"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words. " ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Friday, July 28, 2017

O Ya - Ya of Little Faith

A LITTLE ALTAR
WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS

Good Lord didn't mean for us to hate ourself.
He made us to love ourself like He do, with wide open arms
.” (140)

Don't ever worry bout bein holy, babychild.
Just keep your eyes wide open except when you sleep.
Then let the Lord's mighty vision see you through the night
.” (144)

from
~ Little Altars Everywhere ~ Rebecca Wells ~
~ more on my book blog ~

"I have been missing the point. The point is not knowing
another person, or learning to love another person.
The point is simply this: how tender can we bear to be?
What good manners can we show as we welcome ourselves
and others into our hearts?
" (346)

from
~ Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood ~ Rebecca Wells ~

************

It has been awhile since the "Ya - Ya Sisterhood" has come up in conversation, but it's been on my mind lately in connection with my recent thoughts on religious indoctrination. Even the titles -- Divine Secrets, Little Altars -- imply a spiritual inclination. I loved the vocabulary: ya-ya, ya-ya-no, gumbo ya-ya, tres ya-ya, petites ya-yas -- and my favorite angel-gals.

The plot, on the other hand, was rather far fetched for my taste. Could you really have the same four best friends for seventy years? Well maybe if your fathers were all incredibly rich and your husbands were all incredibly rich and you never had to move across the country or be even remotely concerned about making a living and could live an entire life devoted solely to personal relationships. I was straining to suspend my disbelief, but I guess that's why they call it fiction. Still I prefer for my fictional characters to be a bit more like moi, and I'm a Yankee girl raised in a humble home of modest means. So I had a few hurdles to cross and some eyes to roll before coming to a full appreciation of the divine secrets behind the antics.

For me, the most memorable line will always be when Sidda (age thirty - something) goes to visit her mother and "tried not to feel five years old. She tried to feel at least eleven" (336). Another shining moment -- as quoted above -- occurs when Sidda gives up the idea of ever really understanding her mother: "The point is not knowing another person, or learning to love another person. The point is simply this: how tender can we bear to be?"

In fact, early in the novel, Sidda's mother suggests the tenderness of etiquette, "Forget love. Try good manners” (25). This ya - ya advice is similar to Kurt Vonnegut's observation that what the world needs now is "A little less love please, and a little more common decency". Or Ralph Waldo Emerson's reminder to "treat the men and women well: treat them as if they were real: perhaps they are."

I like Emerson's "angels unawares" message here, but even more I like the face value of it, that being human is enough, being human is everything. If the sum of humanity is greater than the individuals, then maybe that sum is god. Instead of loving god (whatever that means) how about just being nice to other people. When it comes to faith, god, and religion, the quest to know (even as also we are known) can be good; but maybe a better goal is to be tender and mannerly.

In a memorable episode of Thirtysomething (can't remember which season), Elliot chastises his mother-in-law Eleanor for hurting his wife Ellen's feelings. Eleanor responds that she has asked god's forgiveness. But Elliot persists, "What about asking Ellen's forgiveness? She's the person you hurt." Why can't Eleanor be more tender? Why is she holding back?

Around the same time (1997) that I was watching Thirtysomething and reading Divine Secrets and Little Altars, a dear friend -- one of my angel - gals -- was reading The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie. She found it to be a very helpful way of looking at the heartache and frustration and occasional boredom of organized religion, and she wrote to explain some of Beattie's ideas:
She suggests acting "As If." Act as if you're happy and pretty soon you will be. Or act as if I have excellent self-esteem and pretty soon I will. That kind of thing. So if I act as if I believe in God, pretty soon I will? That could work! It's very important to me to start believing. I went to my counselor last night. Seems I have this core belief that "I am not enough." So I asked, "How do you get rid of those beliefs that you formed as a small child?" Of course, as adults, we can actively choose for tenderness as opposed to bitterness, but we can't always repair the damage done to us as children. I have a lot of work to do, and I really appreciate your thoughts and help on my issues.
In response, I shared with her the story of what had inspired me over the years and what had not. As a Nazarene kid (in the 1960s & 70s), I am definitely grateful for the singable hymns and the "fantastic grasp of scripture," which has served me well personally and professionally, as a teacher and writer. However, I never got the "strong sense of identity" or the "Nazzy street cred" that some adherents claim as their birthright (see, for example, Ryan Scott's blog post
"Nazarenes, Moralism, and _ru_p"). Instead, I felt constantly judged and criticized by my elders and my peers, perpetually weighed and found wanting. Always a goat, never a sheep.

As a child, my eyes were opened (and not in a good way) when I visited a Sunday school class for fourth grade girls. When one of the girls was excused for a few moments to run an errand, the teacher turned to the rest of us and said, "While she's out of the room, let's pray for her, because we know that she is not saved." What?! I hardly believed any of those cruel, heartless, irrational ideas from the time I was 8 or 9 years old. How do we know that she's not saved? My girlish heart was shocked then; and even now, half a century later, I remain highly suspicious of anyone who would pray for me behind my back. Don't do that!

I was exposed to numerous other severe dictates that totally backfired. Though I realized early on (by age 10) that it would never work for me, I stayed in the church, trying to remain in favor with my family, until age 26. With huge relief, I finally chose another path. I was committed to the insistence that religion has to make some kind of sense, and to finding a church where human intelligence is valued, rather than the hypocritical "please leave your brain at the door" attitude that I resented throughout my formative years. I knew that I would never want my children subjected to the criticism and judging and unnecessary shame of Protestant fundamentalism.

I also have to confess that I've never been much of prayer person, mostly because I don't know what that means. If I'm asking, who am I asking? If I'm praising, who am I praising? Yet I like doing things like reciting or singing or listening to certain prayers, poems, psalms, hymns because I like those words and I like the act of singing or choral reading or just hearing certain words or phrases. So it's not that if I act happy or uplifted I will become those things; it's just that for the duration (5 minutes) of hearing someone sing "Ave Maria" or for the duration (2 minutes) of reciting the Apostles' Creed, I feel convinced of meaning, grace, history, connection. I can easily believe that the world's most beautiful words, songs, and buildings have all been created to the "glory of God," even though I'm not entirely sure what that means. I'm not opposed to the idea that honoring god means honoring humanity, in manner of Rebecca Wells, Vonnegut, and Emerson.

