Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Internal Monologue of My Tranquil Journey to Finding a Writing Routine

I used to teach Internal Monologue to my students.  It is a type of stream of consciousness writing that displays what is going on in the writer’s head while going through a daily routine.  There are several literary examples that I would show them such as Alice Walker’s, “Everyday Use” or Tillie Olsen’s “While I Stand Here Ironing.”  As I am in the beginning of a Writing Class to discover my own writing routine, I have below my reflection of this week’s  assignment.

        Woke up at 4 a.m. with terrific headache. Decided to work through it and maybe get in some uninterrupted writing time. I’m supposed to create a ritual this week. Not my forte. I am far from being a creature of habit on anything but leaving my shoes in the middle of the living room. So that’s the plan…
I had better take my BP . For the past 2 weeks, I have been going through this silent rebellion (more like cutting your nose off to spite your face) to get off my meds and continue my eating and exercise routine to handle it. Well, it was a whopping 190/102. Okay, enough of that. Pop the dang pill. While you’re at it, take a couple of  ibuprofen for the headache, backache, joint ache that accompanies every morning rise. Oh and the eye focus routine has to take about 30-45 minutes.  Make a cup of coffee and just meditate - one of the ritual suggestions (i.e. Veg Out) for a bit to get all the drugs to do their thing. It’s now 5 pm. Still too early to take in the sunrise – another ritual idea. Get on computer go to buddy pages of my writing class. Decided to see my buddy’s blog to get to know her since I haven’t heard from her in like 3 days. So I’ll write her another email.
        Wonder what’s at the class site to help me take in ideas for my ritual. The assignment is to write about childhood memories and food. Making lists. Okay let’s see  one… Lemon halves dipped in sugar bowl, two…chocolate milk and vanilla ice cream.. Hmm, What else is on the site comments…
         Another student has posted that she uses  a bouncy exercise ball as a chair at her computer. Bouncy ball. I’ve got one of those. Bouncing to the Beethoven’s music - yet another ritual idea. Probably quite a site when daughter walks in to ask what I was doing.
        Oh gosh this is trash day. Got to gather all the trash up and get it outside.  Last night Sam had raked our leaves for us and I was supposed to get them in bags last night. Well, I’m not going to do that now! It’s still pitch dark.  When does the sun rise these days anyway? Dragging the big trash canister to the curb is enough for now.
        Sister calls. We both have to have our daily jabber session. This will last almost an hour. Then we make excuses to get back to the laundry. Better make it look good, so pick up all the weekend cast-off clothes littering my bedroom floor, and put on a load of laundry.
        Back to the computer…Bouncy bouncy. Set up visual imagery meditation tape. Is it 9:00 already?!!
Oh, I’ll light a fragrant candle.  Can’t find lighter or matches. Well skip that.  Make a cup of tea... burned my tongue. Get back to the Meditation. It really worked last week. But it’s too soft to hear. I resort to hanging my neckloop over my ears so I can hear it. Only those who know about hearing aids and neckloops would appreciate this, but I will the rest of you to imagine this ridiculous sight of a 60 year old woman, still in her morning velour pants and plaid shirt, silently yet merrily bouncing on an exercise ball with wires hanging over her ears, in front of her laptop ..
           Headed back up to the other list on childhood memories and food. Oh scratch that. I’ll have to write that another time.
        Bouncy bouncy
        Tea is cold now.
        Looking out window at beautiful fall  trees. Wind robustly blowing .  Oh no, those 5 carefully raked piles of leaves that Sam created for me!! Well, no need getting them in bags now.
It is now 11 a.m. and I have successfully completed my goal of 600 words and hopefully a bit of entertainment for my dear bloggees . 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rosannah's Dogwood

Before Rosannah Counts Rutledge was 25 she had given birth to six children and would have three more after that. By the time she was 40 she was a widow with five of her nine children still at home. When she dies of malaria five years later in 1879, her youngest, eleven-year-old  Jack, my grandfather, will be raised by his older sisters a few miles away in Lincoln County, Smithland, Tennesse .   I can only imagine what this woman, pregnant with my grandfather had to endure reflecting on her circumstances in 1867 as she stood by a dogwood tree.

