Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Talking to Fred

Today, standing at the grill (I work mornings as a breakfast cook, so about 5 a.m.) I had a flash. A memory of someone I love. I say love because even though he is deceased, he isn’t really dead, not really. Sometimes I talk with Fred.

In my head, not out loud. Though sometimes I’ve done that while out bicycling. I’ll look around and say, Fred you’d love this. But mostly I flash and think about him.

I wonder: are flashes a bit like prayers? My heart reaching out to the universe. Are you there?

I miss Fred. I miss talking with Fred. I used to have an office on 8th floor, down the hall from him. So after working on my writing I’d stop by for a chat, and our conversations covered a multitude of topics, mostly the arts. One blog post I shared years ago had to do with a movie. I tried to tell it to him and he interrupted me, WAIT! I saw that one too!. And, together we finished telling each other the story and which parts we liked the best, and how we related to the main character—a woman in a bad relationship who began to find herself by taking photographs.

So I don’t know what first sparked the memory at the grill this a.m.—was it the movie or the missing of Fred? So many things we talked about that I cannot untangle the emotions; they are all wrapped up together.

This is grief. When everything reminds you of that person. The one you love. Not loved, past tense, but love. Still.
PHOTO by: Otto Jensen
Fred Burkhart died August 30, 2014. Two years ago. And, I still miss him.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


So in about 2 days I leave with my boxed bicycle on an international flight to England, once there I will cycle the length of the island, from top o’Scotland (John of Groates) to Land’s End. JOGLE.

Now for the scary part.

The last couple weeks leading up to this have been hectic and stressful. I’m not writing for sympathy (I’m probably also suffering from survivor guilt) or to say my circumstances are worse than others. I’m just saying that I really, really need this ride.

In January I sat down with myself and did a quick evaluation. What made me happy? Truly happy. Where was my sweet spot? And I wrote down: bicycling. For so many people when they hear what I’m about to embark upon, they laugh and say, that’s not a vacation.

The past 12 months have been rough: maritally (after 30 years together, I’m staring into what might be a permanent separation) and writing (at the same time my critique group that I relied upon for feedback fell apart). I’ve needed to find the things that bring me back to a center, to a bit of hope.

It’s not the news—Syrian barrel bombs and gas attacks upon civilian populations, refugees, whole families drowning at sea, ISIS beheading hostages, Donald Trump, etc. Any number of these things got my adrenaline going in a very negative way. The helplessness I feel compounded with guilt, that I should be doing something.

Then the past couple of weeks. A woman crossing the street in front of Uptown Baptist Church, age 57, is shot and killed. Then Friday night a man walking in front of my building, age 55, gunned down. I am so angry at politicians, the system, the inability of justice, all the people who stand in the way of reasonable gun control. Until that time these senseless murders will keep happening. Then also last week a good friend’s husband SUDDENLY died. She heard a thump in the bathroom and that was it.

All this loss, pain, suffering built and built until Saturday I felt paralyzed. I literally had broken out into hives. People say to me, I couldn’t do what you do, meaning (I suppose) live in Chicago as a religious worker and try to make a difference, try to be peace to our neighbors. And, they’re right. This weekend I had to reevaluate—is this something I can continue doing? Is there still good I can do?

All I really know is this: in two days I will fly to England to ride my bike. I will be thinking of the many souls these past few weeks who have lost their life. I will say to myself: This is my now.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Update on Sport’s Authority

Anyway here is an update. In May when I was cheated, not given the advertised discount at the register, the manager half-heartedly told me I could come back when stuff was 70% off and ask for a free pair of socks.

Okay, like this will never happen.

Yesterday I rode past Sports Authority on my bike and saw that, indeed, stuff was down to 80% off. I went in and it was chaos, empty shelves and super long lines, but I found a pair of socks and waited in line and at the register I told the guy my story. I swear he didn’t blink twice. Take ‘em!

I had the feeling I could have left with a pair of dumbbells. No one cares. So my faith in humanity is now restored. Now onto news of doping in the world of athletics and the Olympics.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Hot Flash Friday: This isn’t going to turn out good

 How many of us have had that feeling, that tickle inside your stomach, that your brakes have failed?

Let’s just say as a kid growing up, a lot. I was constantly getting into trouble. Not shoplifting, skipping school, smoking behind the garden shed kind of trouble. More like smoking outside the fireworks factory.