My ya-ya sis replied:
I totally appreciate you sharing your thoughts on God. That really helped! What I understood you to be saying is that you have faith and you believe in God even though you're not what exactly God is or if God even exists? So it's kind of like a blind faith? And that if you pray to God that's your God? That just by doing the act (believing) it creates belief? Am I getting this? If I'm at all close, I think I know what you're saying, and I think that might work for me. I have trouble believing in anything supernatural (not concrete), but I guess if I just believe that something could exist, that is enough. Maybe?
One observation that I would add to our thoughts on God is that I'm not really trying to accomplish or grow into any kind of greater belief by the small ways in which I practice my "blind faith" (if that's the right term). It's not so much that "act creates belief" for me as it is that "act gives satisfaction" (however slight). So what I'm willing to do (and maybe this is my "faith") is go with that slight sense of satisfaction or fulfillment or participation as a worthwhile act in itself. For a specific example, let's say I take communion -- I have no belief in the body and blood and transubstantiation. In fact, I never even think about those things. But I do like participating in the ritual of having a tiny piece of bread and a tiny sip of wine with some other people that I know. I have no expectation that such an act will lead to or create any further belief; and as for the supernatural, I don't need body and blood; bread and wine is enough for me.

A little divinity, a lot of humanity. A little love, a lot of common decency. A little knowing, a lot of tenderness. A few divine secrets, a lot of little altars.

ANOTHER LITTLE ALTAR
"Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?"
Matthew 8:26, KJV

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS
FOR A CONTINUATION OF THIS DISCUSSION ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Monday, August 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Friday, July 14, 2017

Born Only Once

CATHEDRAL WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
St. Andrew's Anglican Cathedral ~ Sydney, Australia

I have to completely agree with business writer Brett Nelson who wrote that the phrase "'Come To Jesus Moment' Is The Most Annoying Business Expression On Earth." I understand that the concept has some currency in the common parlance, with connotations of humor and threat; but if you were subjected to the real thing as a child and urged repeatedly to "come to Jesus," it is not even remotely funny, and the threatening aspect falls sickly flat.

American poet Langston Hughes -- also , social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri (not far from where I grew up) -- explains it much better than I ever could. For anyone who was not brought up in an evangelical tradition, Hughes provides a glimpse of the impact that fundamentalism can have on the heart of an impressionable innocent child, black or white. His description certainly rings true to my experience. I did not come across this essay until I was an adult, but it made me feel less lonely and bizarre about my religious upbringing in the Church of the Nazarene -- such a strange way to be raised, such a harsh thing to do to a kid or to an adult:

"Salvation" by Langston Hughes
I was saved from sin when I was going on thirteen. But not really saved. It happened like this. There was a big revival at my Auntie Reed's church. Every night for weeks there had been much preaching, singing, praying, and shouting, and some very hardened sinners had been brought to Christ, and the membership of the church had grown by leaps and bounds. Then just before the revival ended, they held a special meeting for children, "to bring the young lambs to the fold." My aunt spoke of it for days ahead. That night I was escorted to the front row and placed on the mourners' bench with all the other young sinners, who had not yet been brought to Jesus.

My aunt told me that when you were saved you saw a light, and something happened to you inside! And Jesus came into your life! And God was with you from then on! She said you could see and hear and feel Jesus in your soul. I believed her. I had heard a great many old people say the same thing and it seemed to me they ought to know. So I sat there calmly in the hot, crowded church, waiting for Jesus to come to me.

The preacher preached a wonderful rhythmical sermon, all moans and shouts and lonely cries and dire pictures of hell, and then he sang a song about the ninety and nine safe in the fold, but one little lamb was left out in the cold. Then he said: "Won't you come? Won't you come to Jesus? Young lambs, won't you come?" And he held out his arms to all us young sinners there on the mourners' bench. And the little girls cried. And some of them jumped up and went to Jesus right away. But most of us just sat there.

A great many old people came and knelt around us and prayed, old women with jet-black faces and braided hair, old men with work-gnarled hands. And the church sang a song about the lower lights are burning, some poor sinners to be saved. And the whole building rocked with prayer and song.

Still I kept waiting to see Jesus.

Finally all the young people had gone to the altar and were saved, but one boy and me. He was a rounder's son named Westley. Westley and I were surrounded by sisters and deacons praying. It was very hot in the church, and getting late now. Finally Westley said to me in a whisper: "God damn! I'm tired o' sitting here. Let's get up and be saved." So he got up and was saved.

Then I was left all alone on the mourners' bench. My aunt came and knelt at my knees and cried, while prayers and song swirled all around me in the little church. The whole congregation prayed for me alone, in a mighty wail of moans and voices. And I kept waiting serenely for Jesus, waiting, waiting - but he didn't come. I wanted to see him, but nothing happened to me. Nothing! I wanted something to happen to me, but nothing happened.

I heard the songs and the minister saying: "Why don't you come? My dear child, why don't you come to Jesus? Jesus is waiting for you. He wants you. Why don't you come? Sister Reed, what is this child's name?"

"Langston," my aunt sobbed.

"Langston, why don't you come? Why don't you come and be saved? Oh, Lamb of God! Why don't you come?"

Now it was really getting late. I began to be ashamed of myself, holding everything up so long. I began to wonder what God thought about Westley, who certainly hadn't seen Jesus either, but who was now sitting proudly on the platform, swinging his knickerbockered legs and grinning down at me, surrounded by deacons and old women on their knees praying. God had not struck Westley dead for taking his name in vain or for lying in the temple. So I decided that maybe to save further trouble, I'd better lie, too, and say that Jesus had come, and get up and be saved.

So I got up.

Suddenly the whole room broke into a sea of shouting, as they saw me rise. Waves of rejoicing swept the place. Women leaped in the air. My aunt threw her arms around me. The minister took me by the hand and led me to the platform.

When things quieted down, in a hushed silence, punctuated by a few ecstatic "Amens," all the new young lambs were blessed in the name of God. Then joyous singing filled the room.

That night, for the first time in my life but one for I was a big boy twelve years old - I cried. I cried, in bed alone, and couldn't stop. I buried my head under the quilts, but my aunt heard me. She woke up and told my uncle I was crying because the Holy Ghost had come into my life, and because I had seen Jesus. But I was really crying because I couldn't bear to tell her that I had lied, that I had deceived everybody in the church, that I hadn't seen Jesus, and that now I didn't believe there was a Jesus anymore, since he didn't come to help me.
"First Confession," by Irish author Frank O'Connor is more often / more popularly anthologized:
"But the worst of all was when she showed us how to examine our conscience. Did we take the name of the Lord, our God, in vain? Did we honour our father and our mother? (I asked her did this include grandmothers and she said it did.) Did we love our neighbours as ourselves? Did we covet our neighbour's goods? (I thought of the way I felt about the penny that Nora got every Friday.) I decided that, between one thing and another, I must have broken the whole ten commandments, all on account of that old woman, and so far as I could see, so long as she remained in the house, I had no hope of ever doing anything else.