      Even as a sapling, the Cornus Florida L will flower and bear fruit.  As the legend goes the once tall, straight dogwood was once used as timber. But when the lumber was used to make the fateful crucifix, The Lord Almighty promised that it would never again grow large enough to serve that purpose.  As a symbol of that promise, in the springtime the Flowering Dogwood bracts individually bear the shaped image of the cross and nails of Calvary.  The full crown of whitened plumage provides a delicate respite of color among the forest evergreens. A small trail of like foliage is in the forest path but this one seems to have ventured farther toward the river.  Full grown it will stand fifteen feet tall and bow its head over the river. How this one dogwood was able to grow by the water’s edge could be left to divine providence.
       It sways in the breeze to the rhythm of the flowing waters of the Elk River.  By fall the flowers will be gone and replaced by the purple magenta fruit and leaves. Although its fruit is poisonous to humans, it is a sustaining force for wildlife. The downy woodpecker will thrive on its berries, and the trunk will hold a hidden nest.  As it grows, the rough, but thin bark becomes a healing elixir to break a fever when she boils it into a tea. Little does she know that the tiny holes made by the waspy borer is evidence of the insect’s urge to procreate, and at the same time condemns this tree to an early demise.
       It’s summer 1867. The house is on the other side of the river and the dogwood can’t be seen from the yard. Every day on the way to the Old Salem’s Emporium to sell her eggs, she has to follow the forest path toward the bridge to take in the sight.  The sounds of the surrounding forest invade her ears as a simple high pitched buzzing.  The summer flow could have been mild and pleasant if she did not carry such a heavy burden of thought.  The birds overhead in the pine trees sing warning songs to each other as she walks under their protected nests.  Crossing the bridge, she would glance longingly at the broken dogwood tree hanging over the river bank.  It was a comforting piece of agony that she held onto.  There was talk that the men would eventually cut down the dangerous eyesore, but she silently hoped that they would just let it be.  Why keep the reminder there?  She really couldn't explain it; she just wanted to keep seeing it.
      On this particular day, Rosannah stops at the bank of the Elk River, feeling the soreness of her back intensify as she stands longer. Why did she stop here? Was it just a year ago her world shattered?  No, it’s even been longer, but why come here now? Is it going to relieve her sorrow to see the empty space where that little one last stood?
      What a horrible year it has been. She thought she had seen her share of death. Her mother gone before she was 15. Two brothers destroyed by this horrible war that won’t seem to end. Those lost loved ones could be explained as the natural order of things, but Annis? Just a stupid accident. What had she done wrong?
      The river isn't even blue, but a murky muddy red instead. It's not as fast as it was that dreadful day, but its power is still there.  Evil power? Fateful power?  Or just a sad accident? No rhyme or reason, it just happened. It would have been so easy, so comforting to just give up and fall in.  But she has many other children to care for.  When has she had time to grieve by herself?  Annis was a bright child, but even at the age of 5 seemed so prone to a moody darkness like her father, Nelson.
       Nelson seemed to just plod on after the accident. Rose knew however that he was really frozen by the loss of his daughter, and was able to just keep his anger penned inside.  While she outwardly cried in every private moment she could chisel out of the day, it at least helped her release the pain of not knowing what the last moments of her little girl’s life had been...
       The thunder didn’t frighten Annis. She was used to walking in the soft summer rains, and in fact, loved the gentle little taps on her face and hands.  Her wet dress however was becoming heavier, and she knew she should leave her magic forest and get home. She would have to leave her mudpies decorated with the red fruits for the downy woodpeckers nesting above.  The thunder was more vibration than sound. She could feel the wet slippery ground quiver with each thunderous invasion, but to her ears it was little more than a soft thumping sound.
      Her mother’s voice calling had no chance of reaching her ears in the sudden summer deluge that surrounded her.  She continued to head for the river bank.  The lightening was something different. The bright strikes blinded her momentarily, losing her footing, she slipped in the red mud. She grabbed a lower limb of the dogwood tree, crying out for John or George, but they had long ago left her to her imaginary castle before the clouds even gathered. “Mommy! Mommy!! Help!”
      As it had aged over the years, the trunk of the dogwood had grown thicker, but the holes in the bark showed how the ravaging borers had killed it from the inside out. It was only a shell of its former self.  Still standing tall but weaker each day, she could not recognize it as the death trap it had become. It could not even carry her tiny weight, and the trunk cracks. Little Annis Rutledge falls onto the muddy bank’s edge.
      Her little fingers were holding tight to a root, and she pulled with all her might to try to stand up.  The mud just gave way to the advancing rain and became a small rivulet that pulled at her soaked smocked pinafore as it created its new path to the river.  Little hands are not meant to grip for long and in only a moment Annis was swept into the rising river and it carried her away. Water seared her lungs as it rushed into her mouth and down her throat. A huge water-soaked log rushed by her too fast to grab, and her head hit one of its outstretched limbs.  The cold comfort of darkness shrouded her mind and her body, and the fear and struggle was over.
      The familiar quickening in Rosannah’s abdomen shoved her mind back to the present. So many babies. Will it be different this time? Fevers, wars, accidents. It really doesn’t stop. But she won’t stop either. Life is for the living, and she resolves to press on. What little faith she has, she will hang on to it never really letting anyone know the dark hole in her heart. What purpose would it serve to have them turn on her if they knew she couldn’t believe in God’s grace anymore? Her God IS, but he doesn’t control her every move or thought, or anyone else’s in this world. She glances at the fallen dogwood.  The jagged trunk is wet. It weeps. Yes, God IS. HE too weeps with her.
     The men eventually come to the edge of the river to release the carcass of the tree leaving a nine inch stump. They may not understand that the natural capillaries in the bark will draw the sap and water through the roots and up the existing trunk even though it is no longer alive. Because the roots touch the bank of the river, the bark channels the water up the exiting trunk, and the stump still weeps.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Happy Birthday!

