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Archive for May, 2008

I’ve have not as yet put the story into print—the day I looked, without realizing it—a survivor of the horrible Japanese Bataan March and prison camp—dead in the eye and said for all to hear, “Well, the sooner people like you are dead, the better. I had sat and listened to a new-comer to the Creative Writer’s Group, of which I had been a member from its conception in the fall of 1989, rant on about his hatred for the Japanese, any and every single Japanese ever born and there, in our group, sat a Japanese fellow-member, as sweet and gentle a person as one could hope to meet. I sat and stared back at my protagonist a moment, then let the matter drop. . . for the time being.
     I do not intend to tell the story using each and every detail, but so it went on for the following six weeks and more. One afternoon, after the writing session had come to an end, we had a heated discussion between the two of us. I had an appointment with my doctor within the hour. My blood pressure evidently was in the stroke zone and I was warned: quit the writer’s group or face the consequences. 
The next day, I headed for Fort Pierce, some eight miles to the north and to another writer’s group. I was going to withdraw from the first and join the new, only to find my adversary already a member. All went well, until I heard him start to inform the new group about “this Jap who has the nerve to write about the emperor” and I “lost it”. I blew up. “This Jap” had been but a boy during World War II and was writing about his boyhood, and when a boy, he had been taught to revere the emperor. it had been but a simple paragraph in a two to thee page remembrance. I gathered my papers and verbally ripped the fellow up one side and down the other and walked out of the room. 
The moderator, a person whom I adored and who had encouraged me to write, and her best friend, whom I also loved as a close friend, did not believe me when I tried to apologize and discuss my reasons for my anger. I have not talked to either to this day.
Now here is the twist: It took a little time but “my enemy” and I became friends! My Bataan Surviving friend was writing an account of his experiences and the day he looked over at our Japanese member and asked him, using his Japanese name, not to take offense at anything he read, my spirits soared. I had won the battle. I tapped him on the knee and whispered my thanks. He asked, for what and I replied with, ‘you know what’.
On the last day I saw him, he was wearing shorts, and I complimented him on his still good looking legs. He smiled and replied, ‘Does that mean you’d like to be my girl friend? ‘ He died soon after that last meeting, and though I could never have become his “girl friend”, I might have been able to fill a bit of the emptiness in his life caused by his girl friend’s death some two months previous. Later on, I wrote the following poem. Probably wouldnt make sense without the story. 
If you’ve a friend, tried and true,
someone who’s proved her love for you,
you’ve found a prize beyond all measure:
worth more than gold, more than the pleasure
riches bring to the “wealthy-poor”
who, never satisfied, seek more.
 
We’re one and all designed for death
so may I with my final breath
consider all the dividends
living has bestowed on me.
High on the list, I’m sure will be
the names of valued, cherished friends.
If ever I should careless be
and cause some rift ‘twix friend and me
I vow the sun will not retreat
to western berth beyond the blue
until I, somehow renew,
that friendship once again, complete.
 
However, should there chance to be
those who thinks that I’ve offended,
without a cause their too-thin feelings;
who think me guilty of offenses
and unwilling to mend fences,
I can do without their company.
So, if you’d be a friend of mine,
and like you, I’m also “chooser”,
you’d rather think the worst of me?
You’re not my friend, you are the loser.
 
But if that’s true, then why the pain?
Why the hurt and where’s the gain?
A broken friendship is a loss . . .
a sorry troubling albatross,
and absolutely quite insane. 
While Bob was still living, all I had to do to read about him was to go to Keyword, type in his name and Bataan March. Now that he is deceased, it is a bit more difficult. If anyone is interested in reading his book, go to Keyword: type in Bob Body, Bataan March Survivor and Backyard Publisher. Bob had quite a story to tell. I doubt he’d appreciate this bit I’ve chosen to share with my blogger friend.

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Unwise Territory?

Last evening, while visiting Doubting Thomas’ blogsite, I had occasion to leave a reply to a comment I read from another visitor to the site, one who took umbrage with D T’s disbelief in angels. 

Because I have spent a good part of the past fifty-five years studying the best I could, the origins of religious faith, I had thoughts of using what knowledge I think I have, on this blogsite. However, I’m not certain I’m up to more than this one site—Meander With Me. So, I’ll make such as the following, a fairly rare occasion. Unless I change my mind.