I was scared to death of confession
."
I have always preferred the Langston Hughes (1902 - 1967) essay because it captures the existential angst through the eyes of a child. O'Connor (1903 – 1966) manages to be more light - hearted and find some humor in the situation, but his narrative speaks less to my experience. I find it an interesting twist that the Irish Catholic writer is the one to describe the "hellfire & damnation" method of scaring children into religion (or, should that be scaring religion into children) rather than the Southern American writer. They both make the point that trying to force kids into some kind of mystical religious experience might make them more cynical rather than increasing their faith.

Like young Langston, I decided long ago that if I kept waiting around for a conversion experience or a personal relationship with God, I'd end up waiting forever. Maybe it's a literary thing, but over the years, I have decided to cast my lot with ritual and liturgy over abstract faith. I've never been able to latch onto the idea of a personal god / goddess who cares for me individually. I don't understand what people are talking about when they say "a personal relationship with Jesus Christ." Perhaps it is a matter of personality or nature, i.e., maybe it's "just my nature" to doubt or be unmoved by emotional appeals to the supernatural, while other people have a deep response to those methods. In the Church of the Nazarene, experiencing these emotions was the central act of faith, so I always felt really excluded -- a goat, not a sheep -- because I never felt the hand of god move or heard Jesus speaking to my heart. Again, I ask, what on earth do those phrases mean? I, for one, could never figure out.

Every time I re-read "Salvation," I am reminded that Hughes also said:

"Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you—
Then, it will be true
."

And in a related thought, Czeslaw Milosz writes,

"We are born on earth only once
and we indulge in much mimicking and posing,
dimly aware of the truth, but with pen in hand
it is difficult to escape that awareness:
then, at least, one wants to keep one's self-respect."

So in a bid for self - respect and truth, I thought I'd go out a limb here -- although I'm not a minister of the Gospel, nor do I play one on TV -- and compile a few posts about religious experience, especially since it has been in the news a lot lately, though, sadly, not in a good way. For example:

1. "Enthusiasm for a candidate like Trump gives our neighbors
ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus is Lord."

-Andy Crouch‬

2. Mike Pence: The servile schemer who would be president"
by Richard North Patterson
American fiction writer, attorney and political commentator

"Trump, not Jesus, became Pence’s personal savior: Cravenly, Pence proclaimed Trump a model paterfamilias and man of deep faith. To cognoscenti, the reflexive alacrity with which Pence swathed Trump in pieties confirmed a surreal obliviousness to his own moral smallness. Even so, he swiftly elevated serial hypocrisy to unforeseen heights."

3. "Mike Pence and the rise of mediocrity"
by Richard North Patterson

"The effect is that of an unctuous church elder selling pyramid schemes to credulous parishioners, never doubting he is doing God’s work. Every self-serving self-deception reveals the depths of his shallowness, the breadth of his hypocrisy. His salvation is not ours."

4. "Trump Can't Reverse the Decline of White Christian America"
by Robert P. Jones

"Two-thirds of those who voted for the president felt his election was the "last chance to stop America's decline." But his victory won't arrest the cultural and demographic trends they opposed."

So according to Michele Bachman, Trump is "somebody who will stand up for godly moral principles." Heaven Help Us!

Wow! Talk about a deeply held belief: "In a head-spinning reversal, white evangelicals went from being the least likely to the most likely group to agree that a candidate’s personal immorality has no bearing on his performance in public office." Hypocrisy takes the day.

My friend Olynn responds: "He instead actually hastens a decline that is now real - but wasn't before."

5. "Mike Pence’s New God"
by William Saletan

"The Christian conservative was supposed to bring morality to Trump’s campaign. Instead he caved to Trump."

"Like Esau, who exchanged his inheritance for a pot of stew, white evangelicals have traded their distinctive values for fleeting political power. Twenty years from now, there is little chance that 2016 will be celebrated as the revival of White Christian America, no matter how many Christian right leaders are installed in positions of power over the next four years. Rather, this election will mostly likely be remembered as the one in which white evangelicals traded away their integrity and influence in a gambit to resurrect their past."

6. "Why people believe Trump's lies, fake news, and conspiracy theories"
by Linette Lopez

"Science writer and historian Michael Shermer believes that human beings are conditioned to believe, rather than disbelieve, things. . . . And so we believe. But more than that, in that belief we create patterns. That helps us structure our lives. It gives meaning to what could easily be random. It is from there that Shermer believes we develop things like superstition and conspiracy theories. They make sense of what is random."

7. Awaiting Someone Like Mike Pence as a Messiah
by Kieryn Darkwater
Interesting discussion regarding Christianity, culture wars, and home schooling.

A Different Kind of Salvation:
A Fairy Piper by Richard MacDonald
"Forever piping songs forever new . . ." ~ John Keats
from "Ode On A Grecian Urn"

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS
FOR A CONTINUATION OF THIS DISCUSSION ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Friday, July 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Yellow Wallpaper

ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS . . . EERIE, CREEPY . . .

Pericles ~ Cicero

Medusa
Click to see animated panels.

When I saw this exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art ~ Sydney, Australia, passages from "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman began floating through my mind. Had Gary Carsley evoked / invoked Gilman intentionally or by coincidence? Either way, one glance at Carsley's "talking heads" brought Gilman's text to life. Re - reading the story, I felt almost convinced that the narrator was staring at the Carsley exhibit:
"The front pattern does move -- and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it! Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over.

Then in the very ' bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard.

And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern -- it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads.

They get through, and then the pattern strangles them off and turns them upside down, and makes their eyes white!

If those heads were covered or taken off it would not be half so bad."
(654)
Whether or not Carsley's exhibit explicitly mentions Gilman's story, I felt a subtle connection and knew that I had to share it with my friend Rebecca, who has studied Gilman extensively and is the one who urged me to study "The Yellow Wallpaper" more thoroughly years ago in graduate school.

