Stunning beauty radiated in the stands at the Green Bay Packers football game last weekend. I couldn’t help staring and wondering why EVERY person looked gorgeous – young and old, men and women. It was because all of us were blanketed in scarves and caps with only our eyes showing. No perfect white teeth, no buoyant shiny hair to distract. Just eyes. In the spotlight of their blinking, sparkling, vigilant pools of splendor.
Recently I dreamed of an infant girl, who called someone else her mother but actually was mine and who gushed diarrhea when I held her. I think that baby was me, instructing me to own my slimy shit.
Studies of a Seated Female, Child's Head, and Three Studies of a Baby, c. 1507–8 Raphael (Italian, 1483-1520) The Cleveland Museum of Art
The US Postal Service returned this package to me not because of insufficient postage or shoddy wrapping. It was returned because it represented a heightened security concern. Apparently, one sign of terrorism is a row of forever stamps on a package weighing more than 13 ounces.
It made me think of all the people who protect us. Stealthily. Not just our Armed Forces or FBI or CIA or local law enforcement. The US Postal Service protects us, too. I love that.
And, because I forgot to enclose something in this package, the US Postal Service saved me from myself and gave me the chance at a do-over with no one the wiser.
When asked at a book event about racism in the city of Green Bay when he was manager of the Packers, Ron Wolf said, “I brought in barbers and soul food for our black players.”
Huh. Not really an answer, Ron.
I was tempted to genuflect.
UV photography is beside the point after a certain age. I can see clearly, without amplification, the white scars of every mosquito bite I scratched until they bled and the countless vertical-sided, smooth-roofed buttes of sun-damaged patches and the twinned purple patches on my endlessly skinned knees. Except for my eyes, my whole body probably would be obscured by skin damage in a UV photo.
And that's AOK with me. Imperfections equal stories. Fireflies. Beaches. Tenderness. My skin reads like a diary of my youth.
For an article about UV photography see:
Photo from Walgreen’s website.
Nothing much happens in “The Summer Book” by Tove Jansson except death, life and love on a tiny island in the Gulf of Finland. It is comprised of 22 vignettes and features mostly just two characters: Sophia, a six-year-old girl whose mother just died, and Sophia’s grandmother who is her wise and sometimes cranky summer playmate. They build a forest of animals out of driftwood. They row to a nearby island and break a lock to peer into someone’s new summer home. Sophia dictates her stories to grandma so she’s not slowed by pesky spelling.
It’s small in size, just 184 pages with wide margins, and huge in character study and language and fierce tenderness. You’ll read it in an afternoon but it will lodge itself in your heart for a long time after.
You've got plenty of time to see Beauty Surplus: Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels at the John Michael Kohler Art Center because it will be on exhibit until May 24, 2020. But her powerful images will be forever burned on your memory. This piece took my breath away. So much upheaval concentrated in one room! I heard a docent tell someone that the original flooring is beneath this piece. The artist and her helpers laid the new flooring on top.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Pink Tipped Lotus, c. 1934
Henry Keller (American, 1869-1949)
The Cleveland Museum of Art
First one to the finish line may win in a horse race but in the heat of a Facebook Marketplace race to buy one of my prized possessions, you need more.
Dozens of “Is this still available?” notes popped up within 10 minutes of my posting of a white-washed carved wood privacy screen. Since I was a Marketplace virgin, I fretted over how to decide on the winner. Until I read this story.
“I’m getting married soon and would love to use this to divide the service area from the hall.”
When I told her I would hold it for a couple days, she was thrilled.
“It’s perfect for our wedding and can’t wait to use it in my office afterwards. Thanks so much!”
A story wins with me every time. But if I can’t get a story, at least I want a little foreplay.
“Good morning Lora I would love to purchase this exceptionally gorgeous wool area rug if it still happens to be available Thank you, H.”
Apparently I broke a Marketplace "rule" because after I marked all items sold, I received this message.
“Dang I contacted you right when u posted it. Not nice.”
Before the Race, c. 1887-1889. Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917. The Cleveland Museum of Art.
The thought of reading a book in which the main character endures a rampant case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder terrified me. But I heard the author, John Green, interviewed on NPR and I began to trust him -- mainly because he wrote the miraculous “The Fault in Our Stars” and because he admitted in the interview that he suffers from OCD. Not only did he admit to the disorder but he said he would not talk about how his OCD manifests because doing so could launch a full blown OCD episode. Because he knew how to take care of himself, I knew he would take care of me.
Friends and family of OCD sufferers experience it as an extreme narcissism. The compulsion is all the sufferer talks about. Nothing else matters. Asa, the protagonist, is obsessed with germs, ingesting them and absorbing them.
Green nailed the self-focused nature of OCD, the way it eats away at the integrity of many relationships. To be with someone who has OCD requires either an uncanny ability to self-protect (Asa’s best friend) or an instinct to over-protect the sufferer (Asa’s mother).
What Green did not write about was the rage.
I had neither the ability nor the instinct to be with my mother who, when she wasn’t washing her hands, talked about washing hands -- our hands as well as hers. I mostly raged. At her for her lack of control. At myself for my lack of compassion.
Even though she tried mightily to connect with me by doing things like sewing the latest fashions for me, her OCD always interrupted or threatened to interrupt. OCD and my mom felt like bullies who crossed every line, who betrayed me, who could not possibly love me. If she loved me, she would stop.
So I did what every good adult co-dependent does, I surrounded myself with people just like her. For years, I didn’t recognize her in them because they didn’t wash their hands compulsively. But narcissism roiled inside them.
I didn’t address this tendency in me until my dad died and my mom needed me. We were honest with each other in a way I never thought possible. I saw her sense of humor. She saw mine. We laughed and healed. And finally I felt loved.
I had just a couple years with her before she succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease and as she descended into dementia, I righted my life. I loved her and protected her fiercely. She let me hold her for the first time. She held me. She somehow knew I was going through a wretched time outside of her nursing home life but by then she couldn’t speak. By the time she died, I was on a completely different path. Less rage. Fewer narcissists.
Green’s characters continued to suffer even at the book’s end; there’s no blue ribbon cure for OCD or really any human disorder of the mind. But “Turtles All the Way Down” gave me an opportunity to reflect on OCD’s heartbreaks and gifts. And my mother’s legacy.
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