Follow me down the rabbithole

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Memento Mori/Vitae...and laundry and other bits and mathoms


If you are disturbed by disturbing images, you better do something else for the next few minutes.  My fascination with the dark side is emerging.  I have looked into the abyss.  It left scars.  This helps soothe them, much like pouring water on an oil fire will spread the fire.  In this case, however, it is affirmation that humans have always looked into the abyss...and survived.  Spreading that pain over larger pools of sufferers does lessen it somehow.  OR in far less wordy terms...misery loves company.

First normal day since the trip started.  Pain at relatively good levels, still that circulation issue in the toes.  As soon as I can get out on Monday, I will have to call the foot doc.  *Pokes phone bills*

Got all the laundry out of the bags, along with all the memento vitae from the trip.  Ah., memento vitae.  Well, those loony Victorian English people (and Gawds knows I LOVE me some Victorian English stuff, so loony is quite affectionately said) went about creating memento mori (those delightful portraits made from dead people's hair, or those pieces of jewelry that incorporated skulls and other body parts...not to mention those post mortem posed formal portraits that are absolutely deliciously chilling in their stark beauty.  Allow me to demonstrate.

This beautiful brooch is made from human hair.  According to this excellent websitethis might have been made from the deceased one's hair.  Imagine the work involved!

Rather a goth look to these very old pieces...sorry, kids.  Ain't nuttin' new under the sun, really.

But these photos?  See for yourself.


Far be it from me to attempt to assess the grief relief that these practices brought to the families.  But posing dead and living children together would require a home atmosphere that would be alien to many of us, who are programmed to accept death as an institutionalized, depersonalized process - calls are made, bodies moved about, services scheduled, and all at a remove from the home in which the deceased actually lived.  Children are taken somewhere formal to view dead relatives, an act which automatically increases the separation and distance.  Good?  Bad?  Hardly MY call.  But I can't help but think that these same Victorians, whose death practices are so different that I felt compelled to post a trigger warning at the beginning of this piece, would view our mechanical, papershuffling, by the numbers death process to be just as horrifying.  Different strokes.

So, all this in explanation of my new motto - MEMENTO VITAE.

If memento mori means remember death - then memento vitae is remember life.  And that is what I intend to do - each and every one of my remaining HUGE BACKSTOCK OF DAYS!!!

So, I bid you, Memento Vitae.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Holy Shite...Literally

There comes a time in every writer's life when the sheer volume of words inside one's head aren't enough to express the way one is feeling.  But, being writers, we are obsessed with trying to find those words anyway.  This is one of those times.

I am comfortable back in my nest, surrounded by all the well loved familiar things that keep me going.  My computer!  A real keyboard with enough room between the letters so that I actually spend more time typing good words, than muttering as I back space through typos.  Whoever designed smart phone keyboards has never seen the marshmallows that pass for my fingertips.  I can mash 5 letters with a single misplaced poke.

My kitties!  Mikey and Spooky...who apparently went walkabout on their own during a hellacious thunderboomer.  Never been outside the house, and venture out during a wild storm, typical kittie behavior.  Thanks so much to Marina, who squirmed under the back porch to drag the Spookster out by the scruff of his neck.  I haven't yet made up the quantity of snacks that I missed giving them they haven't fully forgiven me for disappearing on them.  But they will.  I have lots of snacks.

I feel good.  REALLY good.  Physically, anyway.  I woke this morning with toe pains...just lack of circulation overnight.  As soon as I started walking around, it subsided.  GREAT rejoicing!  I will need to see the foot doc as the left toenail site is starting to look really weird.  It is almost a month since they cut off that toenail - and boy howdy, wasn't THAT fun, scampering all over America's biggest cities, dragging 2 suitcases with BOTH feet bandaged up and those vulnerable toes hanging free to be run over by every wheeled bag within 5 feet!  Both feet?  Ah well, about that...

Readers of this blog might recall that I banged up my left great toenail on the driveway gate...a stupid move that required immediate attention...anyway...

