Gyotaku, the ancient (around mid 1800s) technique of fish printing. Developed by fisherman to prove the size of their catch. It is a method of applying ink to the body of a fish and then putting paper onto it and doing a rubbing. They would either throw the fish back into the water or cook it and eat it.

My daughter sent me a tee shirt with a print of an octopus on it and when she pointed out that it was a print done in the Gyotaku method, I didn’t get it until I read about that in Wikipedia, which shed a whole new light on the shirt and a whole new admiration from me.

Since early childhood I had been drawing and studying art, and since her early childhood I had begun her art education by taking her to art galleries and museums and then providing her with plenty of newsprint paper to begin her own exploration of the art world, spreading paint all over the paper, creating large masterpieces which made good gift wrapping.  While I was mostly a painter of acryllic abstract work, I have always been interested in printmaking, but have not expanded into that field of making artworks.

I asked her if the animal was alive and squirming around when the printmaker did his print of the octopus, or on ice in the fish shop, but she has not responded yet. 

The quality of the print is excellent and there is no indication of movement by the animal and not even the tiniest smudge on the print. I also asked her if she saw the artist at work, something I would very much like to watch.

My questions are still out there in cyberspace for now, but I am intrigued with the octopus print.


Surprise Kindnesses

With the incredible number of people killing each other every day, to say nothing of the now all too common mass shootings, road rage, or folks who shoot a neighbor’s pet,  it may be difficult to realize that there really are many good people among us, whom we may not ever get acquainted with nor ever recognize again should they walk past us in a crowd. Some probably just spontaneously rise to an occasion to be helpful with no real forethought.

In the years since I have been hobbling along with a cane, as I walk to or from a store pushing, or soon to push, a grocery cart, I have encountered some of those good people.

One bright sunny afternoon as I was about to step onto the crosswalk heading from my car to the bank,  a young lady who had been standing in front of the bank with her little son, called out to me that I should not move, she was coming to help get me across and when she got to me, she circled her arm around me to help support me as we ambled through the crosswalk.  I told her I had just gotten shots of Cortisone in my knees and she asked me if I thought it was alright for her to have a sugary snack as she showed me a tiny bag of candies she had in her other hand. I laughed and said “Sure!” 

Arriving at the curb another good lady was standing in the doorway of the bank, probably getting a breath of air before going back to her desk. The first lady turned me over to her while she went back to her four-year old posted where she left him.  

Inside of the bank the second lady  ushered me to a chair along the row of tellers where she said the young man behind the counter would happily help me and if he did not he would have to answer to her.  He was laughing.. 

On his way out the door another gentleman, offered to push my chair closer to the counter, and I was amazed to meet yet another good person.

On another occasion, after getting all the bags into the trunk I was carefully trying to guide a 24 bottle shrink wrapped pack of bottles of water from the child seat of the grocery cart into the trunk without them landing on the ground.  I was on my third try when a young man parked opposite me stepped out of his car and asked if he could help.

 Greatly relieved, I said yes and in a heartbeat he heaved the package into the trunk and hauled the empty cart over to the carousal for carts.  Then he asked if I had anyone to help me with them when I got home.  I said I would cut the plastic open and take the bottles a few at a time out, and as I was thanking him, his mom came along and asked if I’d be okay and I thanked her as well and said she had a wonderful son.

Then there was Rudy, a man standing just outside the store, waiting for his sister. Rudy also walked with a cane, but he offered to help me get my groceries into my car if I wold bring my car up to the curb.  I said okay and headed off to my car as he stood with the cart.  In a minute or two he pushed the cart to catch up with me and offered me his arm as we walked.That is always helpful, so I took it and we walked on to my car.  When he finished I thanked him and said Good Bless and he nodded looking surprised and headed back to the front of the store.

One time as I was leaving the local post office, a gentleman offered me his arm as I negotiated the curb down to my car.

