Thanksgiving was rough--everything slightly off, the food, the gatherings, the Black Friday run to the store (this time just the Dollar Tree to procure snow globe objects for Tuesday's workshop.) Rough in the way that had be crying in all sorts of random ways--in train stations, on buses, in my bed under cover of dark. I hadn't been back to the house since the couple days after her death and while things are very much the same there in terms of routines --my dad still doing the cooking and the cleaning like over the summer while she was laid up. The same westerns and football and old shows on the television. Christmas decorations hunted down and put up courtesy of my sister last week (including about 200 snowman figurines.) The same Netflix shows late at night (I was stupid & teary on the couch when I realized she won't see the second season of Stranger Things, which she really liked.)
The most noticable difference that my mother is no longer in her favorite chair and instead, her ashes perched atop the mantle. We've yet to really discuss where/if some will be scattered (her joke that she wanted to be partly spread on the Bulls court at the United Center) I imagine, my Dad likes having her remains there, so maybe they'll stay in the urn (it's actually a really nice engraved marble box that sits middle of the mantle surrounded with some of her favorite things and only a few feet away from her chair (after the tears I was joking in my head, well, maybe she did get to watch ST, only not in the form she started in.)
If home was weird, gatherings were even weirder, since, super introvert that I am, I still, even a full-ass grown adult, stayed close to her hip (mostly because she was always talking and I could sort of relax and not feel like I really had to.) Now I'm kinda adrift in the small talk without an anchor. I suspect my dad and sister feel this way, as well, the most vocal and talkative person in the family now this huge vacancy. I noticed this acutely in the restuarant we went to after making the arrangements the first full day after she was gone, the silence at the table that was usually filled by her.
My trip back to the city last night felt like an escape, which is unfair, because it actually would have been an excellent holiday otherwise--lots of food and family and trying-to-have fun times. Admittedly, I was cheered by the fact that I left a cold, deserted bus station in the dark of Rockford at 7pm and arrived to crazy holiday bustle downtown and hour and a half or so later..two very different worlds and this one I am taking refuge in until the next holiday. Meanwhile I will indulge in my own traditions, Chicago holiday fun--putting up my tree, bingeing on cookie dough and peppermint ice cream, watching bad holiday romance cable movies, (the kind my mother loved more than anything, but that I engage in as sort of a guilty little pleasure.) Zoo lights w/ spiked hot chocolate & friends, maybe the German market downtown, and mostly crawling out from under the pile of work awaiting me and due before the end of the year. Maybe by Christmas proper I'll be in a better frame of mind and ready to face Rockford again.
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
I've been working on snazzing up ye old webpage a little with a more image driven-look..the lightbox images will perhaps change on a regular basis depending on what I'm working on and what I'm promoting. And of course, getting near the end of the 2017 makes next year all that much closer and little apocalypse's release all that much sooner, which means I'll be turning my attentions to promoting that and organizing a release reading (there is a beautiful new bookshop just opened in the Fine Arts and I'm thinking I would love to have it there if I can arrange it. )
Meanwhile, I haven't written in weeks and am not sure when it will come back. I am supposed to be finishing up the /slash/ poems. I am supposed to be finishing up that new manuscript and sending it off to an open reading period that ends in November. I'm supposed to be doing a lot of creative things I am not doing. But I've been playing catch up on press details and work stuff despite the fact that blew two whole productive days in a college-wide mandatory training workshop (and the rest of the time dying slowly from having to be up 9-5 for two days straight). I do have a weekend shift next weekend in which I plan to finish laying out all the 2017 dgp titles remaining. I've been making my way through the last of the submissions for next year and might be able to get responses out by my December 1st deadline.
It's Thanksgiving tomorrow and I'll I kind of want to do is hide out for a few days, but instead anm Rockford bound this evening and will be out there for a couple days. It will be strange without my mother in the mix, and I'm not sure I'm feeling very holiday festive this year of all years and kind of just want to skip the holidays entirely (not possible really, but tempting.)
Saturday, November 18, 2017
It's been a busy week..our Art on the Cheap Panel, the Salon on Wednesday (and though we were pretty much audienceless in the scheme of things, I enjoyed seeing some poetry folks I don't see often enough), and then yesterday's Bingo event, which was the sort of mindless fun I needed to round out the week. In between there was a mad dash to catch up on what I missed being out the week before and trying to keep the end of semester bus from running me over like it always seems to no matter how much I prepare. We have only a few more things happening Aof R-wise, but I'm already thinking about next semester and some more writing-focused things I'd like to try. My big push the next couple weeks will be working on the murder mystery plot and preparations for Gaming Society and thinking about what we want to do in the spring.