As I was getting ready to share with Rebecca, the next coincidence came along. I turned to her facebook page and discovered that her most recent post contained a link to:
"Hysteria, Witches, and the Wandering Uterus:
A Brief History or, Why I Teach "The Yellow Wallpaper"

By Terri Kapsalis

Rarely does the phrase "wandering uterus" come into my conversation, but
-- another coincidence! -- here it was twice in two weeks. A couple of weeks ago, Gerry and I started watching a new series, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, the very first episode of which contains a quasi-medical, half - joking reference to treating the "wandering womb." I remarked at the time whether "wandering womb" might be a pre - scientific term for "endometriosis"? As it turns out, yes, that is one important explanation.

Kapsalis suggests a few others:
"The uterus was believed to wander around the body like an animal, hungry for semen. If it wandered the wrong direction and made its way to the throat there would be choking, coughing or loss of voice, if it got stuck in the the rib cage, there would be chest pain or shortness of breath, and so on. Most any symptom that belonged to a female body could be attributed to that wandering uterus. 'Treatments,' including vaginal fumigations, bitter potions, balms, and pessaries made of wool, were used to bring that uterus back to its proper place."
A google search will yield numerous insights into the disturbing tale of "The Yellow Wallpaper," and into the mind, life, and times of the author. Before checking out any of the others, read this one! Explaining the course she teaches ~ “The Wandering Uterus: Journeys through Gender, Race, and Medicine” ~ Kapsalis moves through history, literary criticism and fiction, medicine, mental health, gender issues, hate crimes, contemporary politics and economics, leaving no stone unturned -- even the weather plays a part:
"We know that the social toxins of living in a racist, misogynist, homophobic, and otherwise economically unjust society can literally make us sick, and that sickness is no less real than one brought on by polluted air or water. In actuality, both social and environmental toxins are inextricably intertwined as the very people subject to systemic social toxins (oppression, poverty) are usually the same folks impacted by the most extreme environmental toxins. And the people who point fingers and label others “hysterical” are the ones least directly impacted by said toxins."
Kapsalis concludes that "I teach 'The Yellow Wallpaper' because I believe it can save people," echoing Gilman herself, who wrote: "But the best result is this. . . . It was not intended to drive people crazy, but to save people from being driven crazy, and it worked."

As Gilman's distressed narrator explains from the outset, "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a ghost story, although her husband is always ready to offer a practical explanation that "spoils my ghostliness." After a few more paragraphs, it becomes clear that the reader is also bearing witness to a descent into madness. Isolated from the family, denied meaningful work, and banned from creative expression, the narrator spends hour after hour sequestered in the yellow - papered, prison - like room, growing increasingly obsessed with the confusing random movement of the design. She hopes for order to emerge from the chaos, but it never does. Instead, a phantom woman appears, at first within the intricate design, then at the windows, then beyond. The narrator feels connected to this wandering yet trapped figure because their plights are similar:
" . . . there is something strange about the house - I can feel it. I even said so to John one moonlight evening, but he said what I felt was a draught, and shut the window." (648)

“There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.” (652)

“It is the same woman, I know, for she is always creeping, and most women do not creep by daylight.” (654)

“I often wonder if I could see her out of all the windows at once. But, turn as fast as I can, I can only see out of one at one time. And though I always see her, she may be able to creep faster than I can turn! I have watched her sometimes away off in the open country, creeping as fast as a cloud shadow in a high wind.”
(655)
[Click for more quotations & to read the entire story]

Last week, another annoying, local coincidence reinforced the message of Gilman's story. Well in advance of garbage day, an ugly old yellow - patterned couch appeared out on the curb of our street, just a few houses down from us, a sorry sight for the neighbors to endure for several days. Truly, every time I biked past, it was driving me a little crazier than the time before! It seemed to embody the reason that Gilman chose yellow for the offending wallpaper!

Remember Hailstones and Halibut Bones, the enchanting childhood poetry collection in which each color "has a taste . . . a smell . . . a wonderful story to tell?" Yellow, for example, "is the color of the sun / The feeling of fun / The yolk of an egg . . . And a daffodil . . . sweet corn / Ripe oats . . . Summer squash and / Chinese silk . . ." (Mary O'Neill). If only Gilman's imprisoned heroine could lay hold of such nostalgic joy, but to her dismay, and ours, her reaction is the exact opposite:
"It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw – not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things. But there is something else about that paper – the smell! ... The only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the paper! A yellow smell." [654]


And for one last connection: in searching for material on Gilman and "The Yellow Wallpaper," I came across this collection, featuring a painting of Gilman herself, nursing her newborn:

Click for more about this book
and more about the cover painting:
"Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Breastfeeding her Baby Katharine"

How timely that my friend Brendan had recently spoken out against the latest misogynistic incident of breastfeeding hysteria, and I had posted this photo of what it looks like, more often than not, to breastfeed a baby in public:


SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Friday, July 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Always June

A MONTH WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS

My husband Gerry and I spent the first eleven days of this month in Australia, somewhere we had never been before. On June 1st, Gerry was driving us to the airport, while I sat quietly in the passenger's seat browsing through my latest Martha Stewart magazine. No sooner had I marked the above page with a little bookmark than my friend Katie texted me the following visual:

"Thought you'd like this quote from The Oprah Magazine.
Happy June!"


I wish it were a bit more legible, but take a closer look at the caption under the summer fruit and you'll find the exact same passage from Lucy Maud Montgomery. I loved the idea that at the exact same moment, Katie -- at her desk taking a break from her writing -- and I -- in the car on the way to Indianapolis -- were connected through our reading of these beautiful summery words from Anne of the Island, used in one case to illustrate the perfect summer bike ride, and in another to accompany an array of delicious seasonal berries and peaches.

I took a quick photo of the page in front of me and texted it back to Katie: "Funny coincidence. I brought along Martha Stewart Living to look at in the car on the way to the airport. Just got to this page then took a break to check my phone and got your message with Oprah page. Could it be that both magazines share the same literary editor?!"

Katie replied with her usual charm: "You were obviously meant to be seeing that great quote today! Happy June and happy travels!"

Red Leaf at
The Chinese Garden of Friendship
Sydney, Australia ~ June 9, 2017

I'm pretty sure that we readers from the northern hemisphere know exactly what L. M. Montgomery means when she wonders "what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June." She means, if only it could always be summertime!

Likewise James Russell Lowell when he asks: "And what is so rare as a day in June? / Then, if ever, come perfect days."

And Emily Dickinson When she exclaims that "My only sketch, profile of heaven is a large blue sky, / larger than the biggest I have seen in June -- and in it are my friends -- all of them -- every one them."