As I got to the entrance of a store, a gentleman asked me if I would need a cart when I got into the store and I said yes. He walked ahead of me, selected one and said “Take your time.” as I got through the automatic door. I did not see him again inside the store and I puzzled over him for awhile, wondering if he was from Iowa, or was another veteran, like myself, of the summer writing festivals, since I was wearing both one of the shirts and a sunhat with their logo on it. 

Last week as I got to the back of my car to open the trunk, a car pulled up next to mine and I thought that a bit odd since that was not a designated slot for a car.  As the door opened and a slim lady in green scrubs hopped out asking if she could put my groceries into the car for me. I said that would be wonderful and unlocked the trunk.  

After depositing the bags into the trunk, she spirited the cart away and I thanked her wishing someone would be there to help her when her turn comes, a long time from now.  She said she hopes so as she sped away. 

While I am always grateful for these unexpected gestures of helpful strangers, I am also awed.

Quieter Times

Times were quieter while I was growing up.  There were not hoards of people screaming about their rights and waving poster boards with messages scrawled with markers over their heads for any reason that suited any group of people.  

Although I am not sure when this method of communication began to be common, perhaps it was with the civil rights protests which began in Washington, D.C. back in the late 1960s. Some of my friends joined the throngs as the shouting and marching went on through the Capitol Mall. I listened to their stories over cups of tea in Dick Foy’s apartment or as Edna and I drove around town in her little green Triumph Spitfire convertible. I never felt compelled to participate.

It has been 22 years since my father passed on and I remember that we often sat and talked about life in general.  One of his observations was that this country would go down in history as the most violent of countries.  He had never even heard of or seen news reports of mass shootings.  

The violent loss of one child brings me to tears.  Such sick behavior would have infuriated my father.  We don’t need a war here, we are killing ourselves, foolishly and thoughtlessly.

It has long been my belief that had these killers and those who have nothing more constructive to do than join throngs demanding attention and self satisfaction, were not raised with a respect for themselves or others, nor a healthy understanding of right versus wrong.  

From early childhood I spent every spare moment drawing or studying the stamp collection my father passed down to me from his own childhood.  

There were neighborhood friends and school friends.  My parents were always glad to have us tearing around our fair sized yard playing childhood games.  We wore thin the front yard with games of tag and hide and seek, catching fire flies in our hands. 

My father never complained that he had to re-plant the front yard when it got too bad.  That was in his spare time, after his full time job at General Electric and his part time job repairing radios, televisions and record players for the neighborhood clients in his workshop in our basement.

Many years ago I read a book by Saul Bellows called Henderson, The Rain King in which the main character, Eugene Henderson, was constantly in pursuit of fulfilling his multiple appetites.  He almost went crazy with “I WANT! drumming through his head…. and I wonder if this is not a common thread running through our current society driving people to the edge and committing what would never have even occurred to earlier generations.

Homage to Terry

The local poetry community that I became a part of has been an enjoyable activity for me for about one year before Covid19 brought it all to a halt.  Some folks flocked to the zoom method of continuing on, but I did not do any zoom events.  

I especially liked the meetings at a bowling alley in Lakewood, which was something of a dive, with a comfortable atmosphere.  Like the Austin International Poetry Festival, the poetry readings became a new source of FaceBook friends, so we kept in touch by social media. Terry, a school teacher was gracious enough to host the readings at the bowling alley.  He did a great job. Perhaps standing in front of a classroom for many years made him a natural.

On FaceBook his posts were always lengthy and complex and while I did put my two cents worth in ocassionally, they were usually over my head and after a quick glance I moved along.

My guess was that Terry and his lovely wife, Karen were in their early forties. They have a teen aged son.  It came as a surprise to me when he announced that he would be having surgery on a brain tumor. I thought he was too young for such a radical medical event. 

He came through that and continued on as usual.  I try not to spend a lot of time rolling along on Facebook. Mainly I do try to wish happy birthday to all whom I should and to follow the various family notes that I feel like I should be aware of.  

I don’t know how long it had actually had been, but one day I realized there had been a distinct absence of those long and complex posts by Terry.  I messaged him and asked if he was okay. No response. Next step was to call Mary, the friend who first took me to Mahalls.  She was aware that something was out of sorts with Terry, but she was not sure of any details.