     Today is my mom's birthday. She would have been 91 years old. Sadly she didn't even make it to her 53rd year.  I didn't get to find the pleasure of her becoming an old person. I know that may sound strange to most who are caring for an elderly parent, and I do hope I am not stepping on anyone's feelings here.  There are so many of you out there suffering through the living loss of a parent. But for the most part you did have 30 more years with them that I never had.  I have precious friends and a husband who are dealing with this kind of loss right now, and I offer little comfort because of my lack of experience.  It's just a different perspective.  I missed out on the frail bones and the failing memory. I didn't get to observe her hair growing whiter over the years. She couldn't be at my side when  we lost our first born son at age 23, or when I miscarried. She didn't get to experience the absolute joy of seeing her first grandchild, or watch all 6 of them grow into beautiful adults.  With Dad following only 7 years later, the image of older parents just is not part of my make-up.
     I sometimes wonder what Mom would have been like as she grew older. Her faith, her everlasting, unconditional love for her husband and children, her exquisite artistic talent. How would they have played out over the years?  And her face, the sparkling eyes and alabaster skin free of a single wrinkle. Would those have faded over the years? I really doubt it.
     How would she have acted when it came to my trials and tribulations throughout my own marriage? I've said many times that if she had lived, I probably would have been divorced.  It would have been too easy to run back into her loving arms at the slightest argument with my new husband.  Or as a grandmother, how would she have judged me as I struggled with the kids' terrible 2's that are seeming to last until 32!
     I've been able to squeeze so many memories out of the 23 years we had together. I've savored every recall of mine as well as from my siblings.  They remember  things that I don't and vice versa.  I have to make that a good thing!  What treasures others must have with having parents on earth for 60, 70 or 80 years!!
     Now that I am embarking on a new venture as a grandparent, what lessons will I be able to fall back on?  I thought she was the perfect mother. She was gone before I realized she even had imperfections.  Through my own experiences as a mom, I know now she could not have been perfect.  But the love my children show me reflects my love of her, so maybe in my short 23 years with her, something did rub off on me.
     Parents can sometimes be the best teachers --- not the ones who lecture or show you how everything is done right, but the ones who stand back and let you discover on your own; learning to accept and acknowledge your own successes and failures equally. As a parent, Mom didn't have that choice...to stand back, but for me it's the biggest lesson right now. As I watch my own children  who are learning to become adults and parents themselves, I HAVE TO stand back and let them struggle through it. I must have the faith in them that they will, too, get through this life with as much love and appreciation for their family and those around the as possible.
     Thanks, Mom, for all you have taught me. I'll try to live up to all your lessons.
And Happy Birthday, Mavis Gertrude Pendley Rutledge!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thinking Time

Wow! I have really been gone a long time!  I have been finishing a basement, but it would be better to say that I have been my husband's go-fer while he finished the basement. Then I started a writing class to see if I could make a better routine of my writing. What kind of sense does it make to say that I haven't been blogging because I have been writing !?!? Enough excuses....