In our prose and in our poetry, June and summer are synonyms! As are October and autumn! Gillian Flynn explains it perfectly: "I had seen the photos . . . always with autumn colors in the background, as if the school were based not in a town but in a month, October." October is practically a place! It's certainly a season.

We know that George Eliot must be thinking of October -- not June -- when she declares: "Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."

As it turns out, that's kind of what Gerry and I did. We flew around the world and found another autumn! In Sydney, June does not mean summer; it means a very mild and mellow (except for that one really stormy day) late autumn. Even more disconcerting than the 26 - hour time difference and the jet lag, was this sense of what I call season lag. Could it really be coming on to winter but not coming on to Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas?

I guess the reverse was true last December in Medellin,
wearing summer clothes, photographing the tropical plants,
and admiring the Christmas lights without a snowflake in sight.

Yet, somehow my mind could bridge the disconnect of a warm December with greater ease than a chilly June. After all, I've visited Florida in December and seen the poinsettias sitting out on the front porches -- something you could never do in the Midwest! But never before had I seen leaves falling in June! I had to pinch myself a few times as a reminder: yes it is June, yes it is autumn!

An Autumnal Perspective ~ June 9, 2017
The Anglican Cathedral of St Andrew
Sydney Town Hall ~ Constructed 1886
Surrounded by a combination of green trees and fall leaves
.

P.S.
Speaking of wandering the globe, Happy Bloomsday!
~ Coming up June 16th
~

The Return of Odysseus
by Romare Bearden (1911 - 1988)
And more! ~ Look at these!

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday, June 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Crones At Last

A HOUSE WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
Stained Glass Avian Triad ~ Birthday Present From Melinda

Connection ~ Treasured Friends

2010 ~ Celebrating Kitti's 53rd, Nancy's 70th, Melinda's 60th
In our matching embossed shirts:

Coincidence ~ Barbara G. Walker ~ Witches & Crones
In anticipation of our birthday gathering, I shared with Melinda and Nancy a few pages from one of my favorite works of religious insight: The Skeptical Feminist: Discovering the Virgin, Mother, and Crone, Barbara G. Walker. A brief interchapter entitled "The Witches" bridges the second and third sections of the book. In this mystical interlude, Walker describes thirteen friends who meet for a ceremonial supper once a month in observance of the full moon. Here's the thing about the "witch women" -- they are also just regular women: At the close of the evening,
"The women stand and put their arms around each other's shoulders for a moment. Then they collect their dishes, coats, and candlesticks, and go out one by one into the night. Each makes a little bow toward the full moon. They get into their cars and drive away, once more transformed into ordinary modern housewives and working women, filled with ordinary concerns. Yet each retains a small, steady, sustaining core of calm, like a candle in the center of a room.

They will meet again in another 28 days
" (207).

With no prior knowledge that I had copied these pages in preparation for our birthday celebration, Nancy presented me with Walker's classic introduction to aging wisely: The Crone: Woman of Age, Wisdom, and Power:
"A first step is to realize that the Crone was once a vital part of divinity . . . even early Christianity -- the nontraditional or Gnostic kind --had its own Crone figure, the feminine forerunner of the later, masculinized Holy Ghost. She was sometimes Sophia, personification of Wisdom; sometimes the Pneuma or Holy Spirit; sometimes Grandmother of God; sometimes the feminine Thought without whom God could not have functioned as a creator. . . . " (38).

[For more on Walker, see my previous posts:
Politics & Religion, Three Christmases, Once A Time Before.]

Custom ~ Birthday Reunion
2017 ~ Celebrating Melinda's 67th, Kitti's 60th, Nancy's 77th
In our coordinating scarves and birthday hoodies
fromTillicum Village ~ Blake Island, Washington

Ceremony ~ For May the Month of Mary
~ A Prayer For The Times ~ A Litany of Women for the Church ~
Dear God, creator of women in your own image,
born of a woman in the midst of a world half women,
carried by women to mission fields around the globe,
made known by women to all the children of the earth,
give to the women of our time
the strength to persevere,
the courage to speak out,
the faith to believe in you beyond
all systems and institutions
so that your face on earth may be seen in all its beauty,
so that men and women become whole,
so that the church may be converted to your will
in everything and in all ways.

We call on the holy women
who went before us,
channels of Your Word
in testaments old and new,
to intercede for us
so that we might be given the grace
to become what they have been
for the honor and glory of God.

Saint Esther, who pleaded against power
for the liberation of the people,
Saint Judith, who routed the plans of men
and saved the community,
Saint Deborah, laywoman and judge, who led
the people of God,
Saint Elizabeth of Judea, who recognized the value
of another woman,
Saint Mary Magdalene, minister of Jesus,
first evangelist of the Christ,
Saint Scholastica, who taught her brother Benedict
to honor the spirit above the system,
Saint Hildegard, who suffered interdict
for the doing of right,
Saint Joan of Arc, who put no law above the law of God,
Saint Clare of Assisi, who confronted the pope
with the image of woman as equal,
Saint Julian of Norwich, who proclaimed for all of us
the motherhood of God,
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, who knew the call
to priesthood in herself,
Saint Catherine of Siena, to whom the pope listened,
Saint Teresa of Avila, who brought women’s gifts
to the reform of the church,
Saint Edith Stein, who brought fearlessness to faith,
Saint Elizabeth Seton, who broke down boundaries
between lay women and religious
by wedding motherhood and religious life,
Saint Dorothy Day, who led the church
to a new sense of justice,

* * *

Mary, mother of Jesus,
who heard the call of God and answered,
Mary, mother of Jesus,
who drew strength from the woman Elizabeth,
Mary, mother of Jesus,
who underwent hardship bearing Christ,
Mary, mother of Jesus, who ministered at Cana,
Mary, mother of Jesus, inspired at Pentecost,
Mary, mother of Jesus, who turned the Spirit of God
into the body and blood of Christ, pray for us. Amen.


Sister Joan Chittister, OSB

In addition to Chittister's litany of encouragement, Nancy also read a contemporary psalm of hope to carry us forward into the new year and our next decade of life on this beautiful, chaotic planet:

I will praise God, my Beloved,
for she is altogether lovely . . .

On the edge of your abyss I look down and I tremble;
but I will not stand gazing forever.

Even in chaos you will bear me up;
if the waters go over my head,
you will still be holding me.

For the chaos is yours also,
and in the swirling of mighty waters
is your presence known . . .

Though I lose all knowledge and security . . .

