The gardener and I got back from Yosemite the other day. We hadn’t gone on vacation since pre-COVID, and had already lost points in the time share thingie that my parents had given us years ago. So we used some points to stay near Bass Lake and go to Yosemite. We’d been to Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, etc, but never Yosemite.
We also wanted to get away from some family troubles, if possible, although that didn’t happen as they followed us there heh. The best part of the vacation was spending some time with the gardener away from our jobs (we work together at home), housework, yardwork, and cat chores. We cooked easy gluten free meals in the kitchen of our condo. Bass Lake was ok, and we had a nice day in a rental boat on the lake, but it’s not a lake like Coeur d’Alene, George, or Tahoe, which are my preferred lakes (spoiled much).
Yosemite had some brilliant granite formations, but the Glacier road is closed all year, so we didn’t get to see everything. And we didn’t hike much (because of my bum foot) or camp (because of my good sense). Yosemite seems to be all about the hiking and camping. For return visits to national parks, Yosemite wouldn’t be near the top of my list, but some of these views were breathtaking.
For some reason I screwed up our flights, probably because of all the family stuff going on this summer. It’s been hard to concentrate. I didn’t realize American had nonstops between Phoenix and Fresno and, instead, booked us on flights with layovers. That turned out to be a big mistake for the trip home. Took us sixteen hours. Then SWA discovered that in Vegas, at the layover, employees neglected to load 2/3 of the baggage! That included ours. We had to stand in first one line, then a second one, until 2AM while daughter waited in the cell lot for 3 hours. She had work next morning at 8. I felt terrible about it. For some reason I felt a little better when the SWA employee womanning the second line declared the whole situation RIDICULOUS!
I hope you’re enjoying the blog tour for Rooted and Winged!
There are so many wonderful examples to the contrary. But they remain the minority.
What am I talking about?
Trustworthiness in humans. The coronabub (coronavirus hubbub) has made this clear to me. First there are the accounts you hear on TV and read online. Some experts say just go about your business, but wash your hands a lot. Other reports say that those 60+ and/or with compromised immune systems (also heart or lung disease, etc.) should stay in their own homes and eschew even family events. Still other reports predict gloom and doom.
Because I am in the 60+ group and have had some lung issues in the past as an adult (also as a kid I was a magnet for every respiratory disease around), I am trying to pretend I am a crocodile that people want to stay away from (see photo below). I plan to be careful when I am out. But other people are not that careful. They still go to events where hundreds or thousands of people are attending. Even my own husband is not that careful when it comes to sanitizing and still doesn’t understand the concept of soap as necessity. He believes that big companies sold us on the idea of soap for them to reap the profits. So how does me being careful keep me safe if others I come in contact with are not careful?
The gardener calls me Howey Anne, after Howard Hughes and his infamous germaphobia. I would say that is a little extreme because I am not that paranoid. You have to consider the source. Person who thinks soap is unimportant thinks I am a germaphobe. Get it?
But I don’t like germs. I blame Oprah for an episode she filmed a long time ago about the germs in hotel rooms and your own shower head. ICK.
This coronavirus thing is causing me a lot of anxiety. I suppose it isn’t mentally healthy for me to be trying to keep my hands away from my face (an impossible task) and to be thinking about germs all the time.
I offer no comfort. Sorry if that’s what you need right now.
The gardener and I just got back from Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The first night we were there, the maid service left a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer in my room. I clung to it for the rest of the trip as if it were the last canteen of water in an unpopulated Sahara in a 1930s movie. It allowed me to fly home through two airplanes and four airports.
The trip was not the best, to tell you the truth. Coronavirus was only part of it. The worst was that the resort had accidentally cancelled our reservation back in September, but our travel agent never knew it. I am too tired from thinking about germs to tell you much about the trip, but the animals were fabulous, the Costa Ricans were nice, and the rest of it was not so great.
Then there was the driver who tried to scam us to the tune of $149 in Houston, the Houston hotel whose shuttle was out of commission but they neglected to tell us, and the bank that ripped our mortgage check and sent it back saying it was “torn in the mail” (LIE), thus dinging our credit. I mean, I could probably come up with a really long list like this. People just suck sometimes.
