Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Along the Lonesome Trail

Ras, Old man G.W., and Dan Stapp 1929 in Texas
I never knew my father's Uncle Ras, but I know from the  letters and the pictures that I've pieced together that he was a collector of our family memories: of deaths, of dances, of calf roping, and hunting.  His life was full for 82 years.

Ras was the ninth of the thirteen children born to George Washington Stapp and Mary Alice Austin Stapp.  He was born January 23, 1894 in Boone County, Arkansas.  He was named Ras King for the doctor who delivered him, and more than likely the first child to be born with the help of a doctor.

The next three babies born to to GW and Mary Alice died within a year of birth, but number thirteen Virgle Roland Stapp was healthy.  He was born December 20, 1902 and lived 81 years.

Sadly, my great grandmother, Mary Alice, was not healthy after giving birth to so many children and living a rugged life.  Ras remembered moving from Boone County, Arkansas across the border to unnamed land called Oklahoma.  During this move and unsettled time three babies were born and died.  Mary Alice was too sick after Virgle was born to care for her family.  Ras writes, "No matter how frail and sick ma was she read her Bible to us every night.  When she couldn't read, we took turns reading out loud so she could hear God's words."  In the end she knew was going to die so she begged G.W. "Take me to Texas.  I don't want to die in this lonesome land. "  G.W.  loaded up his children and wife into the covered wagons, taking mules, chickens, and a few belongings and headed south to Texas.  Ras recalled that the older children took care of the younger ones and the boys hunted for food daily.  The journey was even harder with their mother.  "We spent many days stopped along the trail," Ras wrote in a letter, "because ma was too sick to move.  When she felt better we'd start again."

"When just inside the Texas line from Oklahoma lands, I don't know what part, ma became so sick we had to stop again.  Ma gathered all us kids around her bed and talked with us and said prayers before she died.  I can see it like it was yesterday.  We dug her grave and buried her just off the wagon trail in a little grove of post oak trees.  I always wanted to go back and look for it as the years went by, but never made it back."  There was no gravestone set upon her grave.  Her request was granted.  She died in Texas on October 25, 1903 only ten months after giving birth to her thirteenth child.  Ras was only nine years old when he left his mama's grave.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Readings and Greetings: What Love Comes to by Ruth Stone

While watching a You Tube video on TED presentations the speaker referred to a poet I'd never heard of, Ruth Stone.  It bothered me that I'd fallen out of touch with poetry readings, so I Googled the name Ruth Stone and became an instantly more curious.  Ruth Stone stated, "I decided very early on not to write like other people."  That convinced me to find her poems.  Her newest book in the Hutchinson Public Library is What Loves Comes To New and Selected Poems (c.2008), and it was just what a curious soul needs on a cold winter's day.

These lines I cut from a poem she wrote called Fragrance (p 45) --

Poems came to me
As if from far away.
I would feel them coming,
I would rush into the house,
Looking for paper and pencil.
It had to be quick,
For they passed through me
And were gone forever.

Instantly, I knew we shared a bond.  The more I read, the more I knew this lady who lives in the woods in snowy Vermont.  Perhaps she's a modern Thoreau or Robert Frost in her observance of nature.

Through out her life she has traveled and taught writing at several universities, and in her travels she must have passed through our golden state.

Kansas as Africa  (p.64)

The rolled hay is like hippopotami
and Kansas is the veldt.
The bare fields
after the snow is gone
pale gold in the sun;
and the occasional tree
twisted like the monkey puzzle tree
not yet leafed out,
dry and scaly.
And the blue snowmelt
makes water holes
for phantom zebras
and the slack stomachs of hunting lions
in the gold grass gone to seed beside the tracks.

Poetry reading is very personal.  One reason I enjoy it so much is that I can pick and choose which poems I'll read and reread.  A book of poems doesn't have to be read cover to cover, and that gives me freedom to ponder, reflect, or skip over and wonder, "what was she thinking when she wrote that?"

Ruth sees the corn, unlike myself, and writes in her poem “Seed” (p. 292): 

Corn is universal,
So like a Roman senator.
Its truths are silk tassels.
True its ears are sometimes
Rotten, impure,
But it aspires in vast acres,
Rectangular spaces,
To conspire with every pollinator
And to bear for the future
In its yellow hair.

I hope someone jumps into her books, full of enthusiasm and delight in the new, and comes away refreshed.  Tell me what do you think of this lady poet, Ruth Stone.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Winter Walks

It's out here somewhere.
Winter walks on the prairie refresh our spirits, but sometimes create adventures.  Jack and Lucy love to play hide-and-go-seek in the tall prairie grass (that isn't too tall because of the drought), while I play cheerleader. The other day just as we reached the end of our trail, Jack reached into his pocket for the leash, so we could walk Lucy down the streets toward home.  NO Leash, but lots of laughter as we looked back over the twenty acres of prairie grass that we'd just trampled through.

It's this way Jack, follow me.
 Jack's words not mine, "It's got to be in one of the three places where I laid down hiding from Lucy."  My unspoken thoughts, "You've got to be kidding me.  We have another leash at home and I'm cold."   The challenge was spoken! Being stalwart prairie pioneers we persevered, and stepped forward head down walking into a bitter cold Northwest wind, and eyes searching for a handsized blue doggie leash.

