Let us Now Celebrate: a Poem for Labor Day

Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

I wrote this poem a while back, and I wasn’t necessarily thinking of Labor Day. But this weekend seems like an appropriate time to share.

Let Us Now Celebrate

Let us now celebrate those missed 
In the recording of history
The nameless and unremembered
The one who walked in the rain
To a factory job that paid for shelter 
From the rain for their family
The one who brought joy to the immediate crowd
With jokes and laughter, but did it while
Shucking corn, and not near a microphone
Those fallen to disease or war before
They were old enough to fight
The songwriter who composed melodies
To sing the children to sleep
The one who could have gone far in life
If not for so much close at hand
To get done first
The washers of dishes and clothes
Cleaners of floors and furniture
Whose work came undone as soon as done
Leaving nothing to sign a name to

~~

Neighborhood Walks Through the Looking Glass

Vacant lot with orange mesh fencing
There used to be a fairy tale looking stone cottage here.

As a frequent and avid walker who has lived in the same spot for nineteen years, I possess a deep familiarity with the landscape and character of my neighborhood. There are constant changes, of course, as seasons and residents move on to be replaced by others. But some alterations are more jarring than others. A couple of differences in the past few weeks have given me a through the looking glass feeling.

I’m fortunate to be within walking distance of my job, so my most frequent route takes me from my house to work and back. Those handful of blocks contain the sights I see on a near-daily basis. One house I pass was bought a few years ago by a couple with two very young children and an obvious appreciation for outdoors play. It always gives me a smile to see what they’re up to and maybe exchange a few words. This past winter was pretty brutal and lasted longer than usual, so I didn’t see the residents out at all for several months. Then one day in May as I headed up the block toward their place, I heard kids laughing and saw the parents out with them, drawing on their driveway with chalk. I approached with swelling heart, ready to wave and say a cheery hello. But wait!

When I arrived at the yard something was off. It was inhabited by the wrong family. All different people. Same general ages and complexions, but four completely different people. When did that happen? I go by the house nearly every single day, remember? I’d never seen a for sale sign, no moving trucks, no hint of disruption in the fabric of my reality. Had I gone through a portal to a parallel universe? I was shook.

Second shocking change: the house of my daydreams is gone. Poof! This one is (or was) not on my work-and-back path. It’s several blocks from my home, but still on a street where I walk frequently, in part because I enjoy looking at the stone cottage that appeared to be out of a fairy tale, the kind of place they put on jigsaw puzzles. I loved to imagine living in it some day, maybe in retirement, spending my days tending flowers in its yard. My step gained an extra spring when I turned the corner leading to my intended future enchanting stone home.

It’s amazing how quickly an entire house can be gone with hardly a trace. Breathtaking really. I ambled along anticipating my moment of housing zen, only to be caught up short by orange fencing and a demolition order. Sob. What does my dream future hold now?

Dare I venture out today? I suppose I will. I’m bracing myself. Perhaps I’ll find the portal that will bring me back to my dependable, known universe. I can hope.

~~

Two Accomplishments: Union! and The Count of Monte Cristo

Star Trek DS9 characters
Quark’s workers unionize on Star Trek, Deep Space 9

I see I haven’t checked in here for a while. I’ve been a little busy helping to organize a union and reading The Count of Monte Cristo, both of which turned out to be huge time commitments. The two efforts came to fruition within a couple of days of each other. Saturday I finished Alexandre Dumas’ 117-chapter epic tale, and on Monday the state of Missouri announced the results of our union election, which we won with 65% yes votes.

Both efforts held surprises for me. Union organizing — gaining big new insights into people I thought I knew. I saw aspects and layers previously hidden to me, most of them good and inspiring, with a small handful of disappointments. The number of hours spent looking at spreadsheets was not something I had anticipated. And I didn’t do nearly as much of the work as some of my colleagues, bless them. Count of Monte Cristo — a lot more drug use than I expected. The psychedelic 1970s had nothing on the 1800s, it seems. There were some truly trippy scenes. Ease up on the hashish, there. Also, a young, early nineteenth century female character who wished to avoid marriage and live independently.