THREE TIMES AND YOU ARE OUT!

God is Good. God is love, or so believers say
and all who hear and doubt this ‘Truth’
are doomed to hell on Judgment Day.
In the Beginning there was God,
naught but God, and God, Alone.
If God is Good and God is Love
then surely Sin was yet unknown.
If God with Holy Powers made,
to keep Him company,
a Heavenly Host of Angels, Pure,
as sinless Pure as He
then How and When, then What and Who
caused Lucifer to fall from Place?
Who tempted him, as he is blamed
for Eve and Adam’s Fall from Grace?

Without the Devil’s Wily Schemes
we’re told that Eden still would be
the Realm of Man with Sin unknown,
with only Good for Thee and Me.
But Satan foiled God’s Plan for Earth,
but how was Satan tempted?
Will Heaven see God’s plan perfected
and the saved from sin, exempted?  

When once this earth has passed away
and Goats and Sheep are separating,
the How and When, the What and Who
will still be out THERE, waiting!

Can anyone prove that a “When”, “What” and “Who” does not exist? I am not referring to Satan—Lucifer—metamorphosed by such early Christians as St. Augustine, into the Devil. If the angel Lucifer rebelled against God, he had to have had an outside force tempting him to do so because, when God and only God existed, sin had to have been an unknown force. Othewise, there has to have been two “uncreated forces” existing before the creation of the universe, and they would have had to have been . . . a “good God” and a “bad God”, both self-made and coexisting.

However, we have Isaiah, Chapter 45, verse 7 and that changes everything. If the passage can be taken for the truth and nothing but the truth, we have both God and the Devil all wrapped up in one package! It says so right there in the Bible. If God created evil, as the Bible says he did and does, than it looks as though we have but one choice: God created Lucifer “good”, free of all sin and with nothing to tempt him into doing anything other than what God had programmed into him. God, Himself, had to have tempted Lucifer to rebel against him and when he does so, God pitches Lucifer out of heaven and down to earth. That sounds pretty much like the God of the Bible.

But there is more to God than getting rid of a few rebelling angels. God savors the odor of burning flesh. For me, any god who demands the shedding of blood—human as well as animal—Exodus 22; 29 and 30—is unworthy of my love let alone my adoration. 

While I do not  dismiss the possibility of some kind of “living force” that caused this universe to have come into existence, for life to have begun and evolution to have taken place, no one can convince me that Yahweh, later known to Christians as simply God, ever existed, or exists today, except in the human mind. The idea that a Being with the power to create the universe and all within it, ever demanded the death of a human being called Jesus, is beyond my comprehension.

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If only all my memories amused me as much as the one I recalled last evening while relaxing in my lounge chair. Musette and Penny, in a rare moment of ‘togetherness’, shared the top of the small turntable to my right and Scamp, stretched and snoring beneath the raised foot rest, filled the room with an aura of contentment. I choose The Book of Humorous Verse compiled by Carolyn Wells from which to read a poem or two before starting to close down for the day. The book fell open on pages 482 and 483. I could not have chosen a poem to bring me more delight than “The Modern Hiawatha”. Surely, no, not surely. I tend to forget that not everybody remembers back through the twenties and early thirties of the former century when the poem may have first made itself known. I remember how I used to love showing off by reciting what I thought to be so clever a poem. I think I was still smiling a broad smile as I rose from my lounge chair in preparation for taking Scamp out for his last “potty break” and closing down for the night.  Enjoy. . . 

The Modern Hiawatha

He killed the noble Mudjokivis.

Of the skin, he made him mittens,

Made them with the fur side, inside,

Made them with the skin side, outside,

He,  to get the warm side inside,

Put the inside skin side outside;

He to get the cold side, outside,

Put the warm side, fur side inside,

That’s why he put the fur side inside,

Why he put them inside, outside.

Unknown

    I think it a shame that “Unknown” missed—but perhaps he didn’t, children driving their parents bananas reciting his little “gem”. Fortunately, I had to have had what was one of the world’s most patient mothers. When my father wasn’t out of the house, I tried to be. A great father but a little short on patience when it come to tolerating “show off’ kids.