Bingo of course, and pretty much everything, has me thinking about my mom and her mad love of it when I was a kid, which is natural I suppose. Hopefully, the weird waves of grief will lessen over time...how I can be completely fine one moment, and her death this lingering thing at the back of my mind but not so terribly sharp and then suddenly I smell something like banana bread on the bus and the next thing I know I'm crying because *sob* I never learned how to make her banana bread and usually it was just there when I came home sometimes, and how am I supposed to ask her how to make it now that she's gone? and sure other people can make banana bread, and sure, I can buy it or try to make my own, but it will never be HER recipe! *sob* And then I'm crying like an idiot on the bus over banana bread and people are looking at me (or maybe I only imagine they are looking at me and likely no one has noticed. ) The holidays will no doubt be harder than the day to day, and being in Rockford, where she always was, harder than being in Chicago, where she rarely was. And that very distance in the end, while being harder in the last few months, somehow making it easier now.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
One of my most interesting takeaways from our ART ON THE CHEAP panel discussion last night, which focused on artists using upcycled and re-used materials in their artmaking, was the "work with what you've got", the consensus being pretty much unanimous that creativity happens most when you are forced to work within the confines of available material. I was curious, and included the discussion question as to whether or not artists begin with an an idea and then seek out the material needs, or whether the material, as it prevents itself, dictates the project. It was overwhelmingly the latter, and have pretty much found that to be true in my own visual endeavor, though maybe even more so in my writing.
I've often mentioned how my writing practice changed around 2005, when I went from sitting down and attempting to say something in a poem (successfully or unsuccessfully) and a more collage, chaos driven approach after that.- a culling and assembling bits if language, image, and idea. Sometimes I have everything I need when I sit down to do the writing. Sometimes I don't and need to seek more out, or set something aside until I manage to have everything I need. My own writing became so much more interesting to me at that point, and much less wrought with worry and feelings of failure.
Of course language is different, and endless when you compare it to the scarceness of say, thrifted items or ephemera, so there is a little more freedom there. I'm especially feeling this tension in material as I work on the /slash/ pieces, which are part found, part generated. Sometimes the generated seems rather dull next to the found, and sometimes vice versa. I guess the key is finding the balance.
(the above collage was one of my endeavors for the Book to Art project. I've been composing a lot of collaged digitally lately, more than by hand, and it felt good to work in a more material way, and also an excellent exersize in making the most of what you've got (in this case a buttload of discarded books and images of movie stars).
Sunday, November 12, 2017
When I was around 7 years old, I had a horrible dream that my mother abandoned me, dissappearing over a grayed wooden fence that separated the area behind our garage from the neighbor's yard and into a field full of daisies and was gone. It was devastating for a 7 year old, and the sort of dream that I remembered after waking up crying, cried over subsequent nights. was as close to praying that I ever got asking to never, ever have a dream like that again. Over time, the fear of it lessened, but I remembered it, have even used the memory a couple times in writing (see the poem "fictions" in my brief history of girl as match chapbook.) It was mostly filed under the THINGS I AM FORBIDDEN TO THINK about file, even when my mother survived a cancer scare when I was 13. I remember horrified that I wasn't ready to be motherless, yet, was not sure how any teenage girl could make it out intact without one, even if we fought a lot and there were times I was convinced she was absolutely insane (and maybe I was too.) We were lucky, and later, when I was in my mid 20's, she had some surgery complications from a gall bladder and hernia, we were even luckier.
I was no stranger to lost love ones, most of my grandparents going early, sometimes unexpectedly, more often after long, terrible illnesses. Cancer. Freak falls resulting in blood clots. An uncle with MS. Maybe because I was so young in each of these it was easier to lose them somehow. By the time I hit adulthood, I had lost all grandparents, and would soon lose other aunts and uncles and many cats and dogs. But parents are of course, different, wound inextricably into your daily life for so long, people who are dependent upon for the first 20 odd years of your life and sometimes longer. At some point I suppose you no longer absolutely need them in the way you once did, though certainly they are an important part of your life and emotional support network if you allow them to be.
I didn't always take advantage of this--my mother in particular being a complicated knot of worry. So there was much that while I didn't exactly hide things from her if she asked, I did not come rushing forward to tell her. Financial troubles, romantic dramas. While in some arenas I shared everything with her, there was always a holding back of things that would worry her, or that I felt were too private even to share with my own mother, the person who had known me longest and best. When I first moved to the city and began working the night shift, she would have me ring her phone twice and hangup to ensure I wasn't lying in an alley somewhere. It went on for years, until email and social media allowed more regular check-ins. She always said of she tried calling and I didn't answer she would wait a couple hours and then be on her way into the city--convinced I was dead. Over the years, her primary worry shifted to my sister, who was plagued with more health problems and everyday dangers, so I got off the hook a little.
