Archives for the month of: July, 2008

Blue. Bird.
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

“Goes bob, bob, bobbin’ along.” I don’t have any robin pictures so this will have to do.

It’s been a week since Anita told me she wanted to quit, to take a job with more hours. And the situation has resolved itself quite nicely.

The next day she said her employer-to-be told her she wanted to give some of Anita’s hours (the reason she was taking the job in the first place) to a former caregiver who had come back on the scene. This did not sit well with Anita, not well at all. “If she does that now, what might she do later?

“Can I have my job back? I’ll be loyal to you.”

And I said yes. The things that had been getting on my nerves seem to have become non-issues, and we’re settling in well, establishing our own routine, which includes starting the day with a few minutes of hot chocolate and talk.

No, not a bad outcome at all, and the red, red robin does go bob, bob, bobbin’ along.

Note: The photograph “Blue. Bird.” appears in my photostream at Flickr.com

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Electric landscape
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

I keep thinking about an article I read recently in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Epis-copal Church comes under fire for parolee priest: Murderer who was ordained has been suspended for sexual misconduct with parishioner” (by Matthai Kuruvila, B-1, 9, Friday, July 18, 2008).

“Sexual misconduct with parishioner”: I think about how familiar these words are, and how familiar these issues are and how close to home they come.

A former president of my own seminary in another denomination resigned because of sexual impropriety: adultery while being pastor of the church he served before coming to the seminary, adultery that continued after he came to the seminary. This man saw nothing inappropriate in his being a moral arbiter of gay and lesbian students seeking ordination—and was quite proud of having written a book on manners that sold well.

A seminary classmate brought sexual abuse charges against the pastor of her home church, who counseled her after the death of her husband and shepherded her on her journey to seminary. He didn’t rape her, and it was still sexual abuse. After he got his obligatory slap on the wrist from the denomination, many people saw her as a nuisance who should shut up and go away, when she kept demanding real help to put her life back together again.

At a conference I met a psychiatrist who had lost his license for sleeping with a patient, “for her own good.” He could not see that he had done anything wrong. He didn’t rape her, but I doubt that she could call him between sessions and say, “Honey, I’m feeling horny. Let’s get it on.” When I met him, he had lost everything but what he still saw as his innocence.

It’s been said that “a stiff dick has no conscience.” What’s the comparable witticism, unfunny as it can be, for a woman? While I was a seminary intern I was powerfully attracted to a member of the congregation where I was working, and it was grace that kept me from making a grievous error. It was probably grace that let me get together with this man later and find out for myself it was a mistake—but not for moral, ecclesiastical reasons.

Any of these stories warrants lengthy reflection. Every one of them stirs the pot as I keep going back to the Chronicle story. As I try to see what’s roiling beneath the surface, the first thing I see is the difficulty of even touching on them. The reticence I feel to broach the subject of sexual abuse—victims and perpetrators—has to do with issues of privacy and with issues of so-called “politeness.” Then there’s the old voice that says, “Don’t. Just leave well enough alone. Nice people don’t talk about bad sex.”

This prohibition likely stems in part from reluctance to face the dark numen that can be part of sexuality bereft of the ethical and the kind, the forthright and the mutual. It’s hard to talk about the possibility that we might falter, that someone we’ve looked up to has faltered. And it’s also hard to admit that our best-intentioned efforts may not prevent or easily ameliorate the grievous effects of sexual abuse by those in positions of power. Here I’ve reflected on situations involving clergy and a physician—but we don’t have to be clergy or physicians ourselves to hear troubling echoes that ring true more than we may like to admit, even to ourselves.

I think that’s enough for now.

Note: The photograph “Electric Landscape” appears in my photostream at Flickr.com


Only the Shadow knows
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

Anita quit yesterday. She’d gotten an offer for double my hours and really needs the extra money.

“I’ll stay with you till you get someone else.”

“No. Just finish the week –and maybe you could do laundry and change the bed, and do grocery shopping, once a week till I get someone.” This is fair, I think, and doesn’t saddle me with someone who’s already out the door, someone from whom I’ve already in just these few moments begun the process of disengagement.

She agrees. Oh, yes. Gladly.

Today was all right. Wednesday. One down, two to go. I hadn’t been devastated yesterday. After all, it was only the seventh time she’d been here. And while things were generally going well, I had reservations.