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Not long ago, one Sunday Evening, a few minutes after 60 Minutes aired, I walked out of the house of a long time friend, never to return. I’ll try to be brief. Though a few months younger, she has allowed herself to grow old without retaining, or acquiring, so much as one redeeming quality. With no other interest in anything other than a few favorite TV programs, she had absolutely nothing to offer in the way of conversation. My patience, worn thin by her woes with constipation and worse, her vivid descriptions of “accidents” and the messes involved when unable to reach the bathroom at a shuffled pace, were enough to cause me to gag. Finally, my nerves rubbed raw by an old woman’s weepy, whinning complaints, constant little grunts with every move, and her absolutely total lack of interest in the Sixty Minutes program we had just watched, caused me to explode in frustration and anger. I took notice as I was getting ready to leave that her normal voice made a comeback. For the first time in a long time, I had no trouble understanding every word she uttered.

     I’ve done a lot of thinking and self-analyzing since that evening. Mostly, I’ve come up with this: I’m an old woman who does not understand old women. 

     I’ve questioned various people I’ve met here in Florida for their reasons for moving here and invariably, the weather comes into the conversation. That was part of my reason also, but there’s one reason I’ve always been reluctant to admit. I can do so now because my friend is dead.  Although I loved my ‘adopted brother’, and that is exactly what our relationship was over the years we knew each other, I found myself beginning to fear the future. Though a year or two younger, his health was beginning to fail and I became more and more involved in his life. I feared his coming slide into worse health and even more dependence on me. I was not single and free and ready to be, well, a nurse. There was another reason for wanting to get out of Harrisburg: as long as we stayed there, the Farmer’s Union of which Carl, my husband, had been State Director, needed him and he wanted to retire. I wanted freedom: freedom from responsibilty to all others other than my husband. I found it. . . for all of four years. One year after Carl’s death, December 1993, an artist whom I had met and liked, lost her husband. She found an uncomplaining—until driven to the point of complete breakdown—unpaid companion and source of transportation in me. And so it has gone from sometime in the 1970s, until that particular Sunday evening last November, 2007. I am, if I never did before, beginning to understand Henry David Thoreau. All I need is a Golden Pond, or whatever he called his retreat from insanity.  Oh, well, I have a lovely, quiet park just a few feet from my front door.

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I intend to remain in my own little home for as long as I can do so, completely on my own and a burden to no one, friend or family, but I’ve lived life facing facts and reality for far too many years to avoid doing so now. I do not want to, like my former, ninety-six year old neighbor, be found dead some morning lying on the floor, mouth agape as though in a scream, and, should I be wearing a nightgown instead of underpants and a t-shirt, lie exposed from my efforts to rise. I shall never forget the sight. Therefore . . . ,

I am, though slowly, beginning to divest myself of anything and everything I won’t be able to take with me to a one bedroom/livingroom apartment in a nearby retirement center. Should I have to choose the studio apartment, I shall be able to take even fewer possessions. At the moment, I am concentrating on reading matter, what to take and what to dispose of: books in particular. I shall have no problem when it comes to parting with what novels I’ve collected, because I’ve all but given up reading anything of any length that comes from the imagination. Perhaps that comes from facing the reality that I am a complete failure when it comes to writing a novel. I’ve had two or three excellent, to my way of thinking, plots, but that’s about as far as I get. I may know the reason for that. I cannot recall just when, but it had to be when I was still living in Harrisburg, Pa., that I walked out of a used book store with the novel ‘Plough The Sea’ by Robert Wilder. I think I judge all novels I’ve read, or, more often, tried to read, on that one book. I’ve yet to find so much as a word or a phrase I’d rewrite or remove. Every sentence spoken by one of the book’s characters runs “true to the ear” and that is rare, or so I find.  What’s all this leading up to? . . .

     I dislike having to use the year 1960, the year I was forced to follow my husband to his third try at wresting a living from cows, land and the weather, but I remember a circumstance I’d like to be able to emulate. I was not present while my husband found and bought the farm on whose land the fourteen room monstrosity sat, and which I was to call home for the following ten or eleven years. I do, however, remember the condition of the house as I walked through the door for the first time. Carl had agreed that the owner walk out of the house with only the few things she’d need at a nearby farmhouse whose owners accepted her “more of a member of the family than a boarder”.