Of course, I was also working both of my paying jobs during this time. So all of this labor movement activity and classics reading led to late nights, with Zoom meetings followed by just another chapter or two. I honestly don’t know how anyone ever runs for office. The stress of campaign-type activities nearly did this introvert in. Often, after yet another meeting, followed by phone calls (shudder) I’d promised to make, or an elaborately-arranged meeting with someone who wanted to sign a union card without being seen to do so, I found myself with an actual need to lose myself in the drama and tension of a fictional character’s story. It was somehow cathartic to transfer the intensity of my feelings into the life and perils and plots of Edmond Dantes, wrongly imprisoned, losing everyone and everything he loved, seeking revenge but unexpectedly finding his heart warring with itself in his resolve.

I’m a different person than I was at the beginning of 2022. This has been the year I determined to pursue some long overdue goals – getting a seat at the table in my workplace and finally pulling The Count from it’s decades-long spot on my to-be-read list. I’m a union woman now, and someone who can speak with knowledge about a Dumas classic.

We’ve won our election, but there’s still organizing to do around electing officers, contract negotiations, etc. And there are enough literary gaps in my world to spend a lifetime filling them. But I might take a breath or two and enjoy some lighter pursuits before plunging myself into the next intense adventure.

That Lull Before the Renaissance

Photo by Oleg Zaicev on Pexels.com

My friend Liza posted on her Patreon page* about what Germans call “between the years,” that weird spell of time after Christmas but before the new year. Go read it. It’s entertaining and she dug up some interesting cultural information. Also, it reminded me that I wrote a poem on the very topic a couple of years back, not knowing there were entire national traditions surrounding this annual week of being at loose ends.


That Lull Before the Renaissance

That lull between Christmas and New Years Day
Is when pajamas serve as uniform
The chocolates are polished off
The one jigsaw puzzle of the year is assembled
Noble intentions gestate

We sleep in mornings 
Before the date arrives after which 
Every day
We’ll stir ourselves early 
To accomplish worthy deeds

We watch a few movies 
Before the date arrives after which
Every day
We’ll spend free time 
Working out and reading classics

We make grocery lists 
Full of carrots and broccoli
While crunching chips

We indulge and relax while we can
Before next week
When the work of the Renaissance begins


*Her Patreon also includes content behind a paywall that is well worth the low subscription price of pay what you can, if you’re looking for an independent author to support.

If We Make It Through December

I don’t listen to a huge amount of country music, but there are a few songs that speak to me. Oh, Merle, December is hard, isn’t it? Current mood.



December is the month of paradoxes for me and many others. I do love all of the holiday celebrations, but I struggle with the lack of light. This year, in particular, we all have an extra share of struggles, and the month is feeling to me like something to be endured while waiting for anything better. I have written a few poems about Seasonal Affective Disorder and I’ll share one here. Maybe I shouldn’t be so bold as to share my own efforts following the inestimable Merle Haggard, but what the hell? As long as I’m embracing the despair anyway?

December Days

Day pulls the covers in December, appeals
to me to join it in hiding.
Like the sun I will not bother
getting up much early. What for?
A few hours working at half power
seems enough; call it a day.

There’s nothing in this month
I want to see clearly. Why point up
the lack
of color, dormant
plants waiting for better times?
Nothing blooms, no birds
sing greetings
to morning.
Smarter than me, they have flown
to lands where December exists
as a quaint custom, where they have December
like Sweden has a king.
A crown there may be
or ornaments displayed to prove
the monarch or the month,
where forgetting is possible.
I need no reminders.

The season proves itself. I will try
ignoring it, hoping
it’s gone next time I look.
I will open my eyes
only half-way. I will pull the dark
covers over me.
Like the sun I will experience
the smallest amount of December 
I can manage.


I know I’ll get through it, and maybe even have a few moments of fun and joy. I always have before. And yes, I’m taking my vitamin D and getting exercise. But sometimes, a big component of getting through a rough time is acknowledging it’s a rough time.

