September 5, 2014
September 4, 2014
I loved to doodle in high school. I hated high school, too. Soooo much. My art teacher loved my doodles. I loved spirals, and I could draw them forever. It was meditative. And being in a meditative state, or a really stoned one, was the only way I could deal with the rednecks and pushy jocks. And I was just so bored. I can't remember most of what I supposedly learned. Oh, wait.... "BRITTANIA EST INSULA"!!!! What was that Latin teacher's name? Mrs. Livingstone? She was huge, and somehow, misshapen. And old, very old. She walked with a limp, she might have had a cane. But she drew pictures on the chalkboard as she told us stories in Latin. It was great. But I do remember "Brittania est insula." I had a really awesome 11th grade creative writing teacher. I can't remember her name but we had some really nice talks. But the rest of high school sucked. I just hated sitting still in a chair all day when there was life going on outside the classroom. I frequently skipped school. I'd just stay home, and maybe bake some bread or something.
Anyway, I found something I must have done in high school. I miss doodling. Think I'll pick it back up again.
August 31, 2014
"Coal is key" during the first debate between Senate candidates. Then in the very next linked article, we find out that a poll shows that coal is not West Virginian voters' top priority.
So who's feeding who here? The coal mining industry is insisting that it is important to West Virginians, and spending the money to convince politicians that they are.
We all know what's going on.
But here's the flip side, WV Progressives and Liberals. Picture this. You're one of 15,000 coal miners in West Virginia. You're this guy. Your daddy was a coal miner. His daddy was a coal miner. Ever since they came to America, dad's been a coal miner. You've put food on the table, bought a nice little house, have a nice little family. You quietly know that mining and coal is bad for the environment, as well as your own health, and you know you should care. But it's hard to think about all that happening so slowly, while your family is growing up so quickly.
August 8, 2014
|me and the sisters: pond mermaids|
Then there is This cabin. The one where I returned to live full time in June 1977 with my husband Jay and 3 month old Phoebe. So many long walks in those woods with Doodah the bloodhound and sometimes Porker the pig, Phoebe slung snugly against me. There were no paths; we would
|phoebe on moving day|
Soon after we moved out of the cabin, my dad sold the cabin to the people who owned the neighboring cabins.
I wanted so much to find it but I couldn't remember how to get there. I stared at the Penn Run area on mapquest for a long time before I drove out there yesterday; one of those remarkable breezy, perfectly sunny August mornings. I realized there weren't that many roads around Penn Run, and if I just drove around a bit, something would feel familiar. I did remember some things: a stretch of road with pine trees growing at perfectly spaced intervals. I remember thinking as I drove past it so many times, that, with the sunlight just right, an epileptic would probably have a seizure because of the strobe effect of the resulting pattern of sunlight and shadow. And I remembered there was an unmarked intersection. Arriving in Penn Run, I first drove nearly all the way to Clymer before realizing no, this wasn't right, and turned around. After a few more rather aimless tries, something started clicking. I thought I found the trees, and wasn't sure until, yep, there was the intersection. As I drove on, it looked different enough to make me doubt myself again: the road seemed more narrow, because all the trees are so much bigger. There are a few new homes there, I think mostly weekenders. Then I remembered to also look for fishing creeks, and all of a sudden it was all in front of me: that beautiful little creek, and my lane. "Cool Waters: established 1966" The sign is still there. I had forgotten about that until I saw it today. I drove up the lane very slowly, wanting it to unroll so my mind could absorb as many details as possible. There's a new home on the right, close to the road. They might live there full-time; there were cars parked. The A-frame is still there where a nice older man used to stay. I visited with him a few times and talked about wildflowers and what wild animal had been heard the night before; I think he felt sorry for me because I was often alone out there. Anyway, the other cabins are still there too... And then there it was. I actually saw the pond first, because it was so sparkling.
When I got out of the car I ran right over to the pond.... I was feeling so many emotions that I practically felt dizzy. For some reason, Loss was the big one. Loss of what? Being that young girl swimming lazily in the pond? The teenager who brought her first boyfriend out here? Or the young mama with her baby or, realizing that the man you shared it with is no longer on the Earth, although you were lost from each other long before that? I don't know, but it was there. At the same time, I felt happy, too, seeing that the land was well taken care of. I walked up the muddy lane to the stream, remembering how, in the spring, hundreds of little peepers emerge all at once, crossing the lane into the woods. I got a rock from the stream to take home with me.
|that is not a snake! it's a hose fyi|
I decided to leave a note saying "Hey, I used to live here, and thanks for taking care of this place " on the door. And got back in my car and drove back down that lane, slowly.
August 5, 2014
"Work harder. Millions on welfare are depending on you."
