I Watched Movers Box Up a Life

Saturday, February 18, 2017

I watched movers box up a life today, a life I thought left me thirty some years ago.  I was wrong.

When our daughter and I cleaned out the refrigerator, we found a large pot filled with egusi stew, remnants of the last meal he cooked. I took the footlong, hand carved, wooden spoon, scraped the dry bits clinging to the sides of the silver pot.  Scrubbing it clean, smells of memory flooded my nostrils–cayenne, bitter leaves. It took me ten minutes, ten memory laden minutes.  Even after scrubbed and dried, the pot’s cayenne smell filled my nostrils, the distinct smell of West African food.

I watched movers box up a life today, a life I thought left me thirty some years ago.  I was wrong.

Our daughter and I found papers and photos, items her father kept all these years, detailed memories of our life together.  I could barely look at them, throat constricting, tears welling in the eyes of this woman who never cries.  Our daughter, dismayed, told me to go outside.  I walked down the quiet street, brown leaves scattered from autumn, unraked, a strange street both urban and rural inside a city of nearly half a million residents.  Is this where he walked, attempting to improve his health?  Was I walking in his footsteps?

I watched movers box up a life today, a life I thought left me thirty some years ago.  I was wrong.


Two weeks ago today, the sickening news came:  my daughter’s father, my ex-husband, suffered a massive heart attack while working.  Rushed to the hospital, resuscitated, then open heart surgery. He never regained consciousness, not yet.  He lies there, part of his brain not working, tube-fed, not breathing on his own.

She drove all night, six hours to get there.  She thought they had taken her to the wrong room, unrecognizable.  Last week end, I drove with her.  Except for his hands, I would not have recognized him myself, so thin, so aged. How could someone change that much in the ten years since I had last seen him?  She went back again late this week, returned late last night.  Moved to a longterm care facility, he remains the same except he no longer even opens his eyes, no more staring into the void.

I feel frozen.  This morning I delivered my grandson to my daughter–he stayed with me this trip.  Checking on her father’s apartment, my daughter found his photos, some from when we were young.  She showed a few to me.  I stared, shocked, dismayed.  My today’s to-do list just sits here.  I force myself to work at it bit by bit, write two peer review assignments for a class I am taking–I do not want to disappoint, vacuum and dust one room at a time, tell myself I need to go out on this 20 degrees warmer than normal day and garden, write this blog post.   I feel frozen.

He had plans neither she nor I knew about, plans to perhaps make him happier, return to the land of his birth.  Will some miracle occur, will he awaken, recover?  Is there some appropriate time for which we wait?

I feel frozen.  When will I thaw?


Meeting Phrike: Feminist Theology and the Experience of Horror by Jill Hammer

Today, I planned to write my own blog post this evening after work. Just before I read this post, I mulled over topics, whether I wanted to share a recipe or write about so many disturbing as well as inspiring events I experienced or watched in the past week. Then today a student in one of my classes loudly questioned whether the Holocaust even occurred. This was followed by another student announcing that Jews are not people. As I read through my emails, this blog post appeared. It seemed especially telling given that experience. I refuse to tolerate comments that denigrate the religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference of anyone.

Myself, I saw the numb pools amidst the shadows; myself, the wan gods and night in very truth.  My frozen blood stood still and clogged my veins.  Forth leaped a savage cohort… Then grim Erinys (Vengeance) shrieked, and blind Furor (Fury), and Horror (Phrike), and all the forms which spawn and lurk amidst the eternal shades.

Seneca, Oedipus (trans. Frank Justus Miller)

Horror is not a cognitive but a physiological or affective extra-discursive state of being. Not unlike the state of, say, feeling nausea, horror is a state of being, whose manifestation, based on the etymologies of the Greek φρiκη [phrike] and the Latin horror, may be described, as Adriana Cavarero writes, as “a state of paralysis, reinforced by the feeling of growing stiff on the part of someone who is freezing,” and further, through her mythological reference to the prototypical figure of horror, Medusa, as a state of “petrification”…

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The Chandravati Ramayana: A Story of Two Women by Vibha Shetiya

Although I do write many original blog posts, many times I see something that I think needs to be shared with others, something new, enlightening. This post tells a story I had not previously heard, an important story.

vibpicAlthough “the” Ramayana is a fluid narrative, scholarship has traditionally recognized the Sanskrit Valmiki Ramayana as the most authoritative of Ramayanas. But recent studies have brought to light the hundreds of regional stories of Rama and Sita which are more popular with the masses. These would include Krittibasa’s Ramayana in Bengal, Kamban’s Tamil Iramavataram in South India, notably in the state of Tamil Nadu, Tulsidas’s Ramcharitamanas among the Hindi-speaking belt of northern India, and so on. But even here, a pattern seems to emerge; all the above-mentioned authors are male. Within this scenario, a rather unique text stands out, and that is Chandravati’s sixteenth century Bengali Ramayana, for its author was a woman. Even more fascinating is the double-toned nature of the narrative – through Chandravati’s own voice and through the voice of its tragic heroine, Sita.

