I wrote another tanka as I first tried a different form (tetractys), but couldn’t make it work for this image. Though the actual setting was the Sacramento river delta, I saw a lake. That also worked better syllable-wise.
Our Wolves has received some lovely and “interesting” attention that I thought I would share with you.
There are some wonderful reviews on Goodreads (and Amazon), including those by veteran reviewers Elizabeth Gauffreau, Suanne Schafer, a couple of Library Things reviewers, etc. I also received my first one star rating ever!!! Yes, “Donna” wrote: “An interesting take on Red Riding Hood. Dark and shades of abuse. Might be someone else’s cup of tea but not mine.” Apparently, even though it’s an interesting take, because it’s not her cup of tea, it warrants a one star.
Colleen at Wordcraft poetry suggested this prompt today: to write a syllabic poem using this 19th century painting as inspiration. She mentioned how it looked like the girl is on her cell phone. For a time it was hard to unsee that cell. But then, after I saw something hanging down from the “cell phone,” I realized how important our own world views are to how we see something. As I researched, I read that Hitler loved the paintings of this artist, Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, and made his work Nazi favorites. But the artist (blessedly) never lived long enough to see the Nazis come to power or to know the name Adolf Hitler. All these different perspectives are where my poem today comes from and it is what complicates the form, creating an ekphrastic contrapuntal tanka string with haiku.
I’m sorry that the poem had to be a screenshot as I couldn’t make it stay on the screen otherwise. If you click on the poem image a couple of times you might be able to make it larger. Please let me know if you can read it or if I need to figure out something else. Any ideas would be appreciated.
My mother gave me my baby book which I have started to go through. I found a photo in it that I have never seen of the person who was my favorite when I was a kid: my maternal grandmother. In this image I am 20 months old. I also read in the book that for my first week of life Grandma and her other daughter, my sweet Aunt Alice, stayed with my parents and helped take care of me. She was the best grandmother anyone could ever have. The grandmother poems in Rooted and Winged are about her.
For months now I have been writing this post in my mind. The reason is that the post is meant to help clarify my thinking about a matter.
I grew up in an era where people still believed that it was important to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and to “put a good face on.” I also like to be seen as strong or even tough. Most importantly, there are always people worse off than ourselves. Some people have such horrible “roads to hoe” in life. It makes me cry to think of what some people go through.
Further down there is going to be a “but.”
Without boring you with too many details, underneath a lifetime of many and varied illnesses, I have a few chronic conditions that are a bit extraordinary. One of these is primary congenital lymphedema, particularly in the lower extremities. It’s what used to be known as elephantiasis.
Additionally, I have a migraine disorder that for the last 25 years has not (for the most part) been headaches, but a sudden and extreme set of symptoms. Because the symptoms didn’t fit neatly into a specific type of migraine, I was told they were “complicated migraines.” Most recently, the diagnosis is that I have genes for more than one rare type of migraine—and that they work together to give me symptoms of more than one disorder. Most likely these are vestibular and hemiplegic.
An extra issue in the mix, and I’ve written about this before, doctors at Mayo Clinic discovered that I had a very rare tumor in my right foot (rare meaning at that time medical staff couldn’t find any medical literature of a tumor in that particular bone). This was a nightmare that went on for 1 1/2 years and was complicated by my lymphedema. There were only two surgeons in the United States that Mayo considered competent to do surgery on this tumor, and it was performed by the AMAZING Dr. Eckhart at UCLA orthopedic hospital (RIP to a wonderful person and doctor). Five years after the surgery, he told me he never thought the surgery would work but he watched over me so carefully. Since the surgery I am not allowed to run, jump, hike, or do most aerobic activities.
I write about these details to give a little context. Back to putting a good face on and all that. Because I am a writer and keep up with current events in the writing world, I am more aware of new ways of thinking about things than I might be if I weren’t writing and especially reading new work. My view of myself that I have had my whole life has been as a blessed person–certainly privileged in many ways–and that I needed to stay tough and “power through” everything and then set it aside. Another way of putting it is to say burying it down deep. Perhaps what best fits is that I never made space for my health issues. I let everything else in my life intrude and take over the space they needed.
But (I told you there would be a but!) reading young writers, I am beginning to change my view of myself. I am disabled. Any time I go out I must have a hat and sunglasses with me for lighting situations (migraine trigger). I can’t go to concerts or sports games because of flashing lights. I can’t travel alone because it’s become too dangerous with the migraines which occur in a moment and are completely incapacitating. I must bring my lymphedema pump with me to travel–as well as lots of other things for the condition, and it takes a lot of time and energy every day. Most importantly, lymphedema affects much of the rest of my health, and as I age (arthritis and other deteriorations, for instance) it will become more and more of a problem.
So, while I have no ridiculous illusions that my situation is comparable to the tragic illnesses of so many others, I am finally realizing that disability has nothing to do with comparison between one person and another. And it isn’t negative or counter-productive for me to finally understand that it’s ok to admit that I am disabled, that it’s just a useful way to communicate with others. If people don’t realize that I am disabled, how can they be supportive?
I wish I had had this epiphany years ago when my son was still young. He has an exceedingly rare disorder that doctors misdiagnosed for decades. It’s so rare that in the NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders) list it is lumped in with other disorders and diseases instead of being listed separately. At the most, only a couple thousand people in the U.S. have his disorder. The reason it’s important to note the rareness is because the less others know about your disability, the less helpful they are–even if they want to be!
You see where I am going with this? If I had been better about making space for my disabilities, it might have been easier for my son with his own situation. It’s hard enough when people see you from the outside and say, “Oh, it’s not such a big deal,” with absolutely NO understanding of what it’s like to live that life. So, while the gardener and I always respected the importance of his disorder (which I first noticed when he was nine months old, and the pediatrician practically laughed at me), we didn’t teach him to make space.
Now I see everything differently.
Have you ever had a big shift in how you viewed yourself?
OK, ending on something a little lighter. Perry is very unhappy about the cane I’ve been using since I injured my knee more fully when I got home from Michigan. Yesterday, I was walking in the living room, and Perry came up from behind and crashed into the cane, forcing me down on the bad knee. Yes, it hurt like heck, but it was funny, too, because what cat does something like that? A dog might do that if he’s frustrated enough. But Perry was just being Perry! And then we had the hugging session afterwards where he apologized to me! Sweetest, funniest little goober.