Months later there was a post on Facebook by Karen, Terry’s wife explaining that he was now in hospice and that she and their son were able to sit with him and she would read any of our messages or cards to him.  I had to let that settle in before I could compose my thoughts for him. 

When I was able to write to Terry the words came slowly, as they do when life brings difficulties of this depth.  Finally I put them into Messenger and Karen said she found his posts often over her head as well and that she would read my message to him.

I closed out with a heavy heart and wishing Karen and their son courage and strength.

Noise Pollution

Mowers, power saws and motorcycles have all begun to roar into action with the absence of snow.  So much noise pollution from the perspective of someone trying to focus on morning prayers or quiet reading time. 

It is easier to play free bejeweled video game, so I often slip into that mode, which is fun, but leaves the more contemplative tasks pushed back on the agenda.

One neighbor thoroughly mows front and back lawns and as he is putting his equipment back into the garage or shed, it seems to be a signal for the next one to begin and so on down both the main street my house faces but also the cul de sac  off to the side of my home. Thus the constant drone of motorized equipment rumbles throughout the neighborhood from what is after breakfast for some through all remaining daylight.

Perish the thought that two or three neighbors should be running their machines at the same time. That might cause the planet to shake.  

Of course I too, have a lawn which requires attention and trimming, lest the city threaten to do it at outrageous cost. My lawncare father and son team arrive here as their schedules allow, anytime from eight a.m. on a Saturday or Sunday to some weekday that suits them.  I never complain because they are dependable and that is very important to me.  They do a good job and their prices are acceptable. 

Sometimes when there is a storm, or even just a downpour, not only is there the pleasant summer scent of after rain, there is a brief silence of mowers, saws and motorcycles. 

Green Fluffiness

From May the 6th through the 8th, the community of writers who gather at the Idlewyld Bed and Breakfast in Lakeside in early spring and late fall convened again after the years of Covid 19 kept us apart.  Claudia gathered folks last fall too, but I was not convinced that it was safe yet and some folks that I hoped to see did not come this time either.  

I signed up and paid but was a little concerned about the somewhat strenuous drive on the wildly busy highway 90 as it leads into highway 2.  As if in answer to an unspoken prayer, Claudia asked if I was sure I wanted to make that drive myself, or did I want to go with her.  Without hesitation I said I think I better go with you.  

The directions to her house were good and though the day was cold and very rainy, we set off at the time she said she wanted to leave as Paul, her husband, handed her bags of food for the dinner and breakfasts we would enjoy at the house.  

We chatted all the way and I was able to take many pictures as we crossed over Sandusky Bay, which I have never been able to do when my white knuckles grasped the wheel and my eyes stayed on the road in previous years.

We pulled into the short drive behind the house and she found the key and unlocked the door so we could settle in.  No one else arrived yet and the house felt comfortable and dry after dodging raindrops.  There is an interesting sense of emptiness and quiet in the house we’ve all been to so many times.

Claudia did a walk around check of the house before heading off to the local grocery store.  I settled into my room and laid down to get a nap.

Later as others began to arrive we visited and caught up each others lives.  Beth, Claudia’s sister came to help with cooking and kitchen chores.  She brought her box of beads and made some bracelets and sold a few.

The dinner, chicken marsala, was wonderful and I think most of us qualified for the clean plate club.  

Friday nights are usually our late nights as we sit in the gathering room drinking wine, laughing and talking until we file off one by one to the beds.

I remembered to bring and take a tylenol p.m. as my first night away from home usually finds me tossing and turning most of the night.  So, while I zonked out, others were spooked by the strong winds whistling, causing creaking and groaning noises outside the century house.

Thankfully morning brought sunshine and a quieter day, not warmer, but at least dry. We arranged ourselves, notebooks or laptops set as our guest speaker, Abby, from the South Euclid Library, did two consecutive presentations. 

There is always a little spare time to do what we like, some head straight out and up the street to a group of shops, mainly Marilyn’s to select one treasure or another.  Lisa bought a very lovely elegant white wrap that she wore to dinner.