[God] will recreate me, in her steadfast love,
so that I need not be afraid.

Janet Morley ~ All Desires Known

"Transforming Spirits" is the name of this dragonfly design
by Coast Salish ~ artist ~ Simone Diamond
More on Quotidian Transformation and Renewal

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday, June 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Tools For Everyday Use

A SHOP WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
I wish I had thought to take a photo of my father's old garage shop
when I was visiting; but since I forgot to do so,
here is a picture of Gerry's basement shop instead.

Hanging out with my sibs for Mother's Day, I happened to recall a conversation between the six of us that took place ten (10!) years ago, so I combed back through my saved mail, finally tracking down the following exchange from Saturday, May 26, 2007:

Initial note from eldest brother Dave:
I will begin next week to pull out some of Dad's and possibly G'pa Carriker's tools and divvy them up. I will, to the best of my ability try and describe whatever history I know of them as well as their function if it isn't readily apparent. You should see them sometime around Dad's birthday.

Response from eldest sister Peg:
Thanks for asking about Daddy's tools. Unfortunately, working with their hands is not something either of my boys takes an interest in. I would appreciate one tool of your choice just to have something. It's a case of wanting some tangible piece of our legacy but nothing more. The purpose and function of the tool is irrelevant. Thanks again for asking, and I'm happy to know that the majority of the tools will go to someone who will give them a good home.

Response from youngest sister Diane:
Thank you for including us in the tools ... and what / who they represent. (hugs)

My response:
I feel exactly the same as Peg does. Just one slightly different idea -- and Peg may want to use this suggestion also -- how about if I request two small tools, so that one day when Ben & Sam have their own workshops, they can give each have an item to remember Grandpa Willard by. I like Peg's word -- "a tangible piece of legacy." It doesn't really matter which particular tools -- just pick things that are easy to package up and that you and Hans would be least likely to use in your work.

And one more thing -- if sending through the mail is a hassle, please don't feel that there is any rush. As I told you a few years back when you were sorting out the guns and figuring out whose was whose, if it's safe with you, that's good enough for me. I trust your judgment entirely on these issues.

Here's a little story that taught me about trusting and sharing when it comes to family heirlooms. Right after Earl died, Grandpa Lindsey offered me the 1913 photograph of his brother Sam, who was killed in WWI.
I said, "I don't want to take it if you're not ready to part with it." And Grandpa said, "Well, Honey Girl, if I give it to you, I'm not parting with it." Isn't that a great line? I've never forgotten it.

I'm also suddenly reminded me of a story that I used to love to teach, called "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker. It's about two African American sisters, Maggie (the shy stay - at - home girl) and Dee (who has seen the world and changed her name to "Wangero" in honor of her African heritage). Dee / Wangero has come to visit her mother (who narrates the story) and look over some quilts made by their Aunt (called Big Dee) and Grandmother (also named Dee). The mother wants to give the quilts to the sister who will actually use them (Maggie), rather than to Wangero / Dee who sees them as artifacts.

So you should definitely not pick anything to give to us that Hans could put to "Everyday Use." Speaking of which -- here's the story:
************************

Everyday Use
by Alice Walker
I will wait for her in the yard that Maggie and I made so clean and wavy yesterday afternoon. A yard like this is more comfortable than most people know. It is not just a yard. It is like an extended living room. When the hard clay is swept clean as a floor and the fine sand around the edges lined with tiny, irregular grooves, anyone can come and sit and look up into the elm tree and wait for the breezes that never come inside the house.

Maggie will be nervous until after her sister goes: she will stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eying her sister with a mixture of envy and awe. She thinks her sister has held life always in the palm of one hand, that "no" is a word the world never learned to say to her.

You've no doubt seen those TV shows where the child who has "made it" is confronted, as a surprise, by her own mother and father, tottering in weakly from backstage. (A pleasant surprise, of course: What would they do if parent and child came on the show only to curse out and insult each other?) On TV mother and child embrace and smile into each other's faces. Sometimes the mother and father weep, the child wraps them in her arms and leans across the table to tell how she would not have made it without their help. I have seen these programs.

Sometimes I dream a dream in which Dee and I are suddenly brought together on a TV program of this sort. Out of a dark and soft-seated limousine I am ushered into a bright room filled with many people. There I meet a smiling, gray, sporty man like Johnny Carson who shakes my hand and tells me what a fine girl I have. Then we are on the stage and Dee is embracing me with tears in her eyes. She pins on my dress a large orchid, even though she has told me once that she thinks orchids are tacky flowers.

In real life I am a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands. In the winter I wear flannel nightgowns to bed and overalls during the day. I can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man. My fat keeps me hot in zero weather. I can work outside all day, breaking ice to get water for washing; I can eat pork liver cooked over the open fire minutes after it comes steaming from the hog. One winter I knocked a bull calf straight in the brain between the eyes with a sledge hammer and had the meat hung up to chill before nightfall. But of course all this does not show on television. I am the way my daughter would want me to be: a hundred pounds lighter, my skin like an uncooked barley pancake. My hair glistens in the hot bright lights. Johnny Carson has much to do to keep up with my quick and witty tongue.

But that is a mistake. I know even before I wake up. Who ever knew a Johnson with a quick tongue? Who can even imagine me looking a strange white man in the eye? It seems to me I have talked to them always with one foot raised in flight, with my head turned in whichever way is farthest from them. Dee, though. She would always look anyone in the eye. Hesitation was no part of her nature.

"How do I look, Mama?" Maggie says, showing just enough of her thin body enveloped in pink skirt and red blouse for me to know she's there, almost hidden by the door.

"Come out into the yard," I say.

Have you ever seen a lame animal, perhaps a dog run over by some careless person rich enough to own a car, sidle up to someone who is ignorant enough to be kind to him? That is the way my Maggie walks. She has been like this, chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle, ever since the fire that burned the other house to the ground.

Dee is lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and a fuller figure. She's a woman now, though sometimes I forget. How long ago was it that the other house burned? Ten, twelve years? Sometimes I can still hear the flames and feel Maggie's arms sticking to me, her hair smoking and her dress falling off her in little black papery flakes. Her eyes seemed stretched open, blazed open by the flames reflected in them. And Dee. I see her standing off under the sweet gum tree she used to dig gum out of; a look of concentration on her face as she watched the last dingy gray board of the house fall in toward the red-hot brick chimney. Why don't you do a dance around the ashes? I'd wanted to ask her. She had hated the house that much.