There are all the sad stories I read on Facebook about animals abandoned, neglected, and abused by humans. It never gets better.
The person who knowingly took his/her coronavirus ass to an event with hundreds of people.
I heard some people are stealing masks from hospitals. WTF!
Who would ever trust a human?
But without trust, where are we? We cannot live alone. It is impossible to be completely self-sufficient. What we do impacts others as well as ourselves. We can’t make it different. But we can try to do our best. In the worst of times, we need to be the best we can be.
Don’t brazen it out and go to major events and then drag your germs to other, more vulnerable people. Imagine being stuck in a nursing home right now–you can’t leave, but once coronavirus enters your facility, you would feel targeted. So be kind and think of other people.
OK, pretty sure my readers didn’t need that, but you might want to remind others!
As far as photos of Costa Rica go, I have started (slowly) posting some on my Instagram account: catpoems. Check them out if you’re interested!
Also, University of Chicago-based Memoryhouse Magazine has published my Whitman tribute poem, “Out of the Cradle.” It refers to “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” and the last two words are used as the initial letters for the lines of the poem. This issue, called “Rattle,” is a good one. You can find it here.
I hope when I check back in here next Monday for my next post, the coronabub has burst, and all is back to normal.
Crocodile on the Palo Verde River, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
I don’t often write super short poems. To send them out I really need to put several teenies together, but this is an only. So I will share it here.
After the storm,
blossoms sway upside down
on the lake skin,
looking like tiny sailboats.
Without me they are debris.
The poem and image remind me of time spent on Lake Coeur d’Alene this summer. I love boating and lakes. My daughter said she could tell I was really in my element at the lake.
Felix was completely constipated last week as a side effect of the pain killer he was on for his cystitis. He had to get an enema at the vet. Poor Felix. One thing after another for him. I hope he is getting better now.
It’s so hard to travel–whether for business or pleasure–when you have celiac and have to be completely gluten free. The gardener has a pretty bad case of celiac, so he has to be vigilant. Unfortunately, travel and being vigilant don’t mix very well.
A lot of people comment to me that it’s so easy to find gluten free in restaurants today. Well, it’s easy to find restaurants that say they offer gluten free options. But are they really gluten free? Judging by how the gardener reacts, many times they are not.
Then I found an article in the newest issue of Gluten-Free Living called “One-third of labeled gluten-free restaurant food contains gluten” by Van Waffle. (Yup, that’s the byline!)
The title kind of gives away the gist of the article. SO DEPRESSING. And I am so not surprised. Time and again, we have to correct servers about items on the menu. An entree labeled gluten free, but made with regular soy sauce. GONG. Chicken noodle soup listed as gluten free. GONG. French fries made in a fryer that cooks glutenous food. GONG. It goes on and on. Then they lie, too.
The other day I picked up burgers and fries at our favorite local place that has a dedicated fryer, meaning it only fries gluten-free food in it. As usual, the gardener’s burger and fries were in a box. I opened it and looked at it. The lettuce, onion, and tomato were missing. When they gave it to me I said, “This is gluten free, for sure?” Oh yes, yes. Actually I asked two different people! But I had a funny feeling. Our burger place is a brewery, and it’s dark by the bar where you pick up take-out.
When I got to the car I noticed that the box did not say GF on it as it usually did. So I went back in. This time I was very insistent, and the woman who checked it said it wasn’t gluten free. They would make a new one. “They can’t just take it off that bun and put it on another one, you know.” She knew that.
While I waited I wondered why I had given them a nice tip. Three different people had “helped” me, and nobody seemed to care if my husband got sick from their food or not.
What we are doing wrong, for the most part, with gluten free food in restaurants is not taking precautions starting from the menu planning and kitchen design.
One of the places we traveled to this summer was Quebec. There were three restaurants with distinctive ways of handling the situation. As a side note, this issue of Gluten-Free Living has an article about GF food in Quebec!