There is always a discussion about where to go for dinner, but we usually end up at the Canoe Club, which is very nice.  There is actually a full sized canoe mounted on a wall.  There are always a handful of folks who go elsewhere.

After dinner we settle back in the gathering room where we usually do a reading where we take turns reading from our current works.  Then there is more talking and laughing and an earlier bed time.

After another great breakfast on Sunday some take early leave of the group while other’s stay tuned for last minute sharing of words of wisdom and promises to keep in touch.

It always feels like I have absorbed much new information and touched base with great people I do not see elsewhere.  I am content for the time being.

What is a Journalist

In my junior year of high school I studied Journalism and wrote a bit for the school paper “Lumen”. Lumen in Latin means light and that is what the journalist does, or tries to do, to seek to throw light on the goings on in our world. To bring to light the who, what, when, where and why of events that are too clouded by chaos of the times for everyday folks to have a clear idea of what has happened. 

In the volatile world of the last few decades a number of journalists who were just trying to bring the truth to the people of the world have paid a terrible price for their bravery. 

For some reason these diligent truth seekers have been vilified and seen as the enemy to high level criminals.  Some journalists have been murdered, others jailed, beaten and brutalized. 

Just yesterday the Palestinian-American Al Jazerra journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh was shot in the head in Israel.   

While there is some public outcry against these quite high profile crimes, no one seems to be called to account for them.

There are so many vast protests screaming for justice for any number of issues. Masses of people crowd city streets all over the world to raise awareness about everything from gender issues to political preferences, yet no one demands justice for the deaths of the people who have dedicated their lives to keeping truth alive for all the world. 

Easter 2022

All of the local churches pushed the Easter vigil services way back to 8:30 p.m. from the normal 4:00 p.m.  I drove over to St. Monica’s as my parish wasn’t even having the vigil service.

There were very few people in the church and they began with handing everyone a long taper and turning all the church lights out as he flame for the tapers was passed from person to person until the church was lit up. I normally associate this part of the Easter program on Holy Thursday, but maybe they were condensing rituals.  

They did a blessing of a great container of water followed by sprinkling the holy water on all the people. I got quite a splash and there was a puddle on the floor, which I carefully avoided when I stepped into the aisle to go toHoly Communion and again when I was leaving, two hours later.  This was all very lovely but would have been easier on me had it been at 4:00 p.m. instead of 8:30 p.m.  Live and learn.  I will not be doing this next year.  

When I got back home and settled in, I heated up a tv dinner and sat down to eat and watch the late news and one of the British mystery shows that I enjoy. It seemed chilly but I thought I had not warmed up yet from being outdoors. When I finally decided to look at the thermostat in the front room it showed the temp set for 69 degrees while the actual temperature was 66.  Oh no.  

At dawn I lit some candles in both bathrooms and on the stovetop. At about nine I placed a call to my furnace repair people, but not expecting to get a call back on Easter Sunday.

By late afternoon I drove out to join my cousin Maryann and her daughter for the holiday dinner and to thaw out. 

When I got back home it was even colder than it had been and I lit candles again and noticed that there was no return call from the furnace people.

Easter Monday it was 57 degrees indoors and I called the furnace people again and got the receptionist, who said Tony was over on the west side but she would have him come over.  Thank heavens! 

When Tony arrived I said I was disappointed in this furnace as this was the second time this happened, the first was about three years ago. Unfortunately, the furnace was one year out of warranty. He managed to get it to kick on though he had no way of knowing if it would stay on for one hour or a day or what.  He said the motor had to be replaced. Now the motor is five hundred dollars more than the new furnace was eleven years ago.

The new motor should arrive at the furnace repair office by Wednesday.  

Although I did not hear the furnace kick on as I sat in front of the tv eating the wonderful leftovers Maryann sent home with me, when I headed back to the kitchen all my fretting eased up and heat was indeed on.  