That's what I saw on my way to work today. Yes, I am planning on working hard today. But am I begrudging of those who might be eating tonight because my tax dollars are funding a food stamp program?NO
When I was 20, I became pregnant. This was 1976, during one of the worst recessions Western Pennsylvania had ever seen. My husband (now ex), a Vietnam Veteran, had a job but fell off a ladder and hurt his back. His less-than-scrupulous employer didn't offer workers compensation or even unemployment: he must have been paying under the table. There were very few jobs available, but he finally found one working at a mental health day care facility, but it paid barely enough. I found out that we were probably eligible for Medicaid and food stamps, so we applied. We were also eligible for a small monthly stipend. It was a relief to be able to take my baby to regular medical checkups, get her immunizations on time, and have good food to eat. We were very poor, but had enough to scrape by until I could go back to work or my husband got a better job.
As relieved as I was, I was also embarassed to be in this situation. I was raised in an upper-middle class home; my mother was a school teacher and my dad was a university professor. Growing up, I wanted for very little. I am an intelligent person. I didn't like the way cashiers looked at me when I used our food stamps, and I felt like the people in the doctor's office were judging me. I told my mother how I felt. She said this to me: "Honey, I've been paying taxes almost all my life. It's about time that I see that money helping something I believe in."
Through the next couple of years, things did get financially a lot better for us. My ex-husband went to computer school under the veterans bill and got a good job in DC as a computer programmer, and I learned all I could about the emerging PC industry and got a good job on Capitol Hill. We eventually broke up, but it wasn't over money. When I thought back to my other, past life, I felt little of the shame I had before: now I felt incredibly grateful that the help had been there for us and we had used it to make ourselves better.
I am not naive. I know, especially in my current job as a family practice office manager, that there are some people who would rather sit around on their butts all day and do nothing, just collect their unemployment, or disability, or welfare or live off their parents. But I truly believe those people are in the minority. Disability and welfare pay very little. I would think a person who was content living on that tiny income would have to be truly needy. Then there are those square pegs that will never ever fit into the neat round holes of society. Are they bad people? Are they stupid or lazy? Most of the time, no, they are not. They're just different. Maybe for whatever reason, they can't hold a regular job. Perhaps they suffer from agoraphobia, or they're mildly schizophrenic. Who am I, or anyone else, to judge? There are truly people who will never make it our current framework, for whatever reason. Should they die of hunger, or illness? The fact that you are born into a world that you can't manage shouldn't be a death sentence. Yes, there should be intensive work programs to get people back to work. But for those still in the midst of getting that help, or who still can't earn a living, there should be at least a minimal support system, paid for by the taxpayers. It makes us all better people. Do we really want to live in a place where it's each person for themselves? I for one am glad that we do not.
August 3, 2014
July 8, 2014
Lindsay Ryder Myers introduced me to the Moody Blues when I was at the George School. She's probably responsible for my nocturnal habits. Lindsay and I would stay up all night. Sometimes we'd sneak out of our dorm and hike over to the railroad tracks. We'd smoke stale cigarettes, talking about love and life. She was poetic and bohemian, and she was adventurous. Besides the midnight forays, we'd often take the train into Philly to Reading Market and get some old bum to buy us a bottle of Boones Farm wine. Then we'd sit on a curb, and drink the wine with our bread and cheese. She seemed to have no fear. I wonder what ever happened to her. I wish I could thank her for all those wild times.
Later on, when I came back home for school, I used to stay up all night long working on art projects, listening to my favorite LPs. The next day I'd get up and drag my ass to school. God, I hated school. Not only was it boring, but most of the kids were mean. I was regularly shoved into lockers and subjected to verbal abuse by the jocks, which far outnumbered us "freaks" as we were called. "HEY BERNAT, WHY DON'T YOU EVER WEAR A BRA?" I guess I asked for some of it.... then go into a classroom and listen to a teacher drone on and on about something I really did not care about. I'd daydream, imagining the finishing touches I'd put on the woven rug I was making, or the cool macrame swing I was working on. I'd doodle song lyrics on my notebooks -- "breathe deep the gathering gloom.... " "excuse me while I kiss the sky...." I just wanted to be back in my room with the darkness all around me. I can remember staring out my window into the street below for hours, smelling the rain, or listening to the crickets. Sometimes I'd be in a state of... altered consciousness ... an escape from boredom, surely, and the moments would stretch into eternity. Feeling like time stood still sometimes. I'd try to do magic. My favorite magical fantasy was that I could put myself into other people's dreams and make them really scary if I didn't like them, or really wonderful if I did. I'd still like to do that, actually. Or I'd try to send messages to someone I loved by focusing on a thought for them. Things like that seemed possible. I guess they still do, I just don't do them as much anymore.
I sit out in the dark most nights, trying to retrieve that rare creative, pensive energy I had as a teenager, when music could fill me like a bottomless well with emotion.. I stare at the trees, the black lace against a black sky, wondering if I'm just too jaded for that to happen again. Is it just that when you're young, you have nothing to measure your experience on, and now, it's always being compared to something else that happened? The fireflies blink, the heat lightning pulses, but it's been doing that for years, hasn't it?