She’s a complainer about things in her personal life; I don’t think she knows how much. And a sigher. I can’t stand her deep lugubrious sighs. And she likes me so much.

Who knows? Perhaps the new person will be neither a sometime curmudgeon nor a complainer. While I can get lonely, very lonely, a part of me likes the prospect of being on my own in my own space again for a while. Things aren’t too bad.

Then, this afternoon, I go out for a few minutes and come back to a message on the answering machine: “It’s Anita. The woman I was going to work for wants to give some of my hours to a caregiver who used to work for her. Is your job still open? Call me.”

Nothing in me rises in delight, breathes deep, sighs with relief. OH SHIT. How do I say I don’t think I want her when I haven’t made a single criticism of her work?

“It was so hard to give notice because you’ve been so sweet to me.”

Only the Shadow knows.

Note: The photograph “Only the Shadow knows” appears in my photostream at Flickr.com.

I don’t think I’ve made a collage since I got my first Nikon (a Coolpix P4) two years ago and today I made a collage.

With my photographs there is the immediate constraint of sitting; my eye level opens up certain possibilities, subtle ones usually, and pretty much rules out others. With my collages I often set myself the challenge of working with just two pieces of paper, two disparate images, to see what I can get with such seemingly limited means.

Today, when I took my collage book outside to photograph it (something I haven’t yet mastered to my satisfaction), my upstairs neighbor, she of the yellow toenail polish, was sitting on the steps. And I have a picture of a collage that is very like a collage.

Note: The photograph “Two-part invention” can be found in my photostream at Flickr.com


Homage to my father
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

Daddy would have been ninety-nine today. He died in 1978, almost half my life ago. He is still my shining star and my bete noire, “a man of such grace and gift as to beggar the telling of it.”

He was capable of great tenderness and fearsome rage. My last words to him, before he was killed, were “Go to hell.” Six months after his murder I revisited a former psychiatrist, to tell the story of my grief one more time.

“There’s something wrong here,” he said. “For this much time having passed, your grief is too raw, too extreme. I think you’re trying to separate the Good Daddy and the Bad Daddy. I promise you that if you let them come together, you’ll wind up with more of the Good Daddy.”

Dr. Mathews was right, more right than I knew then. I still adore my Daddy—and I haven’t been free not to tell the good stories, not to sing the songs of praise. Finally there’s room for in my heart for the darker songs too. Happy Birthday, Daddy. It’s all right.

TWELFTH POEM AFTER RUMI

Bury the Old King. Let his bones
give to the land what he could not,
what he would not
in his hatred and his fear
of the gentle blooming life
that would not obey his will,
that was unable of itself not to grow.

For this he cursed the land
and for this we bury his bones
as the only mercy we can ask for him,
as the only mercy he can at last give.

Note: The photograph “Homage to my father” can be found in my photostream at Flickr.com.


Way of thorns
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

“If I hadn’t posted it now, I could have posted today’s photograph next Easter season.” At least that was the direction I was going when I sat down to write. A little irony, a little brittle humor, and the rest I wasn’t sure of yet.

This is an unusual photograph for me in that the symbolism is so easy to read out of or into the picture, though I didn’t see that when I took it. I simply saw the long curve, the pattern of light and shadow, the parallel lines, the repetition of sharp points. But when I posted it, I experienced a physical sense of disquietude, in part about making any of my own “way of thorns” public, in part about acknowledging how deep is my connection to the imagery and belief of the Christian tradition. But at the level of declaration what my right hand embraces, my left hand rejects, still. And then there is the Space that simply is, that holds it all, where declaration and rejection are simply two more patterns to be observed. That Great Spaciousness does not depend upon a season.

Recent weeks have been replete with thorns—and I sense a subtle Easter stirring. Even yesterday, with Anita’s first day . . . even last night, with allowing myself Advil to ease the aches I too often put up with. . . even this morning, getting up with a hint of free-floating well-being. And I notice the desire to wrap up, to present in a package, what is perfectly fine as it is.

Note: The photograph “Way of Thorns” can be found in my photostream at Flickr.com


Chimney
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

At 7:05 I cancelled my 8:36 Paratransit ride to church because I had to give them at least an hour’s notice or I would have gotten a “no show” on my record—and enough no shows can jeopardize one’s ability to use the service. Had they asked why, and sometimes they do, I would have said I was having difficulty with bowel management.