Ottavio in Gatineau is a very casual Italian restaurant. They don’t serve alcohol, so we picked up some wine at the gas station across the street. The wine was good! but I digress. Ottavio has two separate kitchens–one for gluten and one for no gluten. They also serve the gluten free food on red dishes (P.F. Chang’s also uses separate plates which has got to be so helpful to servers and makes the diner feel more secure). The food was good, and the gardener did not get sick.
Arepera in Montreal is an extremely casual Venezuelan restaurant that is gluten-free! The food was good, and there was no stress at all. The gardener can’t eat beans either (just one of many food intolerances that have developed as part of celiac disease), but there was plenty of food to eat.
Bistro Le Veravin in Quebec City is supposedly 99% gluten-free. Personally, I think they ought to be 100% because it would make it easier, and I am guessing it is more like 90% gluten free. But the food was delicious, and the gardener did not get sick. He had a wonderful selection of food to choose from. I had the poutine au canard (duck confit poutine) because poutine you see.
So separate kitchens is a wonderful idea for providing gluten-free food for diners. But being 100% gluten free is the best because then the celiac can totally relax and enjoy instead of paying attention to everything so that a mistake doesn’t happen.
Back to poutine: this was a breakfast poutine in Ontario. Wowsa. So good. Sadly, not gluten-free.
Next week we are going to try a gluten-free restaurant that is a little closer to home. Fingers crossed!
Are you familiar with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way? I really like the idea of Artist Dates, where the writer or artist goes on a weekly expedition to explore something inspiring or enchanting. I like to try to do that as often as I can. (It’s been pointed out to me that Artist Dates should be SOLO, but when I have an opportunity like this, I take it as-is).
While my uncle was visiting, the gardener and I took him to the Teotihuacan exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum. Between 100 BCE and 650 CE, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the Americas. In some ways it was like many pre-Columbian exhibits and in other ways it seemed brand new to me. I can’t quite explain it. I also thought it was fascinating that there were so many “feline” shapes in the art. (Love my cats!) Let me mention that my uncle won two scholarships to the Art Institute in Chicago when he was a kid. He was able to attend the first time, but the second time he had a serious illness and had to stay home for a full year. He had to go to work very young and was never able to pursue a career as an artist, although he certainly had the talent.
It was really fascinating to see how much art was designed to replicate teeth!
The earrings or “ear plugs” the statues wear are the same as those worn by the Aztecs, so that style was around for many centuries (it still is, I guess).
The plaques on the walls described the city in some detail. I found the pyramids to once again remind me so much of Egyptian pyramids. Maybe I’ve heard too many episodes of the ancient alien shows that the gardener likes to watch . . . .
On the way in and out of the gallery, we were met with two beauties. One was the Carlos Amorales piece “Black Cloud,” a swarm of black moths and butterflies.
The other was this dandelion sculpture created by (I think) Josiah McElheny:
I’m a huge fan of big contemporary installations like these as they really set the tone and show me that humankind is still creating amazing art.
A few days after we visited the museum, we took Uncle Frank to California for a few days. I’ll write about that part of the trip later. Mebbe next week, I hope.
BUT a few days after my uncle left for Arkansas, I had the real pleasure of meeting Theresa Barker. She blogs at Theresa Barker Lab Notes. We had a fun time comparing notes on our families and exchanging a few of our favorite poems and discussing them. What a blast! She is as nice and smart in person as in blogland.
I’ve been feeling very depleted and tired lately, so much so that creating new work seems impossible. However, I pulled out a lot of unfinished poems. By unfinished, I mean that they were too complete, too mediocre, and had been filed away. I am going through and revising these poems. Maybe I will find something good in some of them!
Happy Labor Day. I hope your labors are light today, whether you celebrate or not.
When I left Alaska, I was eager to get home and see my cats and return to my routine. My initial thoughts were that I was so happy to have had the opportunity for this Alaskan experience and that I didn’t see the need for a return visit. The sites were beautiful and so different from what I knew, but it is quite remote in SE Alaska, and I like my city pleasures.
But this week I’ve found myself longing for Alaska. I miss the glaciers, the mountains, the wildlife, and the sparse human population.