Here is an interesting thought...Under what circumstances do you do your best thinking?
         I have seen so many changes over the years in my thinking process.  Years of traveling for 20 plus minutes to and from school, I know that was my best time to think. Still, my best thinking really does happen when I’ m in the car, alone, no radio or music and the thoughts begin to flow. I have created excellent lesson plans, stories, and arguments in the car. Driving home it gives me a “down-time” to re-group, plan the rest of the evening, what to fix for dinner, what pattern or quilt problem can be resolved,
        After retiring, and having all this time on my hands, I find that I cannot think creatively, logically or any -ly. I couldn’t figure it out. I do not have that kind of driving time any more, and it is becoming more difficult to think clearly - age?  Maybe in part, but I don’t think I have the other distraction time anymore - least ways, not one I create. Now the TV is always on and the up and down to and from TV to computer keeps me from thinking much at all. Too much input and never enough output. It even seems to affect my speech.
       I recently took a long drive home to see the changing leaves before they were all gone. I thought the drive would be me some good thinking time. It worked before, so why not now? As it turned out, I found myself just taking in the scenery.  Maybe that's all I needed.
       I also thought that I could discover good thinking time while I painted the stairwell and the stairs to the basement.  It was such an unpleasant chore (never liked painting...too much prep) that all I could chisel out of my brain was "Where did I put the ibuprofen and should I schedule a massage?"
        Trying to pick up on  writing my roots (genealogical creative non-fiction) has pretty much stalled in my head. I want to create a writing routine, but it just isn't happening. Then again, maybe its time to "do" and let the "thinking' just be.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Story of Rutledge Red

     Several years ago in the frenzy of getting Christmas presents planned, I knew I would not be able to do all I wanted. The thought came to me that I would send out a request page of what kind of Quilt I could make for my brother and his wife. I knew that would buy me some time. By March they sent me their specifications – all that really stuck out from the page wasn’t the size (queen) or the type (traditional) but one little word – RED. I practically had red as non-existent in my stash. Not that I didn’t like it, I loved red, but I had never worked with it. Why? Fear of bleeding? Too Red Raider-ish? Too valentiney?
     Nonetheless I began my red quest frenzy every time I came near a fabric store or went on a shop hop. By the end of April I had so many reds, blacks and pinks and every thing in between that I was ready to find the right pattern. First I had a great “scrappy” pattern and began slashing and slicing all the pieces. I followed the next step a quilter usually does and threw them up on a design board. “Threw up” is not to be taken lightly --- scrappy became crappy. My fears were realized; it looked like a chewed up and spit out Valentiney Red Raider horse blanket. I abandoned the whole thing – in despair.
      Now what? I lamented my dismay to my dear quilting friends, Maureen and Beth, as we were walking into a favorite store. I pulled out my recent magazine on the subject and began flipping through the pages. I said if I really wanted to do one right for them it should look like—this--- pointing to a pattern featured in the magazine. “So let’s look at likely fabrics”, Maureen said. Thirty minutes later we were walking out the door with all the fabric for THE ONE. I was ready to “get’er done.”
     Little did I realize that the 20 blocks had over 60 pieces in each of them, and I was also going to be tackling a never attempted skill of appliqué. This might take a little more than the couple of months I had planned. I didn’t even want to think about the quilting itself, so I proceeded to piece, and piece, and piece all summer long.

     Finally in August the top was done! I called on a few friends and we “sandwiched” the top, batting and backing together in record time. Maureen offered to teach me how to use her big long-arm quilting machine. Pushing my new fears aside, I said okay. For about 3 weeks I would go over to her house after school and quilt. I soon stopped my “white-knuckle” driving and began to really see this beauty emerging. In spite of all the imperfections, I was proud to pull it off the machine and hurry home to bind it. That gave me the slow down time to think about the label, and what I would name it. 
     As I formed the pieces for the label Rutledge Red came to mind. That had to be it. Knowing how much Tricia loves red, and how much Tom loves Tricia, the two came together. The two words joined a perfect union, just like Tom and Tricia do.
     I began quilting as a selfish act as a way to work through my own grief and healing, but it has now become such a piece of myself, that I want to share it with all whom I love. But, I also hate to “push my homemade-y” stuff on people. Hopefully this quilt created in love will be used in the same spirit it was given.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Children of Summer

It's October and my heart and mind is still focused on summer.

Ray Bradbury's style in Dandelion Wine inspired me to try his way with words. His beginning line to describe the great-grandmother character was that  "she had stuffed chickens, squabs, turkeys, men and boys." I loved that play with words. Here is my attempt.  I would love to hear how you would emulate his style.

In the heat of the summertime children will
paint sidewalk pictures,
make brownies, trouble, and
   obstacle courses for their two-wheeled, stream-lined racers; 
create "crafty" magnets, sibling battles, and 
    reasons not to clean their room; 
build new Lego cars, fortresses of blanket and pillow, and friendships; 
chase rabbits, dreams, or imaginary monsters; 
giggle through the slumber party nights; and 
 "That's not fair!"
 "Are we almost there?" and
 "Mom, I'm bored! There's nothing to do!"