Category Archives: Personal

Hyperbolic Coffee Filters

I cannot take complete credit for this poem (for in reality I contributed only one line of this tanka), but as soon as I saw this one-word prompt from the Daily Post, I thought of it. My coworkers and I create a tanka each week, with each writer contributing a line at a time. A few weeks ago, our staff came out with this one:

An unhappy truth:

Our quaint little coffee pot

uses a filter

hewn from Shadow and the Void.

Now it only brews decaf!

A tanka is like an extended form of the haiku. For information on about the history, use, and formatting of a tanka, click here.

I think that this poem is my favorite one that my staff and I have cranked out so far, because to me decaf coffee is, indeed, the liquid form of the void. If you know me or see how many cups of the dark stuff I drink every day, you know.

My most recent post before this one was written about a year ago (to be exact: a year minus eight days). Here’s to posting more often on my blog! Cheers.

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Last Rose of Summer

Right before the Fall began this year, my Grandpa passed away just after he turned 90 years old. I wasn’t there with him in the moment that he died, but I saw him in the hospital near the end. He went to the hospital first because he fell, but then improved significantly and was about to be discharged to go home. The day before they let him go, though, his body suddenly turned against him. He was unable to breathe on his own or open his eyes or talk. They worried that he would never be able to breathe on his own ever again. Although we hoped he would pull through like usual (his medical history has been fraught with hospital stays and difficult diseases), a part of each of us knew instinctively that this was it. He was getting tired of fighting, it seemed, even though he wasted no opportunity to try and tear the tubes away from his body. He pulled again and again on his restraints (meant to keep him from hurting himself), but would exhaust himself with the effort. As we hovered around the hospital bed, my family and I joked that we would know he had gotten better if he were to start swearing in German. He had been doing that when he was about to be discharged–cussing at the tubes connected to him, the restraints around his arms, and the nurses for putting those things on him. Then he went quiet, and left this world even more quietly.

Or so I understand. I wasn’t there. My mom, dad, and brother were there with him. I don’t think that I regret that too much, because I’m not sure about how I would have handled this if I had actually been in the room with him when the heart monitor flatlined. I’m content to be removed from that so that I have the freedom to face this without having to keep the visual image reel of the moment of his death on replay in my head. As it is, I already have a description of the scene to feed my blessed/cursed imagination: who was holding whose hand, the tubes removed, tears, swear words, beep, beep…beep…beeeeeeeep.

Grandpa’s other name was Trouble (with a capital “T”) for lots of reasons. Too many to name here, really, but I’ll name a couple. He used to pull on my pony tails and react with mock surprise when I whirled around with a furrowed brow to tell him to stop that (“But…isn’t that what pony tails are for?”). He would try to catch my toes with his cane by lightly pounding the ground around my feet with it (“Well! Isn’t that what canes are for?”).

He also loved Mickey Mouse. My Grandma (who is an amazing quilter) made him his own Mickey Mouse-themed wall hanging which hung in his den next to the rifle cabinet. He also had this great figurine of Mickey Mouse riding a propeller plane with frightened Goofy hanging out of the bottom. He made a special wooden stand just for that figurine so that it could be placed on a shelf in his den.
Grandpa was good at making things, too. He made things like tables and chairs, but also stories and poems. He taught my brother and I to do small jobs in his workshop and tested us on our ability to successfully hammer nails into leftover blocks of wood. And as a writer and an artist himself, he recognized my inclination to be those things as well. He made and gave me a lap desk and an enormous drawing desk to complete my projects on.

Grandpa had also been in World War II. He shared stories from his army days and passed on some of the training books he had kept from his enlistment. He gave my brother his old army-issue toolbox. After his death, it was decided that this very box would bear his ashes to the ground.

Finally, my Grandfather was a Master Gardener. A degree-holding Master Gardener who never actually retrieved his diploma because he didn’t need it. “I don’t need that piece of paper,” he said. And the matter was closed. The knowledge he had gained through the classes was already enough for him, I think, because he found no value in the physical object which declared that he knew those things. (Maybe I get my love of learning from him.) His own garden in the backyard was featured in the newspaper, though, and a clipping of his Press Gazette debut was framed and hung in the hallway of his house. Many people remember him for his love for and vast knowledge of roses. Every kind of rose. They were all beautiful.