Chandravati (ca.1550-1600) was born in a village in eastern Bengal, today in…

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You, yes, you can make a difference

Many tell me or believe that one person, him or herself, cannot do much to change the world, to make a difference.  This short movie tells about a man in northeastern India who transformed a wasteland into a forest by planting one tree at a time over many years.  Now elephants, deer, and even tigers live there.  Take a look for yourself.  Look for the youtube video called “Forest Man”.  The web address is :

It won awards at several different film festivals including Cannes.




Another bill aims to take wolves off endangered list

For a number of years I have mulled over reasons why humans seem to hate wolves considerable more than other predators. I have my own “theories”. What are yours?

Wolf Is My Soul

January 10, 2017

A gray wolf moves through forested country in winter. Credit: MacNeil Lyons, National Park Service

The new Congress wasted little time in efforts to once again remove gray wolves from the federal endangered species list.

A bill introduced Tuesday by U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson, D-Minnesota; Sean Duffy, R-Wisconsin; and Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, would overrule a federal court action and remove federal protections from wolves in the Great Lakes and mountain west.

That already happened once, but a judge’s decision in late 2014 restored federal protections after wolves spent about three years under state control.

The members of Congress, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, say wolves have recovered enough in those areas to remove protections. But wolf supporters say the wolf hasn’t recovered over enough of its original range to remove protections in the few states where it is thriving, like Minnesota and Wisconsin. Wolf supporters…

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Commit Random Acts

This speaks for itself.

I am one voice,
but I will not be complicit,

For every word of hate,
I’ll speak LOVE

For every swastika,
I’ll sign PEACE


For every belief outlawed,
every book burned,
every person

I’ll commit
random acts of
from rooftops!

Poem + Artwork ©2016, Jen Payne


“Commit Random Acts of Writing + Art” bumper sticker. Measures 4″ x 8″ with gloss UV lamination. Printed in the USA. Price includes shipping. BE PART OF THE CREATIVE MOVEMENT!  Click here to order now!

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Hiking Palo Duro Canyon State Park–Day Two, New Year’s Day

In spite of having to run/rush, I enjoyed the first hike so much, I decided to go back down with my son on New Year’s Day, another weather perfect hiking and biking day.  I hiked the same trail but had time to enjoy it, take more photos.


I headed up Comanche Trail from Chinaberry area toward the same peak in the distance.  Although this trail is not difficult, it is not flat until you get to the bottom of the cliffs in the distance.


At this point I have reached the same area where I took most of the rock photos on the first Palo Duro post.  Once again, I took off onto the “new” trail to the north.


To get to this point one has to climb down a rather steep trail and cross a dry arroyo and start up the other side.  This is across from where I had previously seen the shovels, etc.  They were still there, but the other equipment had been moved to just below where I took this photo.

This trail contains a lot of loose debris and dirt with large boulders laying every which way.


Once I reached the flat top area, I saw those orange/red flags here and there and now wonder where the trail will eventually go.  I headed back toward Comanche.


Back near Comanche Trail.


At this point I had walked far enough down Comanche to be slightly past the cliff toward which I was originally headed.


If you look in the middle distance, you can see the road in and out of the park.  Here I have walked considerably past the peak seen in the first photo.


All kinds of rocks of all sizes appear everywhere–layers and layers of time.


The trail follows the base of miles of cliffs.


Fallen rocks and “caves” everywhere.


Looking back from where I had climbed up higher and higher toward the flatter area.


Another smaller “cave”.  I seriously considered hiking to it, figuring there might be some rattlesnakes sunning.  They do not react a lot unless startled or out hunting.


Along the cliff base where the trail is easy.


In this area, huge, white boulders appear to have fallen from the whiter area in the cliffs above.


Farther down these boulders appear, more porous, darker.


A closeup of this boulder shows baby prickly pear and grass growing from its surface.


Farther south along the trail looking north.


There are many species of prickly pear, including this one with its bright color.


I looked up and saw three aoudad sheep.  See if you can find any of them in the middle of the photo.  They really blend in with these rocks.


I did walk a bit off the trail to take this photo of “coffin” rock.


Past the flat area canyon colors show up really brightly here–layers of color and time everywhere.


Farther along the trail, looking toward the south.


At this point on the trail past the long cliff wall, the trail becomes steeper and up and down again.


Farther and farther past the cliff wall.


Then one comes down farther where a small, spring fed stream runs.


Here with year round water and shade the trees grow much bigger.  Farther down the trail more water seeps and the trail above contains steeper switch backs.



Far past the cliff base, Comanche intersects Rock Garden Trail.  Once again, but not running/rushing this time, I start down Rock Garden.


Looking south, I headed down.  Rock Garden gets its name from an ancient rock slide.


Giant boulders everywhere.


Some even have grass growing from them.