Cup Shards

On a snowy winter day in 1966 I moved to Washington, D.C. to live with my late friend, Edna and to socialize with her friends, who became my friends. 

During my first year there my paternal grandfather had not been doing well with his health and  I suppose to be sure he covered all the bases he was supposed to he asked my father if he should get me a set of dishes and my father retorted, “What for? She’s not married!”  

Hearing that from the family, I was so irritated that I marched off to one of the department stores downtown and selected a twelve piece place setting of Mikasa dinnerware.  Twelve piece so that if any pieces were lost over the years ahead I would still have at least a place setting for eight.  The pattern was black and white and I thought I could mix either black or white pieces of other dinnerware with it. I was pleased with this start of my own household belongings.

As it happened most of the friends I spent time with all enjoyed having dinner parties so I did get a lot of use out of the dishes. I felt like a chemist in my kitchen, exploring new meals and trying them out on my unsuspecting friends. They kept coming back, so I guess nothing was too bad.

I then moved the dishes with me to California for fifteen years before making a U turn and settling for four years in Illinois before deciding it was time to bring my children and myself back into the family fold and headed back to Ohio.  But I did not permanently unpack for another thirteen years, still in Ohio but a little further east of the Cuyahoga River.

By this time both of my children had grown and gone away and with the persistence of arthritis, giving dinner parties became harder and harder for me and I finally announced that I would no longer be hosting the gatherings I used to enjoy so much. 

This of course meant the lovely dinnerware would get less use and in time. My son chose the black Fiestaware I bought in Illinois so I wouldn’t  have to unpack the Mikasaware while were “in-between” there.  Later I also acquired the last set of dishes my parents had bought, a lovely flowery set highlighted with pink. 

My daughter didn’t care for my parents’china and said she preferred the Mikasaware.  I asked if she had shelves for it and she said yes, so a few pieces at a time I began to ship them to her after her recent visit. 

What I packed depended on the box I found in the garage or basement and for the last shipment one box was a sturdy one, better than most, I thought, and there was room enough so I packed all of the cups, the creamer and sugar bowl and made sure the shipping clerk put fragile stickers all over the box.  I always sprinkle a few grains of blessed salt for safe passage from my St. Pio prayer group before sealing the box.

Just yesterday my daughter advised me that almost everything in that box had been broken.  So heartbreaking, after a fifty-four year history of serving friends and family and moving from address to address to end as a pile of pieces of no use.  

A Girl Named Kateri

When I was ten years old,  my Camp Fire Girls group began a project. We each kept a notebook with pictures cut out from magazines that became parts of our individual stories  I’ve long forgotten the details of those stories, but I do remember the day we had to present our notebooks to a lady in an office of our Cathedral downtown in the diocese of Cleveland.  

If our projects were deemed acceptable we would each be awarded a beautiful silver medal depicting Blessed Kateri, a young Native American girl in line for canonization in the Catholic Church.  She was chosen for our projects because she is the patroness of Catholic Campfire Girls.

We lined up in the Cathedral each receiving our medal. I remember the awe I felt in that very large and old Neo-Gothic church where the stone steps were worn deep from many years and many feet.

As an adult I still treasured that medal and bought a long silver chain for it.

Any time I had an opportunity to be in the cathedral, my awe of the holy place just deepened.  

Many years later when I had married and had a daughter of my own, I decided that Kateri would go well with our last name and would be her middle name once we chose her first name from a list of potential good name suggestions from a paternal Uncle.

For all her early years we all used that first name only for her, but when she got older and moved away she stopped using her first name and asked all of her friends and acquaintances to call her by a short version of her middle name.

Meanwhile Blessed Kateri was canonized and became Saint Kateri and one of my friends gave me a copy of the St.Anthony magazine with the whole story in it.

With my daughter living far from me, I never knew what her middle name meant to her until she came to visit me recently.  She took the medal and it’s chain in the box I handed it to her in and quickly added to her belongings and told me a brief incident in which she saw a church dedicated to St. Kateri and she announced to whomever she was with, “That’s my church!!” She was so pleased to see some acknowledgement of her patron saint.