This is why he reminds me of a charcter in a book I was reading shortly before he passed, which was The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. In the book, theere is a character named Sergeant Cuff who is the detictive hired to come to the Verinder residence to attempt the discovery of the fate of the famed Moonstone. He’s a patient guy, but he’s a little manipulative and very sure of his conviction of Rachel Verinder upon finishing his investigation at the Verinder household. The connection I draw between my Grandfather and Sergeant Cuff is their love of roses. Both of them would be willing to drop everything at any time to discuss breeds of roses, growing conditions, grafting, etc. That sounds like Grandpa.

Sergeant Cuff is also the reason that this post is named “The Last Rose of Summer.” Throughout the book, he whistles or hums the tune to that song whenever he’s thinking. That wasn’t a habit of my Grandfather’s at all, but the title of the song and Sergeant Cuff’s habit of singing it makes me think of him because Grandpa died a few days before the official end of summer.

Originally a poem written by the Irish poet Thomas Moore, the text personifies the rose as a feminine object whose experience reflects upon the anticipation and possible loneliness felt in the approach of death. It reads as follows:

‘Tis the last rose of summer

  Left blooming alone;

All her lovely companions

  Are faded and gone;

No flower of her kindred, 5

  No rosebud is nigh,

To reflect back her blushes,

  To give sigh for sigh.

I’ll not leave thee, thou lone one!

  To pine on the stem; 10

Since the lovely are sleeping,

  Go, sleep thou with them.

Thus kindly I scatter

  Thy leaves o’er the bed,

Where thy mates of the garden 15

  Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,

  When friendships decay,

And from Love’s shining circle

  The gems drop away. 20

When true hearts lie withered

  And fond ones are flown,

Oh! who would inhabit

  This bleak world alone?

Poem from: http://www.bartleby.com/41/487.html

Song version: Celtic Woman, Laura Wright

I have been wondering if he thought things like this while he tended to his rose garden and put it to rest at the end of the growing season. Please forgive my romanticism–I know that I’m probably putting thoughts into his mind that may not have been here. However, I wonder how he could have tended to his lovely roses for so long without considering something like that.

When we buried my grandfather,

There was moss on the ground,

grasshoppers flinging through the grass,

and a toolbox-shaped hole in the soil

with prayers lining the bottom.

We thought of roses and swear words auf Deutsch.

Two sets of daughters’ hands lay memories in the box,

three sets of grandchildren’s hands lay the box in the hole,

One set of pastor’s hands bless the soil and prayers

which blanket the toolbox.

Gone were the tool-torn hands which buttoned uniforms before inspection

and guided pens across paper with thorn-pricked fingertips.

Once specked with sawdust, now ashes.

Grass will reclaim the soil in front of the tombstone with two names

and grasshoppers will return to dash above the moss,

after the roses have finished weeping for their last rose of summer.

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What’s wrong now?

Tell me.

I’m having problems, but not problems like the people in the movie Biutiful, which I just watched last night.

Ok. What are your problems?

I’m not doing well enough. At anything.

What things?

My jobs. My social life. Communication. Family. Planning ahead. Saying the right thing. Staying awake when I’m supposed to be awake. My classes. Everything.

Oh? This is…quite serious. It sounds like you’re…

…human.

What? But really. My own inadequacy is overwhelming.

Says who?

Me.

So no one came out and told you that. Interesting. Do you suspect that everyone else is better?

Yes.

Why?

They just…are?

Nope.

But I think they are.

Stop. They’re not. You’re struggling along amidst a group of millions of people who are struggling along and their impressions of their interactions with you (if there are any) will not be enough to make them really notice or shun you for these things. You can’t compare yourself to them because you’re not them and they’re not you. They probably think the same about their own problems most of the time. They just generally hide it from the public like you do. Some of them may even think that you’re the one who has it all together.

Well. They’re crazy if they think that. It’s just…

Stop being a perfectionist. Be comfortable with the struggle. Do your best. Carry on along with the rest of the other humans, have confidence in what you do, and forgive yourself for not being next-to-God perfection (read: get over yourself).

