Epitaph for Relationships that Once were

Epitaph for Relationships that Once were

I was at a baby shower today–a truly lovely one–full of serene, joyful women celebrating the imminent coming of a new life.  The women were lovely (lovely in the way Australians use the word:  a sweet, pretty, pleasant person); women who exuded a wholeness, a self-containment and a comfortableness with those around them and the world in general, which makes them a pleasure to be with.  There was a contretemps at one point which reminded me of all the woman-to-woman relationships I’ve had (and there have been many), all of them intense, some of them fraught with difficulty or fragility or an inherent opposition or oppositiveness which would inevitably dead-end the relationship before either of us were ready to admit it, breathless with arguments to keep it going, long after the death-knell had sounded.  I have very few women friends left.  But in the same way that I am grateful for them, I am grateful for those I once knew, probably too well when I think about it now.  

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About Curves (the Women’s gym)

Marilyn had them.  Hell, so did Mae, Crawford, and dozens others, including young Judy who, during the filming of  The Wizard of Oz, had to wear a special apparatus which curbed her, um, curves.  (They really wanted Shirley Temple for the movie, but couldn’t get her so decided to cast Judy Garland instead…and she had hit puberty a few years before.  Thus is film history made.)  But, as a woman who has had overly ample curves all her life, this isn’t what I’m referring to:  I am referring to Curves, the women’s workout and community place/space.  There are over 9,000 Curves (Women’s gyms) all over the world, and this is why I love Curves and am so grateful to them.  Diane and Gary Heavin (both credentialled and skilled women’s health gurus) began Curves several years ago.  The gist was to get women working out in safe, swift, man-free gyms.  Safe means: having a trainer on-site, always, at all times to ensure you are using the machines safely; checking your pulse rate regularly to that same end; cleaning the machines so that germs don’t get passed on.  Swift means thirty minutes (yes, 30) on fourteen machines followed by a seven to ten-minute flexibility routine (what in dance is called a “cool-down”).  Man-free…well, you get that:  women only, so it’s not a pick-up place nor competitive–at all.  The machines are set up in a circle so that you alternate “upper-body” work with “lower-body”; you’re on each for 30 seconds, and in between each machine is a wooden square, about 3X3 on which you continue moving, dancing, squirming, exercising, so that you always maintain your cardio-vascular level.   Here’s the kicker:  if you’d told me ten years ago that I’d be working out at a gym three to six times a week, I’d have laughed in your face.  But…and it’s a big “but”, Curves has done more for me that Celebrex and all the other pills I have taken and continue to take periodically for my osteo-arthritis.  It’s a bit like “Ripley’s Believe it or not”, I know, but you need to open your mind  (like my cousin recently did), and realize that pills are not the solution, at least not always.  I know…I can hear you saying, “oh sure…you’ve been a dancer all your life, ridden horses–you’re basically a monkey with fur-free feet!”  Uh uh…listen up, all you “completely wrong” people out there.  If you don’t exercise–in some way–you are dead meat.  I had a reason to exercise, well, two reasons actually:  as a victim (I hate that word) of polio, I know what it’s like to have no feeling beyond my hips, and as a child born of a mother who could out-dance Ann Miller (look her up) and Ginger Rogers, I loved dancing (and horseback riding) before I could talk, so….  So I became a student of jazz ballet around the age of 21 or so and didn’t stop until I was about the age of 39.  Around then, my life was so physically active (swimming and walking my huge boy, Fred were daily activities) that I thought, hell, I get more exercise than the usual sloth; why worry?  Maybe that was true at the time, but at the time, I hadn’t begun peri-menopause.  Anyway…after a near-fatal car accident in December 1990, I began to develop back problems, joint problems, IBS and a random assortment of pain-filled, chronic THINGS…things, I called them.  This hurt, that hurt…don’t know where that came from; I was fine yesterday.  Where’s the closest women’s restroom in this building?   I started looking at canes as if I needed a third leg, and how much do they cost, and how do you walk with one of those things anyway?  Compared to people with cystic fibrosis/MS/Gehrig’s Disease, I was fine, doing okay…but then peri-menopause hit.  Gotta go now…the memories of  that period of my life, and the weight that I gained in under ten months have got me all teary-eyed.  Visiting Australia, a life-long dream, saved me, I think.  A woman friend, some years older than me, told me “if you get through peri, you’ll be laughing through menopause itself… PRE-menopause is the real bitch.”  Boy, was she right!  And, as amazing as Australia was, it has been my Curves that has helped me maintain as good an overall state of health as my puny little body can manage.  While you’re here, go visit the pix of my Curves Book Signing.  Click on Photos in the left-hand menu.  The owner, Shanta Kalli, was good enough to run the Signing for a full week so that all Curves members could have a look at Ground Manners.  You can’t buy generosity of spirit like that.  Thanks, Shanta…thanks, Curves.