I still remember snaking out late at night to go on a motorcycle ride with my friend. He zipped me into a jumpsuit—in case we crashed, he said, I wouldn’t lose the top layer of skin. Good thing, because we came to a sign at the bottom of a steep hill that as we flashed by it—my brain translated the letters: Bridge Out.

Go ahead—tell us about the crazy, the craziest of crazy. Flash about the inkling you got before all hell broke loose, before the wheels came off. (The worst part is when your mother/mother/conscience asks: Why? There is no answer.)

Right now, write.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The sky eats up the trees

Readers of this blog also know that I love (my boy) James Schuyler. He was a master of the Write Right Now. Thus, his National Book Award winner, The Morning of the Poem which is one continuous dream of a morning, of a poem, of life observed. The Award was well-deserved. His work continues to influence writers of today.


The world seems scary. There isn’t a lot of solace. So I turn to poetry. Now is the time to immerse ourselves in poetry. To turn away from the world and all it’s turmoil and trauma. I’m not exactly going to put my head in a hole, but rather I want to describe to you another world. One without a ranting and raving orange-haired man. Thank you.

The sky eats up the trees

The newspaper comes. It
has a bellyful of bad news.
The sun is not where it was.
Nor is the moon. Once so
flat, now so round. A man
carries papers out of the house. Which makes a small
change. I read at night.
I take the train and go
to the city. Then I come
back. Mastic Shirley,
Patchogue, Quogue. And for
all the times I’ve stopped, hundreds, at their
stations, that’s all
I know. One has
a lumberyard. The sun
puts on a smile.
The day had a bulge
around 3 p.m. After,
it slips, cold and quiet
into night. I read
in bed. And in the a.m.
put a recond on to
shave to. Uptown in a
shop a man has blue
eyes that enchant. He
is friendly and inter
esting to me, though he is
not an interesting man.
Bad news is a funny kind
of breakfast. An addict
I can scarcely eat my
daily crumble without
its bulk. I read at
night and shave when
I get up. That’s true.
Life will change and
I am part of it and
will change too. So
will you, and you, and
you, the secret—what’s
a secret?—center of
my life, your name and
voice engraved like
record grooves upon
my life, spinning its
time between the lines
I read at night, a
graffito on the walls
of flavored paper I
see, looking up from
pages of Lady Mary
Wortley Montague or
a yellow back novel.
A quiet praise, yes,
that’s it, between the
lines I read at night.
From Collected Poems, James Schuyler, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1993.

Monday, August 22, 2016

September Memories

In 2014 I went on a solo trip to Sweden. It didn’t seem like such a big deal to go by myself—more like an adventure. Until the airlines lost my luggage, until I couldn’t explain to the bus driver where I wanted to go, until my credit card stopped working. I could go on and on.

Right now I am stressing about my upcoming trip to England, September 1 – 26, where I plan to ride my bike from the top o’Scotland to the bottom of Cornwall, Land’s End. A journey of over 1,000 miles. I can think of an endless stream of things that might go wrong. And, likely will. But as I think back over Sweden and that trip two years ago, I had a fabulous time.
The weather was perfect.
I managed to meet up with 2 of my friends and have a great time re-connecting.
I ate wonderful food, and fell in love with Konditori cozy cafés that sell great pastries and coffee.
For the most part people spoke English—why don’t I speak 2 or 3 languages!?

And all those problems: the luggage got delivered the next day to my couchsurfing host, I made it to Sjötorp even though I could never manage to pronounce the name of the town, walked to a B & B and hired a bike to ride along the Gota Canal, and somehow my credit card started working—though never on the buses because I didn’t have the chip. (see The Traveler, post)

Always, always there was a way. This is not simply optimistic thinking. In tight places or times of travel confusion and mayhem, I felt the universe, God, the spirit of Marco Polo guiding me, telling me to walk through doors, trust, take another step.

Thank goodness for friends (you know who you are) for talking me down off the ledge yesterday when I started to panic. I just need to remind myself—to fall into the ever-loving hands of life, and live. Take the problems as they come, knowing there is a way.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Hot Flash Friday=Write Your Own Epitaph

The importance of an epitaph

Epitaph a short text honoring a deceased person. Technically it is inscribed on a tombstone or plaque. The essence of writing small. The original 6-word memoir, the ultimate flash. This is an easy task, a flash you can write in your bathing suit sitting on a towel at the beach. Take a second or two to scribble down what you think you might be known for, what you want to leave behind, the last word.

Right now write, your own epitaph.