On Today’s Bike Ride: Peace, Geology and an Accidental Selfie

I put on blinders to everything that needs to be done at home and went out for a bike ride with Frieda this morning before the temperature reminded me too harshly that it’s still summer. Like most everyone right now, I find it a constant effort to manage my stress levels. I would love to go camping and spend a few days unwinding, but that’s not possible at the moment. So I take what micro-breaks I can get — sitting on the deck for a few minutes in the evening with a mocktail (I don’t drink much alcohol) and some music, or finding a less-traveled spur of the MKT Trail where I can be “away from it all” for a couple of minutes, right in the city.


I had this spur of the trail to myself this morning.

Frieda, freed from the confines of my shed.

The illusion of being out of the city:

Only a short distance from a major road, large apartment complex, and shopping center

On the main trail, an interesting rock with an interesting puddle in an indentation.


It’s like an entire self-contained universe in this rock depression.

In an effort to learn more about the rock, I took an accidental selfie. In case you can’t read the print, the rock is several million year old limestone. I wonder how many other creatures have stopped to look at it throughout the millennia.

~~~~~~~

On Today’s Walk: Perspective

Lately, I’ve been pretty exhausted by my job and things. Stuff. Events. Tasks. Overthinking. Worry.

Normally I work Tuesday evenings. But I had some vacation time to use, so I’m able to blog instead. I couldn’t have better timed my ask for random hours off. Gorgeous evening for walking and trying to focus on the miracle that is every day nature.

Amazing how life can look so different if you change your vantage point. Perspective is a heck of a thing.


Lily


On Today’s Walk: All Shall Be Pandemic

All shall be pandemic, and all shall be pandemic and all manner of things shall be pandemic.

A friend recently asked on Facebook, “What did we even think about before COVID-19?” What indeed? I’m trying to remember. Baseball, I guess.

I’m doing an okay job most days keeping my equilibrium, but it’s impossible not to ruminate on coronavirus when it’s influencing every facet of life. All shall be pandemic, and all shall be pandemic and all manner of things shall be pandemic. That’s how it feels at times. Anything and everything I encounter is now viewed in the context of one particular disease, even when I get a long walk on a very nice morning.

I mean… Normally, I would pick up trash, but hard pass this time.

I don’t play the lottery, but it’s when times are most uncertain that I’m tempted to. Someone didn’t win.

There’s something more dangerous than climbing.

I feel bad for families with young children who don’t have yards.

But it’s not all complete despair. This is part of a mural along the MKT Trail.

I will try to remember this.

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” — Julian of Norwich.

On Today’s Walk: Local History

Since nearby nature trails all seem to be crowded enough to make physical distancing a challenge, I’ve been sticking to city streets and sidewalks. Today’s walk had an education theme, as I decided to traverse a portion of Columbia, Missouri’s African American History Trail. I did not make it to all 37 sites, but I found a few of them. Maybe I can make it a project to visit all of them before my workplace opens again.

Historic, and recently restored Blind Boone Home.

Blind Boone House, Columbia, MO

The rest of my photos from the walk are just informational markers. But it’s interesting information.



Here’s an article about the building from 2017.


On Today's Walk: Spring Anyway

Despite everything going on in the world with humans and viruses, spring is not in quarantine. It’s a little chilly here, but the sun is out for the first time in days, so I ventured out for some fresh air, taking a short walk around the neighborhood, maintaining space from the many other folks I saw out doing the same thing. To be honest, a friendly wave from the distance is my preferred level of social interaction with most of my neighbors in normal times. Not that I dislike any of them. I’m just awkward and introverted.

I found it interesting that I saw as many pedestrians as cars out today in my mile-and-a-half amble. There’s a silver lining, I suppose.

And there are a few little groceries coming up in my yard and others.

Henbit

Henbit really is edible. I’ve snacked on the flowers myself a number of times. Check out Edible Wild Food for more information on which parts are safe to eat.

I’ve never researched magnolia trees, so I don’t know if they do anything other than look beautiful. If not, that’s enough. The blooms are starting to open.

Magnolia tree

The world continues to function, more or less. Humanity is only a part of it.