Sunday, April 27, 2008


"I asked the Shaman and he told me what to do"

"What Shaman? I mean, you know a Shaman?

She gave me a look that let me know I was clearly clueless.

"No, silly, I looked him up in the yellow pages." She shoved me in jest. "Seriously, how can you not know a Shaman?"

I shook my head "You know I'm just a sheltered, Lutheran, Swede. So what did the Shaman say?

"I'm supposed to smudge the room with sage"

"What does that mean, exactly?"

"Well, that was what I was hoping you'd tell me - That's why I had you bring over your sage."

"Sandy!" I said, with exasperation. "I'm a cook - not a medicine woman! I brought sage but it's rubbed sage - the kind you put on turkey stuffing or on turkey - I don't know if it will work for .... what did you say? Smoking?"

"Oh," she said.

"Wait, I said 'smoking' but what was the right word?"


"What does that mean? Maybe this is the right stuff?

Sandy brightened "Well it means to make smoke - I looked it up!"

"Okay," I said, "let me get this straight - you went to see a Shaman - one that you found in the yellow pages - "

"I was kidding about that" she interrupted.

"-And he told you that to get rid of the bad feelings from the fight you had with Marcus you should burn sage in this room?"

"Yeah, he said that it would cleanse the air."

"And by 'sage' he meant the herb - that kind of sage?"

She looked puzzled, "Is there another kind of sage?"

"Oh, Sandy I don't know. Why don't you call your Shaman back and clear it up - ask where we can get the sage he wanted you to use?"

Sandy looked exceptionally uncomfortable at this idea. "I don't have his number." she said.

I thought "hmmm - that's pretty lame." I looked at her more closely and said "Sandy, is this Shaman a real person - or is he someone you 'met' in a book?"

"Well, not in a book, exactly."


It came out of her in a rush "At writing, this morning. Someone wrote about a Shaman and smudging a room with sage to clear it and I thought it sounded like such a good idea.... And I knew you'd know about sage...."

"Yeah, well, just for cooking."

"Hey! Maybe we can look it up on the Internet....."

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Because of my tender and boundless love for him I love and care for him. He is my dad. In his bathroom there hangs a piece of art, a row of ceramic houses and a poem I wrote to him on the occasion of his 70th birthday. 12 years ago. He and mom were still active. Mom was only using oxygen at night. They still traveled. Great and Abu were still alive - still going strong although Great would leave us less than a year later - slipping away in the dark of night.

The poem outlines the fun bits of childhood - cigars as punks under a sky of fireworks on the shores of Lake Pepin. Orange Ni-hi at the bar in Stockholm, movie nights in the long narrow living room of my childhood. Fun times indeed.

Now he's in a wheel chair most days. Outings - to the store, to the doctor - wear him out. He no longer travels - not even to visit his daughter. He prefers to hold court in the high rise apartment we converted, in the course of a March weekend last year into "home." All of his old familiar things are there - the mantle clock no longer on the mantle, but on the curio cabinet containing my mother's paperweight and royal china collections; the china cabinet that my great grandfather had at his house now contains a castle collection instead of china. On top of it perches my mother's photo and a box containing the ashes of what was once her physical body.

When we moved him he insisted on "helping" although he could no more help than a three year old. He sat, holding court yet again, and directed us to the placement of his things. Half way through the day he was exhausted so we all took a break. As we sipped on lime colas - Green Rivers of his youth - he looked at me and asked "Elizabeth, where is your mother?"

Mom had died '03 - four years before. I began to panic. Does he not remember? Is he so tired that the beginnings of Alzheimer's is showing? I looked at him. He was serious, but the spark that was, and is, my dad still glimmered in his eye. With a flood of relief I realized what he was asking. "Oh, Dad" I said, "She's in one of the boxes we've not unpacked yet. Do you want her on the china cabinet again?" He nodded and said "Let's find her. and we went back to unpacking.

Great is Life, Real and Mystical - Walt Whitman

Turner's paintings have skies that are larger than the life depicted in the painting. Didja ever notice that? To us, to regular people the world we live is huge. We travel, see different things, people and places we'll never know even though we've met. Yet Turner turns that upside down. With towering thunderheads of purple and pink, flowing light highlighting only pieces of the life we identify most closely with. Making us small in the eyes of the Gods observing the painting.

The Green Moon

The green moon rose above the horizon just after we landed. I stood by the door and stared at the moon until the interpreter arrived. "Ah" he said, his English had only a trace of an accent "I see you've noticed the moon." "Yes", I said turning to him "it's green."

He handed me a pair of eye shades. "Try these and you'll see why" I slipped the darker glasses on and the odd color of the moon became instantly understandable. "It's a sales tool we call Moon-ver-tizing" he explained as I watched the images on the back lit screen that the moons surface had become. "we are having trouble in some of the provinces because of it." He said. "The discoloration that results from the Moon-ver-tizing rays has them convinced that the end is coming. Peasants!" he said deridingly.

The images were fascinating. Commercials in a language I couldn't hear but could clearly understand. A woman selling laundry soap, a group of teens listening to music and eating some snack food, even a public service announcement. Wow.

"Is this available every night?" "Yes, providing it's clear" he shrugged. "Mostly it's a novelty - the disturbances in the east are more a result of the politics of ownership."

I looked at him perplexed. "You own the moon?" "Yes, of course. We - the Araidian people, bought the moon and announced it to the rest of the world. They resent our claim but now with Moon-ver-tizing and soon Moon Movies, they can all see that we do indeed own the moon.