I wanted to take a photo of this boulder because it looks like a giant face with ears.  However, it was so late that I could not take it without my shadow so being silly…


Almost down, I took one final photo.  Comanche is the longest trail in the park.  It keeps going past the Rock Garden intersection.  My son, who was mountain biking there a couple of days later, rode almost its entire length.  Some day I want to start at Chinaberry and walk to the end.  However, if you plan to do this, find someone to meet you at the south (far) end because otherwise you will have miles to hike back.

Random Acts: Don Freeman

Planned another hiking post today but found this and its message seemed too important to ignore.

“We need to stop looking to politicians to make our world better. Politicians don’t make the world a better place. Everything that’s ever made the world a better place has come from inventors, engineers, scientists, teachers, artists, builders, philosophers, healers, and people that choose love over hate.” — Don Freeman

raw-heart-purpleCommit Random Acts of Writing + Art. Image: Philadelphia Muses, mural by Meg Saligman. Philadelphia Muses has remained one of the Mural Arts most iconic projects since its creation in 1999. It is intended to be a contemporary interpretation of the classical muses, which Saligman has created an arts landscape filled with figures and elements symbolizing today’s art and creativity. Within the design Saligman uses portraits of local performing artists and references to works of art by local artists, to honor the many forms of creative expression.

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Hiking Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Even though I live ten minutes from the park entrance and occasionally work at the gift shop there, hiking is rare perhaps because I have more than twenty acres of my own for hiking.  My son came to visit for ten days during this holiday vacation.  He brought his mountain bike and spent every day the past week mountain biking the park’s numerous trails.  Last week and yesterday, New Year’s Day, I went along and hiked.  The following photos and comments are day one’s experience.

For those familiar with the park or who may want to go there, we parked at Chinaberry.  I decided to cut across to the east and found a trail.  It was not until several days later that we figured out the trail’s name mostly because this trail in not on any map provided by the park or on the official park website.  The trail is Comanche.  It is the longest trail in the park.  If you go to your browser and type in Comanche Trail in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, you will come to a mountain biking website that shows the trail in some detail even with a virtual tour.  The trail is occasionally marked with signs that say Comanche Trail but since it does not appear on the official map, I found it somewhat confusing until I found the above mentioned website.


I took this photo at Chinaberry, a parking and picnic area from which several trails start.


Day one I had not seen the marker for Comanche partly because it is across from Chinaberry at the very north end.  I planned to head for the peak in the background, thinking I would hit a certain trail–it was not the one I found because Comanche is not on the map.


The grassy area before I found the trail.


You can see the trail by the grass on the right.


This is prickly pear country.  There are numerous species.  This is important for mountain bikers more than hikers.  Tipping over into a prickly pear patch would not be a pleasant experience.


Here the trail is easy.


I started my hike around 3:30, a big mistake, but I did not know this yet.  Numerous stream beds occur along the trail.


At this point another trail diverges to the left.  Here giant grey boulders appear everywhere.


I decided to take the trail to the left to see where it went, all the while thinking I was on one trail when I was on another.


When I looked toward the opposite direction, I could see this small cave.


A view from the trail to the left.


The same giant rocks looking back from the “new” trail.


After hiking down a rather steep incline with tiny orange flags along it, I came across this. It appears this is a new trail in the making.  Yet, given the rust on the shovel, I thought perhaps the trail blazers had just carelessly left their “equipment”.


At the bottom of a little draw ready to climb back up the other side.  You can see one of the little flags in the middle of the photo.


Palo Duro Canyon is a geologist’s dream.  Layers of time lay visible everywhere.


On my way up the other side of the draw lay more equipment.  When I went back New Year’s Day, this had all been moved to another spot.


Different rocks looking in another direction.


Back on Comanche Trail (even though I had yet to know its correct name and thought I was somewhere else) headed south.  This was just before I realized just how far I had to go and how little time to get there.


Little areas like this are everywhere along the trail.

It was shortly after this point that I saw two women–this trail has few hikers or mountain bikers on it. They were the only people I saw for miles.  When I asked them how far to the other end, I realized I was in “trouble”,  not real trouble like lost, but rather trouble like I was supposed to meet my son at Chinaberry at 5:30, and I was not even half way on this trail and I still had to get to the bottom.  I realized where I would come out; I would intersect another trail called Rock Garden and would have to go one mile steep downhill.  Unfortunately, I had not taken my phone because I did not think it would work there and had no way to inform him.  I also realized it would be nearly dark when I got to the bottom.  5:30 came and went and I still had quite a way to go. I quit taking photos and ran when the trail permitted and walked as fast as possible when it was too rocky or steep to run safely.


I took this photo on my way, hiking the several miles toward Chinaberry.  Luckily, I met a nice couple who offered to stop by Chinaberry and tell my son where I was.  Unfortunately, I had the vehicle keys and he could not even get in his own vehicle.  The light to his bicycle was in the vehicle so he had to ride down the road in the twilight to get the vehicle keys.  I kept walking.  I was just glad he had waited and I met the couple because an unneeded rescue would have been terribly humiliating.  We made it home safely.

My Fitbit told me I had walked more than 11 miles that day.


Note:  Day Two, New Year’s Day, will follow with photos along the entire trail.