The gardener doesn’t understand at all. He still feels that it was a wonderful trip, but he’s “done.” He loves warm weather and sun, and while I do like warm, sunny days, I don’t need it the way he does.
I love the way the mist lingers between the mountains. And how a low hanging cloud can transform a hill into a strange shape, even an animal.
Look through the mountains below to see yet more variety of landscape.
The next photo interested me because the waterfall is not centered. That way it’s possible to see more variety of topography.
Look at the next. Why is the umbrella over the flowers? It can’t be because someone positioned their umbrella there when they went inside. The flower pot is far from the door of the bookstore in Petersburg.
A phenomenon that I noticed in Juneau was that many people decorate their mailboxes. Unfortunately, with a big rear view mirror sticking out in my passenger side view, I couldn’t take a pic of too many of them.
Maybe I’ll have stopped blabbing about Alaska by next week . . . .
One thing before I go: I finished Ellen Morris Prewitt’s fabulous new novel Tracking Happiness. I posted a review at Amazon and Goodreads. Here is my Goodreads review, although I stupidly posted it under the Kindle edition, and I read the paperback. It begins this way:
People sometimes ask me for fiction recommendations, and when they ask for a funny book, I remember that my list is very short. Sometimes they ask me for a feel good book, and that list is also pretty short. But since I just finished Ellen Morris Prewitt’s new novel Tracking Happiness: A Southern Chicken Adventure, I am putting it at the top of both lists.
The review is found here. It’s such a feel-good book you will thank me for recommending it :).
Last week I told you about the great restaurant we found in the Ozarks, along the White River bank. But we did more than go to that restaurant. We kept my uncle going every day! It had been decades since we had been to northern Arkansas. When we last visited, there were so many ancient Ozark-style log cabins tucked into the woods on the side of the road that the flavor of the land was everywhere you looked. If you don’t know what those are, they are small slightly rectangular box cabins with a peaked roof and a front porch with roof (imagine a wooden rocking chair and Pa with a corncob pipe just about now). Typically, the cover to the porch is a different pitch than the main roof–and best yet, the roof is generally tin. There aren’t very many left, but the remains of the ones being slowly claimed by the forest can be seen. Also, some have been refurbished with aluminum siding. Some new houses are built in the same style, to reflect the traditional architecture.
The reason I don’t have photos for you is that most of my Arkansas photos are crap, having been taken through a car window. It was too hot and humid to keep rolling the window down–and the so-called highways (NO freeways at all) are winding and long. It’s way out in the country, y’all. Anyway, the gardener drove, and it exhausted him so I didn’t want to distract him by rolling the window up and down–or asking to stop where we could have been run over IF someone else had driven there just then (that’s a big IF).
This part of Arkansas must be well within the Bible Belt. In Mountain Home (population 12,448), the Wednesday newspaper had a listing of churches in the immediate area.
I counted FORTY-ONE Baptist churches. There are also a lot of other denominations, including LDS, Jehovah’s Witness, and even Bahai! There is no synagogue, and I don’t think there is a mosque. Also, there are only two Catholic churches–one in town and one in a nearby town. The one in town is my uncle’s church. You might wonder then how my uncle ended up in Arkansas. He was born and lived in Chicago. After a horrible crime touched his life (story coming tomorrow in thefamilykalamazoo.com) he moved his family to rural Illinois–and eventually to Arkansas. He wasn’t alone–there is a whole “expat” group of Chicagoans who live there. They like being away from the hubbub–and a lot of them like to fish. That–and some Californians who have escaped the west coast–probably makes up the majority of people who attend the Catholic churches.
Let me mention that my favorite church names are the cowboy churches. Notice that this listing shows Bar None Cowboy Church. We flew into Tulsa, OK, and drove to Mountain Home. On the way, we saw other cowboy churches, like the Cowboy Gatherin’ Church in Inola, OK, and Crooked Creek Cowboy Church in Harrison. Apparently “cowboy churches” are a thing and are scattered across the country. Who knew? Well, I sure didn’t.