I tried to think if the moon was owned by anyone back home but my thoughts of 'back home' were fuzzy. I turned again to the moon. "Yes, he said, the subliminal messages make it very attractive." "Uh-huh" I was turning into a moon zombie - being sucked into a world I didn't know but couldn't bear to leave.

The interpreters voice was disappearing into the background as I became aware of the music and sound coming from the moon. "Soon," he said, "you won't need an interpreter - you'll be one of us....."

I don't think that's the right answer....

I don't think that's the right answer" he paused and pushed his glasses back up on his nose. "Think about your patterns - about your past."

He was right, of course. Why is it that people outside of your life - not central to it in any doing kind of way - can see the patterns you are so diligently trying to hide from yourself? I looked back on my life.

Unhappy in a relationship? Marry the guy! It's easier (HA!) than breaking it off.

Unhappy in your marriage? Why grad school, a new house, a new job, a baby or two or three is just the ticket!!

Unhappy after your divorce? With your next relationship? Buy a house! because your permanance and insanity will solve the relationhip issue.

Unhappy again? Move! Don't want to move? Buy a puppy!

Unhappy in your job? Get a new one!

Wait. That last bit actually makes sense - but only if I'm unhappy because of the job not the relationships within it.

I thought for a moment.

It's the relationship, damn it.

I sighed and looked at him. He'd taken his glasses of and was cleaning them. They caught the sunlight just right and the room glowed with rainbow light. He grinned in recognition of my awareness "You're learning" he said, "you're learning."

9 Ball, Corner Pocket

His hair hung over his face and his voice was so soft that if you hadn't been listening you would have missed his call. Cue lined up, push! Crack, thunder moving down the table - plonk. The nine slid into the corner pocket. He straightened, shook his head and satisfaction flew across his face.

He was a loner, a stranger to this town. She'd never seen him before. Another call, another shot, another plonk and one by one the balls fell just as he told them to. A crowd grew to watch the magic. Stella constantly delivering beers and nachos kept her eyes on the kid. He looked like a kid although she was sure that 'lanzo had checked his ID at the door.

The kid pocketed the modest fiver that he'd won by clearing the table as Cake, the best player in the county, ponied up a $20 and the magic started again.

This time the kid broke, sending the first ball into a pocket - stripes. Once again, without scratching or missing a beat the kid cleared the table. Cake, a big barrel of a man, picked up his twenty and handed it to the kid. "Double-er - nuttin? And I break?" he asked. The kid nodded and cake took the table racking the balls. The silence gave Stella a chance to study the kid under the guise of asking him what he wanted to drink.

He was tall - thin. Thin as a rail her grandma would have said. A shock of blond hair fell over his forehead and obscured his face. He had long narrow hands - piano players fingers, that held the cue carefully even as he slouched awaiting his turn. "Dew" he answered her query and shook his head at the offer of food.


Often times he would go sit by the Minnesota River and throw rocks into the water for hours on end. Looking at him you wouldn't be able to tell whether he was sober or stoned - homeless or not - old or young. Well, that part wasn't really true. He was young, but he was older than he looked and that, when he thought about it, was what counted.

Today was a rare sunny March day. The wind was pushing the winter remnants of trash in swirls around the parking lot as he walked toward the river. He'd spent some of the money he'd won the previous day on food, a pack of cigarettes and a large bottle of Mountain Dew.

He reached the river and squatted on the bank. He nestled himself between the forked roots of a large cottonwood tree. The river, like time, rushed by. He paid it no attention.

As the sun set he grew aware of the stiffness in his body and the cool air gave him a chill. He didn't know where he went when his mind took off like that, but he was always thankful for his return. He stood, stretching, wondering about the time. He was hungry, so it had been awhile, but he hadn't moved, so he was pretty sure it hadn't been days.

He ran his hand through his hair, dirty, and across his face, stubbly, although he was so fair that he looked to be too young to shave.


He awoke in a cold sweat. It was the same dream and it always scared him. The thing was, with his eyes open he could never remember it. No matter how many times he planned to remember it coaching himself to keep his eyes closed, to keep still until it came back to him - he always jerked awake; heart pounding eyes flying open involuntarily. He'd grip the edge of his bedroll, orienting himself back to his body.

Afterwards - after his eyes opened - they would be no returning to sleep and he always knew that the dream heralded a call to move on. He'd been waiting for it. He'd been in the small town for the past three weeks. Longer than usual and many folks had started to recognize him and they had begun to seem familiar to him.

The only one he thought he'd miss was the girl in the bar. Stella her name tag had read. After his first night there she'd made a point of keeping his Mountain Dew filled and his ashtray empty. He'd never spoken to her, except that first day when he'd asked for a dew, but her quiet care taking had reminded him of his mother and he'd gone back to that bar. Not every night, but often enough to know her work hours.

He packed his things without fanfare, his movements small, tidy, borne of repetition. His long fingers pushing his few possessions into his pack. He headed south, toward the railroad yards at the edge of town. He'd check there for a lift first before walking to the truck stop at the highway. He preferred trains. The rolling sway was hypnotizing like the river current, but the slowing or stopping of the train almost always brought him back. And it was easier to figure out where he was if he'd been gone on a train.

Trucks were how he'd ended up in Southern' Minnesota in March. He'd gotten to Chicago by train, but the rail yards were too well secured; patrolled by dogs he couldn't find to befriend; and so he'd gotten a ride with a trucker in February. It was early March before he'd figured out where he was. Trains, yep, trains were easier.