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Signs, Signifiers, and Serendipity

Four days ago, the envelope  in which the bound copy of my Master’s thesis arrived in 1987, came back to me along with two drafts of the logo for my then-business card, my parents’ house having sheltered all these years what was important and discarded what was not.  Oddly enough, I remembered those logos only a few weeks ago and sought them out in vain; I hadn’t thought about them in decades.  So serendipitous this resurfacing of those dust-mired signifiers of a writerly destiny.  The thesis, after all, was the last time (until now) that I’d written anything of size and substance, and the logos were for business cards announcing me as a credentialled editor and writer…all those years ago.  Signifiers of my wish to write are returned to me as if to confirm the novel I’ve just published as real–and more than that–rendering that interminable hiatus merely that:  a hiatus which was powerless to change my destiny, a space of time only, which, though seeming long and endless, remained impotent the entire time, ineffectual against the fate which would inevitably find me.  A mere ‘waiting for godot’ with a better ending.

Since the symbolic, rather than consensus reality, organizes my existence and orders my mind, this is the type of event which I recognize more quickly than a ringing doorbell.  When lost in the crannies of my mind, the bell can ring and ring while I summon the connectors between past and present (as now with these signifiers) and declare them valid descriptors of how physical markers of the individual journey circle until they find a new “in” and replace themselves amongst the artifacts of a lived life.  It’s a sort of steam trunk of memorabilia that keeps losing items in transit and then, discovering them somewhere else along the way, stuffs them back in to the trunk to make the memory–and the life-saga–whole again.  Restored to wholeness once again, I might actually hear the doorbell and answer it.  Then, with all signifiers returned and accounted for, I can say, in a state of wholeness and security:  I mean to go on as I’ve begun.  So next time I say “I can’t talk now…I have things to do,”  I don’t always mean the laundry; I mean that I have to think myself back into wholeness…and then finish the laundry and answer the doorbell.

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Practical Magic

SCARY STUFF, KIDS!”  If you are under 70 years old, read on at your own risk.  Yes, in another incarnation, I was a new ager with a trade name chosen numerologically to match Master numbers in my given name.  And I was on cable TV and on radio in a province other than the one I was born in.  I was good at what I did; I wrote articles on the subject (in an Australian journal)–hell, when wasn’t I writing on something or other?  Chiefly, what you need to know is that I was ethical, serious, devoted; the work I did evoked a kind of religiosity (yes, that is a word) in me, brought me back to God from whom I’d strayed (although I persist in believing She is a woman or, at the very least, a hermaphrodite–after all, am I not made in Her Image, too?).  I don’t say that agnosticism doesn’t often rear its tired head and confound and abuse me still, from time to time, but hey, as Mencken said, if you are morally certain about anything, you are probably wrong about everything.

It has been my burden or gift to plunge (and I do mean, dive deeply with eyes closed) into any subject that caught my interest:  literature, acting, dance, business, marketing, language teaching (pedagogy), furniture restoration, animal advocacy, indoor and outdoor gardening, and of course, the mantic arts (and that’s just a select few).  To be fair, the saying:  “Jack of all Trades, Master of None” doesn’t really apply in this case, because, for reasons not yet fathomable to me, I have been able, in all those cases, to achieve a certain level of expertise in each.  Not sure why.  Now, as I grow old and grayer by the week, much of what I knew I either can’t remember or, like Ausencia in Ground Manners, can’t finish decorously, all points argued in an eloquent polemic.  Hmm….  Even my expertise in the mantic arts seems a dim memory…although I can still look at a chart and, in seconds, say most of what is to come.  Now, I say it only to myself, in a whisper, because, like David’s Mum (who was an accomplished astrologer), I now know that there are some things it is best not to know beforehand, or for that matter, at all.  St. Augustine said:  “Trying to fathom the eternal mysteries is like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon”, and while true, one can covet and wield the teaspoon for a bit until wisdom meets up with you and shakes its head in silence.  And that little kernel of insight is what Practical Magic truly is.

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Invincible Summer

Albert Camus wrote:  “In the depth of winter, I finally learned there was in me invincible summer.”  Imminent, almost here, here really–well just as good as here; broaching itself as natural states do, through green buds and spuds poking through the dead-leave-lined ground as if oblivious to the decay around them.  Minuscule crocuses (I may be small, but I am mighty), magnolia buds braving the last bits of ground frost.  Early hyacinth stems (planted late last year) staking their claim to new ground and those of the stalwart alliums, cousins to the common onion yet rich and full and a powerful penitent purple when at their height.  “The Kingdom,” they all seem to say to me, “is at hand.”  As I do my walkabouts (and I’ve begun only lately), I stare and stare at clumps of green ‘midst fuzzy, messy ground and assert my wonder at them in a wordless fixity, my impatience an entity in itself for I am beside myself with an eagerness to see them grow.

The birds are back too:  the robins fight over potential worm wins, and the blackbirds over an old, high-up squirrels’ nest in one of my front yard trees.  Such violence in the face of plenty; so many trees in this region, I mean, why fight?  Why this tree and that nest when so many surround?  I like to think it’s because there is fast and easy access to my backyard birdfeeders, or more likely, Hermes, lord of the birds, ensures I have sufficient birdsong to accommodate my days and nights…Hermes, who alone among the gods, had the right and privilege of crossing from heaven to earth, is also, apart from the Muses, the iconic communicator, the courier of the gods.  Emily Dickinson wrote:  “I hope you love birds, too.  It is economical.  It saves going to heaven.”

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