I used to think she hated Maggie, too. But that was before we raised money, the church and me, to send her to Augusta to school. She used to read to us without pity; forcing words, lies, other folks' habits, whole lives upon us two, sitting trapped and ignorant underneath her voice. She washed us in a river of make-believe, burned us with a lot of knowledge we didn't necessarily need to know. Pressed us to her with the serious way she read, to shove us away at just the moment, like dimwits, we seemed about to understand.

Dee wanted nice things. A yellow organdy dress to wear to her graduation from high school; black pumps to match a green suit she'd made from an old suit somebody gave me. She was determined to stare down any disaster in her efforts. Her eyelids would not flicker for minutes at a time. Often I fought off the temptation to shake her. At sixteen she had a style of her own: and knew what style was.

I never had an education myself. After second grade the school was closed down. Don't ask my why: in 1927 colored asked fewer questions than they do now. Sometimes Maggie reads to me. She stumbles along good-naturedly but can't see well. She knows she is not bright. Like good looks and money, quickness passed her by. She will marry John Thomas (who has mossy teeth in an earnest face) and then I'll be free to sit here and I guess just sing church songs to myself. Although I never was a good singer. Never could carry a tune. I was always better at a man's job. I used to love to milk till I was hooked in the side in '49. Cows are soothing and slow and don't bother you, unless you try to milk them the wrong way.

I have deliberately turned my back on the house. It is three rooms, just like the one that burned, except the roof is tin; they don't make shingle roofs any more. There are no real windows, just some holes cut in the sides, like the portholes in a ship, but not round and not square, with rawhide holding the shutters up on the outside. This house is in a pasture, too, like the other one. No doubt when Dee sees it she will want to tear it down. She wrote me once that no matter where we "choose" to live, she will manage to come see us. But she will never bring her friends. Maggie and I thought about this and Maggie asked me, "Mama, when did Dee ever have any friends?"

She had a few. Furtive boys in pink shirts hanging about on washday after school. Nervous girls who never laughed. Impressed with her they worshiped the well-turned phrase, the cute shape, the scalding humor that erupted like bubbles in lye. She read to them.

When she was courting Jimmy T she didn't have much time to pay to us, but turned all her faultfinding power on him. He flew to marry a cheap city girl from a family of ignorant flashy people. She hardly had time to recompose herself.

When she comes I will meet—but there they are!

Maggie attempts to make a dash for the house, in her shuffling way, but I stay her with my hand. "Come back here," I say. And she stops and tries to dig a well in the sand with her toe.

It is hard to see them clearly through the strong sun. But even the first glimpse of leg out of the car tells me it is Dee. Her feet were always neat looking, as if God himself had shaped them with a certain style. From the other side of the car comes a short, stocky man. Hair is all over his head a foot long and hanging from his chin like a kinky mule tail. I hear Maggie suck in her breath. "Uhnnnh," is what it sounds like. Like when you see the wriggling end of a snake just in front of your foot on the road. "Uhnnnh."

Dee next. A dress down to the ground, in this hot weather. A dress so loud it hurts my eyes. There are yellows and oranges enough to throw back the light of the sun. I feel my whole face warming from the heat waves it throws out. Earrings gold, too, and hanging down to her shoulders. Bracelets dangling and making noises when she moves her arm up to shake the folds of the dress out of her armpits. The dress is loose and flows, and as she walks closer, I like it. I hear Maggie go "Uhnnnh" again. It is her sister's hair. It stands straight up like the wool on a sheep. It is black as night and around the edges are two long pigtails that rope about like small lizards disappearing behind her ears.

"Wa-su-zo-Tean-o!" she says, coming on in that gliding way the dress makes her move. The short stocky fellow with the hair to his navel is all grinning and he follows up with "Asalamalakim, my mother and sister!" He moves to hug Maggie but she falls back, right up against the back of my chair. I feel her trembling there and when I look up I see the perspiration falling off her chin.

"Don't get up," says Dee. Since I am stout it takes something of a push. You can see me trying to move a second or two before I make it. She turns, showing white heels through her sandals, and goes back to the car. Out she peeks next with a Polaroid. She stoops down quickly and lines up picture after picture of me sitting there in front of the house with Maggie cowering behind me. She never takes a shot without making sure the house is included. When a cow comes nibbling around the edge of the yard she snaps it and me and Maggie and the house. Then she puts the Polaroid in the back seat of the car, and comes up and kisses me on the forehead.

Meanwhile Asalamalakim is going through motions with Maggie's hand. Maggie's hand is as limp as a fish, and probably as cold, despite the sweat, and she keeps trying to pull it back. It looks like Asalamalakim wants to shake hands but wants to do it fancy. Or maybe he don't know how people shake hands. Anyhow, he soon gives up on Maggie.

"Well," I say. "Dee."

"No, Mama," she says. "Not 'Dee,' Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo!"

"What happened to 'Dee'?" I wanted to know.

"She's dead," Wangero said. "I couldn't bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me."

"You know as well as me you was named after your aunt Dicie," I said. Dicie is my sister. She named Dee. We called her "Big Dee" after Dee was born.

"But who was she named after?" asked Wangero.

"I guess after Grandma Dee," I said.

"And who was she named after?" asked Wangero.

"Her mother," I said, and saw Wangero was getting tired. "That's about as far back as I can trace it," I said. Though, in fact, I probably could have carried it back beyond the Civil War through the branches.

"Well," said Asalamalakim, "there you are."

"Uhnnnh," I heard Maggie say.

"There I was not," I said, "before 'Dicie' cropped up in our family, so why should I try to trace it that far back?"

He just stood there grinning, looking down on me like somebody inspecting a Model A car. Every once in a while he and Wangero sent eye signals over my head.

"How do you pronounce this name?" I asked.

"You don't have to call me by it if you don't want to," said Wangero.

"Why shouldn't I?" I asked. "If that's what you want us to call you, we'll call you."

"I know it might sound awkward at first," said Wangero.

"I'll get used to it," I said. "Ream it out again."

Well, soon we got the name out of the way. Asalamalakim had a name twice as long and three times as hard. After I tripped over it two or three times he told me to just call him Hakim-a-barber. I wanted to ask him was he a barber, but I didn't really think he was, so I didn't ask.

"You must belong to those beef-cattle peoples down the road," I said. They said "Asalamalakim" when they met you, too, but they didn't shake hands. Always too busy: feeding the cattle, fixing the fences, putting up salt-lick shelters, throwing down hay. When the white folks poisoned some of the herd the men stayed up all night with rifles in their hands. I walked a mile and a half just to see the sight.