…ugh. Fine.

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String of Pearl Plant…Finally!

I have been waiting for MONTHS for my local plant shop to have these babies in stock. I didn’t want to try to order them online, because I feared they wouldn’t make the trip. Instead, I kept visiting the shop, checking to see if they were in or not. Last week, they were! I couldn’t wait to plant this darling, so when I did I spammed my Facebook feed with pictures of the finished product (I was SO excited). This is the string of pearls plant (Senecio rowleyanus), and it’s one of the most unique specimens I’ve ever seen in real life. You can see why I was so pumped for it:

  
It’s a succulent, so I layered the glass bowl with pea gravel, charcoal, and succulent/cacti soil (I did not have any moss, but I just couldn’t wait any more).

  
I thought about purchasing a bigger glass container to make it into a full-fledged terrarium, but I decided against it in favor of allowing the delicate little tendrils fall over the edge of the containter.

I’m so, SO happy with how it turned out, and I’ll be looking to add to my collection soon!

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Earth Week Terrarium

I’ve acquired a new plant…for FREE!!! My the Conservation Club and Arts & Crafts Center on campus hosted an Earth day event yesterday for students to create their own terrariums. I had this event on my calendar and I had been eagerly awaiting this event for at least a week. And I was not disappointed! They supplied everything: glass containers, pebbles, charcoal, moss, succulent soil, the succulents, and even the little what-nots for decorating the terrarium. I was OVERJOYED to have the opportunity to plant a new succulent and bring it home with me, and so was the long line of people who came to attend this event. Mine turned out pretty well:

Earth Week Terrarium

I did learn about the purpose of the moss between the soil and the charcoal/pebbles: it is to allow water (but not soil) to drain into the pebbles so that the succulent as better chances of not suffering from root rot. This is solid information, so I’m going to need to obtain a bag of moss for future projects.

I am in love with terrariums. If you were to look at my Pinterest board called Indoor Greenery, you’d find them ALL over the place. They fascinate me. The original purpose of terrariums was to create a controlled little ecosystem for plants to live in, but now they’re mostly for decorative purposes–I love them either way. I therefore intend to make more as more funds become available. The one I have pictured here is obviously a decorative one: due to the shallowness of the bowl, it’s really just a pot containing a plant. For it to be a terrarium, the bowl would need to be much deeper in order to create the semi-closed environment for the plant. Regardless, I love this little plant already and I’m very happy about how it turned out!

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For the Love of Boston!

I went to Boston over Spring Break! What a trip…

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Dear Peaceful Purple Lady at the Airport

Dear Peaceful Purple Lady at the Airport,

You possess a peace within you, I can tell. It makes you glow while you float around here in a purple and white haze with a slight grin on your face, like you’re happy to be here. Glad to be here, of all places, at the airport. Among people hustling and shuffling with furrowed brows and sweat slipping down the sides of their faces. I am one of these people who can’t stand the loud voices and idiosyncrasies of all the other humans today. You have a peace which I have not got at the moment. I am deeply annoyed at the inner workings of the airport, even though I fully understand that this is what airports do. I am repulsed by all the other burdened travelers, even though I know that they’re just trying to get somewhere too. And I only barely manage not to begrudge the airline employees, even though they’re pretty kind for people who work a thankless job. I feel bad for not being able to tolerate this, because it is no one’s fault, really. But you are apparently unfazed. You stopped at my side while we were boarding, your black coat with magenta flowers brushing against my grey one, and asked, “You’re Zone Two?” I was so exhausted that I just nodded feeling like a big tired pool of blue. You grinned a little more and then left me, sensing that there was no more conversation to be had there. You were right, but I was glad to meet you anyway. Now here you are, past the worst frustration storm of baggage claim, already having magically claimed your luggage. While the creases in my forehead are beginning to look permanent, you stand there beaming gently at someone you’re talking to. Lucky person. Someday, I will float like you. But not today. Today, I just want to go home and have a nap and be done with this.
Have a great weekend, Peaceful Purple Lady.

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