On the morning of my mother's funeral, I was on my way down to the lobby when I tripped over a dust kittie in the hotel hallway.  Managed to hit the floor JUST right with the edge of the sandal.,.and ripped that left toenail straight up.  90 degrees from the nailbed.  Looked just like a Zippo lighter.

Back to the room, unpack the wound care kit, wrap up this NEW issue, then off to the service.  Just another medical day.

I made no secret of my medical condition, or of the cannabis that I am using to cure it.  Train passengers are a captive audience, and I did not waste the opportunity to educate my fellow travellers.  I argued cannabis reform though most of America's Heartland, the Great Northeast, the Deep South, and finally was able to give it a rest westbound once I cleared that last state border out of Utah.  Nevada, California and, of course, Oregon don't need as much homegrown advocacy these days, and it was relaxing to sit back and know that the work was well underway in this stretch, anyway.

I would REALLY like to hear from anyone that met me on that trip.  I will post pics, itinaries, etc.  If you saw me, talked to me, interacted with me, please communicate with me.  I would like to send you a quick and dirty questionnaire about traveling with a cannabis patient...just your impressions.  On some trains, I was bold and brash about cannabis advocacy, on others, I kept my head down and listened.  It was a social experiment on my part...and now I want to gather the data.

Did you see me?  Here I am in Washington DC, keeping a dragonlady eye on our lawmakers.  We are watching you, Big Brother!!!

(And just because I have my back to the Supreme Court Building, don't assume that I can't see what you are doing back there...I am a mom AND a high school teacher.  The eyes in the back of my head work very well, indeed!)

I am closing this entry to get it more item off the to-do list for the day - just leaving you with another link...I finally got someone ELSE to publish me - see Thought Catalog here >>>

Love to all that read this far, and to those that didn't.  Make today the best day yet.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Be careful what you wish for

I have alluded to the idea that this blog serves a therapeutic function for me.  Screw allusion - flat fact statement.  Writing puts things in an order which then is reviewable.  Catching stray thoughts at the best of times is fireflies at treetop level stuff...effervescent, ephemeral, fascinating, but impossible to corral and number and correlate and cogitate.  Writing creates a real about the words.  And the words I need to type next are some of the most real I have ever had to type.

Be careful what you wish for.  Just yesterday afternoon, I was feeling very energetic, positive and excited to tell a friend that I was challenging the universe to 'bring it' this summer - pile up the whole mountain of shit at once, let me get over the top, then leave me alone for the rest of my life.  No nickle and diming me over the next 30 years with one thing after another -  let's get all the shit out of the way once and for all.

The universe answered.

My mother passed away Tuesday morning.  I found out tonight, thanks to a resourceful niece who managed to make enough contact for me to know I needed to call my sister.

Mom died as she lived.  On her terms, in her way, at her convenience.  Betsy, my sister, told me that Mom had been gradually diminishing, developing serious medical issues that should have been fatal by 2012.  Mom was driving herself to dialysis after that deadline.  That's our mom.

She had moved into assisted living when she decided she was no longer able to remain alone.  Betsy and the rest of the family accommodated that, as well as everything that could have been done to ensure that Mom was as well off as her health permitted.  Over and over Betsy told me how much all of Mom's caregivers expressed their love and caring for her.  Mom had that effect on people.  She stuck with you.  She would probably be surprised to hear me confess that I ever actually listened to her - but then again - nah.  She knew.

I am going back.  Bridges to build, if possible, or at least, things said that need to be said.  Whatever the outcome, it's time.  Much to do to get a trip together in a day - but that can be done.  I am sure that there will be lots of Mom stuff showing up here now, along with trip I a Horrid person that the idea of a cross country train trip...despite the reason...has a certain appeal?  Lots of time to read, think, heal, and see things that I will probably never see again.  Silver linings.  Selfish ones, but, forward is a direction that requires impetus to whatever motivates one to accomplish what needs to be done, selfish as it might be, is, in the end, justifiable.  Rather Machiavellian, Mel.  But none the less accurate for all of that.  If I cannot be forgiven in trying to seek a little mental relief and pleasure in a trip with such a sad purpose, then may you find your joy where you best can.  I love trains, always have, and have had a cross country train trip on my bucket list since the time I took the train alone up to see my family graduate from Penn State.  That was a wild weekend.