And maybe the worry-worn heart contributed to her death in many ways, heart disease being the chief culprit and so many of these things stemming from stress on that single muscle in the body, particular in the past couple of years, growing to include not only general motherly worry & anxiety, but extended family conflicts that she fretted over more than anyone else. My mother, of course, had been a controlled diabetic and treated for accompanying diseases (blood pressure and cholesterol) for 35 years. In the past 10 years, she had trouble sleeping well in past years due to leg cramps and strange allergic reactions to things. She was on xanax the last years of her life. All things I imagine take a toll on the body slowly over time, and eventually resulted in her heart attack last winter. Since then, she would get better, then worse, then better, then worse. Her general good health falling like a row of dominos. A weird sudden latex allergy that wrecked her lower legs. Cuts and sores on her heels from a fall that resulted in a bone infection. I thought we'd lost her for sure during the bout of delerium and the foot surgery, but she held on a bit longer, but in the end was begging to be let go. Her heart finally gave up the ghost. And perhaps she did, finally just let go.
I am good about mentally preparing for things, but then you are never prepared for something like this. I did get to see her reguarly on weekend trips to the hospital and rehab center, had been stuck working the last two weeks she was alive and therefore missed some opportinities to be there in the end. Part of me still expected her to get better, even if it got worse again. I expected her to make it through the holidays. I expected, hope against all hope, for her to eventually pull out of it. She always did, right? In my preparations, I was reading some articles on losing parents and know that guilt is a huge part of it, so was prepared for that particular wave. Particularly living in another city, no matter how often I made it home (which was frequently but maybe not frequently enough) Also the horrible complicated feeling almost of relief, that the shoe I've been waiting to drop for months, that I don't have to worry about her because the worst thing has, in fact, already happened. She's safe from all the terrible suffering that could afflict her.
Sundays will of course, be hard when we miss our regular phone call. Family gatherings & holidays where I expect to turn a corner and find her there among the crowd. She was not a daily part of my life in the city, so somehow that makes it easier somehow, but those feelings are always there, waiting to knock you on your ass when you least expect it. When I hurt my wrist a couple years back in a fall on the bus, it hurt like hell, and I laughed when I was high, because it felt like it still hurt, but that the pain was very, very far away. In many ways, since Monday, this pain feels a lot like that, creeping around the edges and knocking me flat suddenly and without warning. There is still a certain unrealness to it that I don't know if it will ever go away.
Sunday, November 05, 2017
It's been a couple of dreary, fog-filled days this weekend, but I am making good progress on things.--am continuing my layout blitz for the press and have spent the afternoon reading some more manuscripts for next year. Earlier, I had a bizarre, surreal experience when one of the manuscripts that I will be accepting came from one of the first visiting poets I ever met in person (Amy Newman) as an undergrad way back in the 90's, back when poets might as well have been unicorns or mermaids, even though I was a couple years in to writing myself. I was thinking about my baby poet self yesterday, which was open house day at Columbia and all the the poets and their parents were headed up to the CW presentation. How I have been doing this for so long, but that sometimes it still feels just as magical.
I've been waffling over manuscript #8--that actually split into #8 and #10 a couple months back (#9 being something else entirely). I have a title and possibility for submission if I finish it by the end of November, but there is one section I am still working the kinks out of and feels untethered. Art-wise, there is a lot of general tasks that are happening (things to be scanned and photographed and added to the shop), and even more that need to happen, but creatively, outside of some cover designs, I've barely touched a paint brush or a glue stick in weeks. This week, however, is our first Read Talk Make session for Book to Art club, and I'm hoping to work some more on my paper theater pieces inspired by Grimm tales.
Next week, I'll be spending a couple days in Rockford and then we are getting closer and closer to the holidays and the semester's end. My mom is holding in there, and will be spared more surgeries by the sound of it, but she's by no means really better and at this point they are mostly working toward getting her pain-free and healing a bit faster than she has to this point. I worry most at her lack of appetite and a certain despondency and we're thinking she might also benefit from some psychiatric treatment,even though her vitals are all sound and good. With the injury itself, the earlier heart attack, , and all the losses that piled up and multiplied over the summer, culminating in the delerium and foot surgery, I'm not sure how to make things better or what happens next. She's home for now with visiting nurses and therapists and such. And my Dad seems to have general caring for her on lock, but she doesn't seem to be improving and may be backsliding again. Part of me wonders at the benefits of being in a new place--not the house, which is sort of isolating and suffocating and tainted with loss, history and static.
I get unusually panicky in the off moments when I'm not forced to focus on other things--bus rides, waiting for elevators, when I crawl into bed and my mind gets a few quiet moments to process. I've started reading more fiction again--not just poetry, but semi-trashy YA dystopian novels-- the kind of books that suck you into their world so completely you kind of forget who and where you are when you look up. All of which fends off other, less constructive impulses I've been plagued with that I won't go into. The alternative is the endless loop of worry and doubt, which doesn't exactly bode well in this season of all seasons, when with the time change, dark falls even earlier and I get that special, winter kind of crazy.