Speaking of Harrison. It’s only 48.4 miles from Mountain Home, but there’s a big difference. Mountain Home, as I said, has attracted people from Chicago and California and is close to reknowned trout fishing near the Bull Shoals dam which links Bull Shoals Lake with the White River. People think of pretty Ozark country when Mountain Home is mentioned. Harrison’s reputation comes from being known as the most racist city in the country. I got that from Wikipedia. So who knows the accuracy. Apparently, between 1905 and 1909 white citizens threw out all the African-Americans who lived there and established their city as a “sundown town.” That means just what it sounds like: no non-white people in town after dark. You think things have changed?
The city has been dubbed “the most racist city in America” because of its high presence of white supremacist organizations. Kingdom Identity Ministries, a white supremacist organization, was founded in 1982 in Harrison. Thomas Robb, national director of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, maintains his office near Harrison in the outlying town of Zinc and uses a Harrison mailing address for the organization. Combined with the history of the 1905 and 1909 banishment of unemployed railroad workers and all other African-American residents, this incidental connection to the KKK has given the town a negative image.
The article goes on to say that there are people who are trying to combat that image by speaking up against racism. Of course, all this just made me want to visit. The writer in me, you know. But that’s an easy call as a white woman. As the white mother of Asians, I would not have suggested we visit if they were with us.
When we got to town, I saw the pretty historic theatre where events are still held.
Love the neon sign!
Harrison is quite a pretty small town, and there wasn’t much to hint at a dangerous undercurrent of racism. Then we stopped at an antique shop for the gardener.
My eye was drawn to certain things. I started to feel uncomfortable.
I realize people collect Mammy this and that. Raised in Kalamazoo by my northern relatives, I will never feel comfortable with this stuff. In fact, in Arkansas, I had to keep reminding myself it used to be a slave state. I’ve never lived in a state where slave-holding was legal.
And then there was this little section.
Don’t you love the juxtaposition of items? The Rise and Fall swastika, desperation, a book called Rifles and Shotguns, Rhett Butler, and the fragility of that ruffled porcelain atop the stack. I figured we’d been in town long enough. Time to go!
Next day we visited my cousin’s home in the mountains. He is an orchid farmer by trade, and they live way out in the middle of nowhere (yup, it’s probably even called that). He always loved cacti and orchids, and it’s kind of cool that he’s made a living all these years doing what he loves.
He’s got such cute grandchildren, too. So much fun playing with them!
One day we visited Mystic Caverns. I guess northern Arkansas has a lot of underground caves. Many have probably not even been discovered yet.
Close to Mountain Home is a tiny town called Norfork. There you can find the Jacob Wolf House Historic Site.
The site includes the main house, which was the territorial courthouse, built 1825, as well as some outbuildings. Seeing how the men “roughed” it even inside the courthouse really made me think of what the settlers went through. During the day, court was in session, and at night, the men spread out their bedrolls where they had been sitting in court earlier.
As we left Arkansas, the gardener and I stopped at the Osage Clayworks because the area has been known for pottery for quite some time. They had some good buys on “seconds,” and I bought my daughter a garlic thingie to use for her rings on her dresser.
The Photography of Justin Hamm
If you like seeing small towns and the fading past of America, you need to check out the photography of poet and photographer Justin Hamm. He’s also the editor of the museum of americana. I love Justin’s photos. Rustic images of old cars, barns, that kind of thing. Gorgeous. Click here for his Instagram. Here are the photos on his website. Look at this photograph of an old Ozark barn, care of Justin. He’s been in the Ozarks recently so I am watching for all those shots I imagined but couldn’t pull off.
The Art of Len Cowgill
On the subject of beautiful American art, I want to tell you a little update on the work of Len Cowgill.
Many, many years ago, when Len, the gardener, and I were all very young, Len gave us a series of three pieces as a gift. This was before he knew about archival materials, and over the years in the hot sun of California, the drawings faded. Here is one of them–see HOW faded.
Upon hearing about the fading, Len kindly offered to repair all these drawings. Look out great they turned out! In the first one, he changed the static brick wall to Allen Ginsberg’s poem “America” and then followed the theme for the rest of them.