Hakim-a-barber said, "I accept some of their doctrines, but farming and raising cattle is not my style." (They didn't tell me, and I didn't ask, whether Wangero (Dee) had really gone and married him.)

We sat down to eat and right away he said he didn't eat collards and pork was unclean. Wangero, though, went on through the chitlins and com bread, the greens and everything else. She talked a blue streak over the sweet potatoes. Everything delighted her. Even the fact that we still used the benches her daddy made for the table when we couldn't effort to buy chairs.

"Oh, Mama!" she cried. Then turned to Hakim-a-barber. "I never knew how lovely these benches are. You can feel the rump prints," she said, running her hands underneath her and along the bench. Then she gave a sigh and her hand closed over Grandma Dee's butter dish. "That's it!" she said. "I knew there was something I wanted to ask you if I could have." She jumped up from the table and went over in the corner where the churn stood, the milk in it clabber by now. She looked at the churn and looked at it.

"This churn top is what I need," she said. "Didn't Uncle Buddy whittle it out of a tree you all used to have?"

"Yes," I said.

"Un huh," she said happily. "And I want the dasher, too."

"Uncle Buddy whittle that, too?" asked the barber.

Dee (Wangero) looked up at me.

"Aunt Dee's first husband whittled the dash," said Maggie so low you almost couldn't hear her. "His name was Henry, but they called him Stash."

"Maggie's brain is like an elephant's," Wangero said, laughing. "I can use the chute top as a centerpiece for the alcove table," she said, sliding a plate over the chute, "and I'll think of something artistic to do with the dasher."

When she finished wrapping the dasher the handle stuck out. I took it for a moment in my hands. You didn't even have to look close to see where hands pushing the dasher up and down to make butter had left a kind of sink in the wood. In fact, there were a lot of small sinks; you could see where thumbs and fingers had sunk into the wood. It was beautiful light yellow wood, from a tree that grew in the yard where Big Dee and Stash had lived.

After dinner Dee (Wangero) went to the trunk at the foot of my bed and started rifling through it. Maggie hung back in the kitchen over the dishpan. Out came Wangero with two quilts. They had been pieced by Grandma Dee and then Big Dee and me had hung them on the quilt frames on the front porch and quilted them. One was in the Lone Star pattern. The other was Walk Around the Mountain. In both of them were scraps of dresses Grandma Dee had worn fifty and more years ago. Bits and pieces of Grandpa Jarrell's Paisley shirts. And one teeny faded blue piece, about the size of a penny matchbox, that was from Great Grandpa Ezra's uniform that he wore in the Civil War.

"Mama," Wangro said sweet as a bird. "Can I have these old quilts?"

I heard something fall in the kitchen, and a minute later the kitchen door slammed.

"Why don't you take one or two of the others?" I asked. "These old things was just done by me and Big Dee from some tops your grandma pieced before she died."

"No," said Wangero. "I don't want those. They are stitched around the borders by machine."

"That'll make them last better," I said.

"That's not the point," said Wangero. "These are all pieces of dresses Grandma used to wear. She did all this stitching by hand. Imagine!" She held the quilts securely in her arms, stroking them.

"Some of the pieces, like those lavender ones, come from old clothes her mother handed down to her," I said, moving up to touch the quilts. Dee (Wangero) moved back just enough so that I couldn't reach the quilts. They already belonged to her.

"Imagine!" she breathed again, clutching them closely to her bosom.

"The truth is," I said, "I promised to give them quilts to Maggie, for when she marries John Thomas."

She gasped like a bee had stung her.

"Maggie can't appreciate these quilts!" she said. "She'd probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use."

"I reckon she would," I said. "God knows I been saving 'em for long enough with nobody using 'em. I hope she will!" I didn't want to bring up how I had offered Dee (Wangero) a quilt when she went away to college. Then she had told they were old~fashioned, out of style.

"But they're priceless!" she was saying now, furiously; for she has a temper. "Maggie would put them on the bed and in five years they'd be in rags. Less than that!"

"She can always make some more," I said. "Maggie knows how to quilt."

Dee (Wangero) looked at me with hatred. "You just will not understand. The point is these quilts, these quilts!"

"Well," I said, stumped. "What would you do with them?"

"Hang them," she said. As if that was the only thing you could do with quilts.

Maggie by now was standing in the door. I could almost hear the sound her feet made as they scraped over each other.

"She can have them, Mama," she said, like somebody used to never winning anything, or having anything reserved for her. "I can 'member Grandma Dee without the quilts."

I looked at her hard. She had filled her bottom lip with checkerberry snuff and gave her face a kind of dopey, hangdog look. It was Grandma Dee and Big Dee who taught her how to quilt herself. She stood there with her scarred hands hidden in the folds of her skirt. She looked at her sister with something like fear but she wasn't mad at her. This was Maggie's portion. This was the way she knew God to work.

When I looked at her like that something hit me in the top of my head and ran down to the soles of my feet. Just like when I'm in church and the spirit of God touches me and I get happy and shout. I did some.thing I never done before: hugged Maggie to me, then dragged her on into the room, snatched the quilts out of Miss Wangero's hands and dumped them into Maggie's lap. Maggie just sat there on my bed with her mouth open.

"Take one or two of the others," I said to Dee.

But she turned without a word and went out to Hakim~a~barber.

"You just don't understand," she said, as Maggie and I came out to the car.

"What don't I understand?" I wanted to know.

"Your heritage," she said, And then she turned to Maggie, kissed her, and said, "You ought to try to make something of yourself, too, Maggie. It's really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama still live you'd never know it."

She put on some sunglasses that hid everything above the tip of her nose and chin.

Maggie smiled; maybe at the sunglasses. But a real smile, not scared. After we watched the car dust settle I asked Maggie to bring me a dip of snuff. And then the two of us sat there just enjoying, until it was time to go in the house and go to bed.
************************

Response from Dave:

Kit ~

Excellent story with a powerful message. It goes hand in hand with a maxim that I have always believed in relating to tools. Unused tools are one of the saddest things in the world. So much potential, so much already done and yet there they lay, fallow but full of promise. Another thought on tools came from G'pa Carriker who quoted it to me often: "It's a poor workman that blames his tools."

Quilts unslept under and saws painted and hung in a Crackerbarrel. So sad.

~ Dave


~ The Old Home Place ~

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS ON MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Sunday, May 28th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com