I'm sure it's over here.

This is a lot of work!

Really, you found it.  Let me sniff.
Yep, the lost has been found.  Remarkable.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Readings and Greetings: Daring Greatly

"What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?"  This is the leading question that pushes researcher Dr. Brene' Brown,  to write her newest book Daring Greatly.

Isn't it interesting how we often think of ourselves as being "daring, courageous" only to realize that what we say and what we do are often opposite.  After reading this new book by Dr. Brown, I took a risk by writing an article for the newspaper on taking steps to preventing more senseless killings in our communities.  Once the words began I couldn't stop writing, once the editor read it I had much to cut, and with each cut I felt I was leaving out essential details that might help create a picture of my thoughts, or perhaps that was my ego talking.  Then I sent it to the Western Front in the Hutch News and waited.

It's one thing to write on my blog because I know my readers, and quite another to write an opinion or action statement in the newspaper where anyone could read it and react to it publicly   I felt like Emily Dickinson in her poem, "I'm nobody, who are You?"  I felt exposed and vulnerable and yet uplifted that I could make a positive action statement that people might consider acting on.

Brown writes, "I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure....To put our art, our writing, our photography, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance or appreciation--that's also vulnerability."  She goes on to list many examples that people wrote in response to "Vulnerability is ________."  Then it becomes clearer that vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.  This is an idea that struck a cord in me as I read her book.

Half-way through the book, she tosses "perfectionism" into the mix by stating, "If we want freedom from perfectionism, we have to make the long journey from 'What will people think?' to 'I am enough.'  That journey begins with resilience, self-compassion, and owning our stories."  Since reading this part I created a new mantra for  myself,  "I am enough."  Growing up in a country club I was taught all social graces and mannerism under the neon sign,  "What will people think?"  Decades later, I am enough and I can hear my mother sighing from her heavenly home and hopefully nodding her head agreeing.

"Enough about me, now how can I inspire others," is a question Brown challenges us with.  After reading, "The two most powerful forms of connection are love and belonging--they are both irreducible needs of men, women, and children,"  I put her book down and began to write about one small step, that I believe deeply we can take to build our communities into caring, thoughtful, and safe places to live.  Now I know what Daring Greatly feels like.

To learn more about Daring Greatly read Brene Brown's book piece by piece and take the steps needed to change or make a difference.  Better yet buy it from your local independent book stores, like Bluebird Books or Watermark Books.  Get to know the owners on a personal basis, dare greatly.

To read the article I wrote for the Hutch News go to:  <>

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Resolution Day at Bluebird Books

Reading books of our choice, learning new concepts, and continuing education are some of the greatest gifts offered to those of us living in a free nation.  Our newest book store "Bluebird Books" is a visual and sensory delight, plus it offers something for each of us willing to leave the house and explore.

Reading a label on a can of soup or bag of chips is the easy part, it's the understanding of what I've just read that barks at my brain!  One New tidbit--limit my fat intake by understanding that 3 grams of fat per 100 calories is a healthy guide.  Suddenly, my lunch plan today was thwarted:  7 stone ground tostitos equaled 140 calories and 8 grams of fat.  I went over the 3 grams but stayed under several hundred calories I might have eaten otherwise.  It might be good to toss these chips now before I munch some more.   This new bite of information was presented at "Resolution Day" at Bluebird Books.  The first presenter on Saturday, January 5 was Lisa Denke, a registered dietitian who helped us better understand what a healthy meal looks like and what we need to eat or NOT eat.  I just wish the palm of my hand were bigger, so I could eat a bigger steak or hamburger and call it healthy.

  When Abby Hurst presented her "Resolution" program on Pilates Basics, I experienced another "ah ha" moment.  Now practicing the fine tuned control of my transversus abdominus daily will be in my new life plan.   My weak abs have been one of the reasons I have spent the last 30 years in and out of chiropractors and doctors offices because of my back pain.  Not only am I healthier and stronger because of two years of Pilates, but now I have one more important exercise to add to my daily routine.

Conquering Clutter presented by Marie Kicklighter expanded my mind with new visions of what my hidden closets and drawers could look like.  This morning my first task, after stretching and clearing my muddled mind, was to take a step she suggested for figuring out which clothes I wear regularly.  I reversed or turned around all of my hanging clothes.  Now as I take them off the hangers to wear I will return them facing the correct way, and supposedly at the end of the season or year I will know which clothes I really wear.  I see potential for cheating with this concept, but I will persevere.   Next, I pulled out all of my tablecloths, yes even the old pink linen ones that have been handed down.  I measured each on and wrote down the size on tape which I then stuck to the hanger.  My plan was to take a bag of tablecloths to the thrift shop.  That didn't happen, but at least I know what I have now.

Mindfulness, concentrating on my breath, learning to stay in the moment, these are the concepts that I based my own personal resolution on, and listening to Wendy Hobart speak on Yoga and Meditation gave me even more insight to what I am doing daily in my life and how it will help me.  Today my goal was to find a way to incorporate at least one action or thought from each of the four presenters. Check!