I’m so blessed to have such thought-provoking and breathtaking art in my life. Thanks to Len and thanks to Justin both for sticking with your passions and making the world more beautiful.
I was jazzed to attend AWP 2018, the largest literary conference in North America.
It was held at the Tampa Convention Center and the Marriott across the street.
The venue and swag were impressive.
I was lucky enough to be one of the Tupelo Press 30/30 readers. I wrote 3o poems in 30 days in September 2015 for Tupelo. That experience came after the publication of Doll God in January, my father’s death in May, and my cat Mac’s death in June–and started me on the path toward Kin Types. I can’t over-emphasize what a catalyst it was for me and for other poets.
I signed Kin Types copies at the Finishing Line Press table at the book fair. I got to hear Joy Harjo talk again. I always feel very connected with what she says. In fact, all the sessions I attended were excellent I left feeling inspired to write and try new techniques and ideas. But I was only able to stay for part of the conference which was just enough.
The experience gave me much, including a new friend after spending a fun time with my Stanford cohort Anita. It took one thing from me: my favorite hat! The fishing one from the second hand store in New Orleans.
Say goodbye to the best hat ever. I hope the person who finds it treasures it as I did.
Dashing in here to tell you that Mom is on the way back home to Michigan. We had a good visit, and I am exhausted.
Near the beginning of our visit, the gardener and I took Mom on a cruise on the Desert Belle on Saguaro Lake.
We saw some landscape typical of the area. You can only get a view like this from the lake or by hiking fairly far.
Swimmers are not allowed at this lake, but it would be fun to boat, jetski, etc. The problem is, if you go in the summer, they only allow a certain number of “vehicles” on the water, so if you’re not there by 5 or 6AM you might have to wait for hours for your turn!
We also took Mom to California to see son and ND (new daughter). We thought we’d take them out to dinner because their wild little dog Theo and the two cats are pretty chaotic in their condo. But when we got there, my son said, “Oh, by the way, there’s another dog here.”
“What?!” That was me being astonished.
“Um, yeah, we’re fostering him.” Son was walking ahead of me into the building so I couldn’t see his face.
“Fostering???!!!!” I’m sure I looked disbelieving and he could hear it in my voice because he caved right away.
“OK, Mom, we had to keep him. He’s the one I told you about.”
And then it came back to me that my son had called a couple of months ago and asked if I could take a 16-year-old dog who had nowhere to go. The owner was Taking Him to the Pound! Any 16-year-old dog shows up at the pound, and he won’t last an hour before the shelter does away with him.
Now, I am a pushover with animals, but I do know how to draw the line (kinda) because the parade of animals in need of homes is endless. So I asked the gardener, he said no, and then I “had” to say no. I figured my son would watch over the situation and somebody would work it out if I didn’t hear any begging.
I didn’t hear any begging because son took him home to ND who was not pleased until first son and then ND fell in love with the little guy. His name is Gary, and he’s a Jack Russell terrier. They didn’t tell us for two months because last fall I’d said (with my lack of tact), “Good thing you guys are looking for a house because you can’t have any more animals in here” (they live on the 3rd floor so are looking for a house).
Of course, the gardener and I fell in love with Gary right away. And, yes, my son and I are a LOT alike.
My mother got a kick out of seeing son’s lego collection. It’s pretty amazing. I know what he’s getting for his birthday this summer!
He loves toys and puzzles like his mama ;). We’re going to hunt through the storage space this summer for his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle collection. Love those guys!
Back in Arizona Mom and I spent a lot of time scrapbooking together. Luckily, I had enough photos that were of interest to her for scrapbooking–and I have a lot of supplies.
These are pages I was working on for my daughter. I’m really behind, but I’ve made a scrapbook for each year of her four years at the University of Oklahoma (Boomer Sooner).
As you might expect, Perry was a little overactive for my Mom being here, but in general, he was a good boy, even when he had to be put in my office. He held still for a few pix.
I know I promised to write every day in 2018, but it was impossible with Mom here. I start back up TODAY. #amwriting