Now I’m not complaining. It wasn’t the first time I had followed Carl into an empty farmhouse and cleaned out the former owner’s junk. In this case there was a spinning wheel in excellent condition and a few other antiques, but the rest of the house? Put your imagination to work. I found empty box after box that had once contained chocolates. There had to have been empty boxes from every birthday, special occasion and holiday from at least the previous  forty years or more, and that was only the beginning. I truly did not resent having to clear out the house before I could find room for my own things. I was forty-year’s young with energy that never quit. I also understood what the widow was going through. Now, here I am, or soon will be, at the point where it would be comforting to be able to decide one day that it was time to move into Merrill Gardens, tell Bev to take Musette, have poor Penny euthanized, pack my few belongings in the car and, with Scamp on a leash, walk out of the house.

I’ve had a few dreams that came true. Perhaps this one has a chance. There is one book I would not leave behind . . . Plough The Sea by Robert Wilder.   

 

 

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Sharing a Gem

It’s a bit late and, at this moment, I feel very much the old woman I am . . . tired. So, I’m going to cheat a little. I want to share wtih you a small gem of a poem I came across years ago. I tried in vain, from the first, to contact the author and tell her just how great I thought her work, and to ask her if she had others to share. Lynette Combs, of Virginia Beach, VA. if you should by some chance read your poem on my website, well, I’d still like to know you approve of my using your talent, and if you do have others to share.

Small Gods and Passing Priests

by

Lynette Combs

I do not mind my insignificance,

since you assure me such a thing is true.

All gods have got their price; and who am I

to question  that they speak to such as you.

Accordingly, I prostrate me and mine

before whatever altar you erect

(although more gods have come and gone on earth

than ever stood in Heaven, I suspect.)

These rites of faith and postures of belief

are little price to keep us all secure;

and since, as representatives you vow

that with these gods the way ahead is sure,

I genuflect to Things beyond my ken.

Yet as I linger, weary, on my knee,

I wonder if, forgotten or unknown,

some smaller thing somewhere might worship me.   

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I just came from visiting a blog that I know I’ll be returning to rather frequently. I sincerely trust that I am not commiting plagiarism by taking a few words from a comment one visitor left, and in which I see the making of a future essay. I paraphrase somewhat. This world is just a tiny speck of dust in an ever-expanding universe, and on which mankind clings precariously to the thin crust of a raging inferno underneath. If I can find his or her name, I will “make amends”. Now, a short statement followed by a question. 

God is supposed to have declared all things he created, good. What’s good about a earth with a raging inferno at its core that keeps forcing its way to the surface every now and then with devasting results? What’s good about slipping plates a comparatively short distance under our feet that produce earthquakes capable of leveling entire cities . . . when God could just as easily have created this earth a stable and safe environment on which to live?  However, with the universe expanding at a terrific rate of speed, how can anything be stable, including this earth on which we live?  And, does that fact include heaven?

I’m not really looking for answers: I’ve already heard them all and not one of them satisfactory for me because I lack faith. No, I have faith. Everytime I get in the car and  turn the key in the ignition switch, I have faith I’ll be backing out of the driveway within moments. Oh course, I have a good mechanic in whom I have faith to keep my car in good running condition. Can that be said of god? I also have faith in myself. I see to the car’s needs: oil changes, tire rotation, easy-on-the-brake stops and the like. If one’s “spiritual” car, or whatever, gets out of kilter, I recommend a good friend or two: a friend who will listen and, if possible, help one through any bad time he is having. I haven’t really seen much proof of God’s intervention when it comes to problems of any kind. Nevertheless, I concede this: Faith, for many, works. Not that it changes anything, but I’ve no quarrel with a person accepting “what is” and “living with it” if it works. It’s never worked for me.

I should have a poem in my book The Iconoclast that “speaks” to the subject. If so, I’ll add it tomorrow. If not, guess I’ll have to compose one. Maybe that’s what I need . . . some pressure to cause me to get back to poetry.  Quite frankly, the older I get, the less I think of me as a poet. I’ve written a few good ones, but it takes more than a few to earn the title. Having been forced to face  reality most of my life, smooths the path for me now. I’ll try to get back with a poem to fit this particulr blog subject. If not? Little lost.

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