Actually I was afraid I might have difficulty with said management because I got up later than usual and the last couple of days have been difficult in that department. Usually getting up early enough to let two or three DietPepsis work their magic lets me have my bowel movement before I leave the apartment home, on the free-standing bedside commode that I’ve had to use since my last broken hip. Peeing away from home I can handle; a woman’s urinal in a discreet black bag on the back of the chair takes care of that.

Today I might have had a problem, and I might not have had a problem, and the truth is, I wanted to play hooky. Generally when I stay home from church I wind up getting lonely, eating too much, and knowing I would have been happier if I’d pushed myself to get up and ready and out and about.

Except right now I’m relishing what feels like stolen time, a day that’s all mine, nobody to account to. I remember, years ago when I worked, I’d often bring a pile of work home on the weekend. It would sit on the couch all weekend, accusing me, till I finally admitted, sometime on Sunday night, that I didn’t have time to do it, at which point I would experience a guilty frisson of freedom. I’d escaped. I’d made it through again. The time between then and bedtime was all mine.

In the clear light of Monday morning what had seemed so pressing, what I had thought would take so many hours, was usually quite simple. The not-working I tortured myself with all weekend was a complicated and painful game I played with myself for the high of the putative escape.

Currently I have some external structure in my life, but not a great deal. I have therapy one day a week and other occasional medical and personal appointments. Then there’s church in San Francisco on Sunday. Sometimes Paratransit is a dream: quick and efficient; sometimes an hour’s appointment can eat more than half a day.

Generally four days a week I have a home health-care aide to help me with housework and cooking, shopping, and things like washing my hair. Judith, who just left after three years, could be high-maintenance in terms of energy. I don’t know about Anita, who starts tomorrow; I do know it will take time for us to get to know each other and to learn how to work together. Sometimes when there’s someone with me I feel that I have to be “on.” Sometimes I don’t.

And the fact is that right now I have this stolen block of time, “where the buffalo roam, and the skies are not cloudy all day.” Sometimes it’s okay to escape.

Note: The photograph “Chimney” can be found in my photostreat at Flickr.com


Crown of wires
Originally uploaded by Lynn Park

I’m still mulling over the difference between a blog and a journal. This past week would have been a fruitful one for journaling, if I were still drawn to keep a journal. There was the end-of-the-month melodrama of holding on for a new month and new money (I ended up with $2.57 in the bank). I was really pissed off, again, at someone about whom I had recently gained a fair degree of equanimity. My weight seemed to multiply itself by ten every time I looked in the mirror. Judith had left and Anita hadn’t started yet; I had all the housework and too much solitude despite three appointments and feeling pressured for time.

When I was young, and serious about being a painter, I knew I’d done something good when I had the sense it had the right to exist in the world separate from me. I’m starting to think that blog entries also have some kind of right to exist in the world, in part because they are shaped and deliberate in ways that journal entries typically are not. Even if small, this can make them worthy of protection and possible notice. That disciplined shapeliness may allow me to address deeply personal material in this very impersonal forum in a way I could not risk with material bounded only by feeling.

And there is, of course, the delight of the writing, when correcting a line opens up a new line of thinking. “This past week would have been a fruitful one for journaling . . . “ I can’t remember that I originally wrote, but last week I kept thinking I should be able to take the direct roil of feelings, get them out, and make a blog of them. But this was pretty much coming out of old journal-mind. I know that now; I didn’t know it till I saw myself write “if I were still drawn to keep a journal.”

And felt a palpable sense of rightness. I can do this: I can find a way of looking at my experience the way I look at my photographs, the way I look at the world through my photographs. I’m not still drawn to keep a journal, the eighty-plus notebooks and sketchbooks and hardbound blank books in the closet not withstanding, I don’t have to keep a journal. The fact is, I don’t keep a journal.

I don’t keep a diary/day-book either—and because I don’t, I can’t look back and remember hat I did a week ago Thursday. This bothers me because I feel that I’m losing time. And I think that if I have an entry for each day, like a picket, I can fence my life in and it won’t get away from me. Wrong. I don’t think so.

But I have the present, with its opportunity for occasional insights that recast pissy weeks and lingering shoulds.

Happy Independence Day.

Note: The photograph “Crown of wires” can be found in my photostream at Flickr.com