The train tracks paralleled the Susquehanna River through the Harrisburg area.  It is a beautiful trip, with the mountains and rivers, the forests...and Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant smack dab in the middle of the river.  As you approach, you can see those iconic towers off to the left, long before you actually draw even with them.  On the night I was traveling this way, Three Mile Island had been making headlines for a little over a year - near miss meltdown kind of headlines.  Like Fukushima, the news cycle had long passed, but anniversaries, or new studies, would bring Three Mile Island back to the top of the hour every so often.  Aware of this, and armed with my 35 mm SLR, I was poised for shots of the towers.  My underthinking was, as usual, simple.  If the pictures come back fogged, I have been exposed to beaucoup radiation.  If they come back clear - so am I.  One outcome or the other.  Just the way I like things.

I began shooting as soon as a tower cleared the treetops.  The train was not moving terribly fast, and I saw that I would have plenty of time to set up sampling shots.  I wasn't in this for the art, after all.  Just a DIY dosimeter.  I took about one shot every minute and a half, leisurely shooting, waiting for the moment that we were directly opposite the towers.

The train stopped.  Dead.  No clickety-clack, no hymie mynoosh, no nada.  Directly across from a nuclear accident bad place.  And we are sitting there like...well...I have NEVER been able to look into a rotisserie chicken cooker since.  I kept shooting, since there wasn't fuck else I could do, now was there?  I am trapped in this can, on these tracks, across from that.  And no cell phones, no internet, no gameboys, no radios, nothing what so bloody ever to distract oneself from the view...except the imagination.  DANGER WILL ROBINSON!!!

I had some serious anxiety blinkings by the time the train started back up.  Memory (always an unreliable narrator, as I have too oft mentioned) says the stop was 10 minutes.  Memory ALSO remembers those 10 minutes lasting at least 82.  Like the last 2 minutes in football.  Run the tape of JUST the actual plays - yeah - 2 minutes elapse.  But if you need to pee, and the score is close - those 2 minutes can last a lifetime!

The train picked up speed, somehow I learned that there had been a log across the tracks, and we needed to stop while it was removed.  Anxiety wondered WHY a log was across the tracks JUST THERE...overactive imagination ran with that ball for a while, and the wait to get those pictures developed  (OLD SCHOOL DAYS... Take the metal canister to the drugstore.  Fill out the envelope with all the pertinents.  Seal the canister in the envelope, peeling that nasty gummy sealant off your fingers as you drop it into the available slot...and wait a week.  Drive back to that drug store, wait at the photo pick up counter while some kid lackadaisically flips through a veritable mountain of identical envelopes...and all the while you are remembering every radiation PSA you sat through...GAH.)

The pics were fine.  Solid, clear focus, not over artistic, snapshots rather than photographs.

But on to the train station at Huntingdon, where my parents picked me up and informed me that our family dog Pepe had been struck by a car and killed while staying our at my grandparents house.  One of the few times I saw tears in my father's eyes.  He and his buddy.  As I said, a wild weekend - which featured the graduations, with parties, ceremonies, speeches...great Gawds...speeches.  There was a military celebration for my brother in law - impressive, with speeches...the actual graduation...with speeches... and all this undeveloped film can ticking away inside the same camera I am using to shoot graduation photos - which were some of the coolest that camera ever produced, IMHO.

Anyway - that train ride, and many, many others... each year to New York City at Christmas, around the Horseshoe Curve, the East Broad Top (now closed - too sad to link to that final page) ...somehow it is entirely fitting that I travel to my mother's service - 'twas her side of the family who were the railroaders, and from who I derive my passion for them - via train.

Much love to those that read this far, and to those that do not.