This blog is a record of a writing journey.
Having lived in three countries (to date) I must have what my mother calls 'itchy feet.' Perhaps that makes me an experienced sojourner, someone who stays temporarily in places. But I am also someone deeply interested in acquainting myself with the soul of that place during my sojourn.
The theme for #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge is ‘At the Station.’ Regular readers of Sojourning Smith will be familiar with my distaste for airport departure lounges. I have taken trains and buses a fair amount over a lifetime, and become infatuated with ferry terminals at times. There were vivid memories of getting trapped in an Amtrak bathroom before the train had even set off for my transcontinental trek back in 1978. (I did eventually release myself.) But in the end the title demanded its hearing, as did the journey remembered from early childhood. I may get back to stations at some later date though.
" Are we there yet?" We clop lopped over concrete slabs of the northeastern extension of the PA turnpike. We were a long way from there yet.
So we made up games, listing each new state's car license plate. I learned how to rhyme in a Studebaker backseat, defeated by orange. Determined to make a new word up.
Pitstop Neshaminny Howard Johnson's. Prepare to hold your nose in Bristol going past rotten egg Rohm & Haas. Cross the Delaware River to Grandmother's house we go. View the ships in bottles, great-uncle corraling clippers in glass. But we're not there yet.
Pass the Chinese supermarket in Brown's Mills before skirting forlorn Pine Barrens more Brother's Grimm than sylvan
"Are we there yet?" said somewhere near Lakewood when nose began to sniff and give a feral quiver, an atavistic sense of subtle shifts
in ozone, air recalibrating. Then the definite tang of salt, rotting seaweed, crossing Barnegat Bay's old metal bridge rattling over onto the barrier island's sandy spit.
Roll down Ocean Avenue, hang a left at the Catholic Church. Stop, pile out of station wagon to peels of aunt's laughter as it goes up and down the scale, our cousins' clammer.
Later, after a noisier than usual dinner we go down to the street to see the Atlantic Ocean. Walking the beach, getting feet wet, we face the edge of earth to look out at the mystery. We are not nearly there yet.
I am writing in haste this morning before I depart to learn how to identify butterflies, their habitat and how to survey them here in wildish West Cavan. The topic for the Poetry Daily comes from the #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge – the wild wood. Immediately, images of my beloved local Cavan Burren Forest, with its trees, mushrooms, bilberries and glacial erratics came to mind.
Into the Wild Wood
I go out to meet all the tree people to commune with god in their upturned limbs, the canopy the greatest cathedral.
I go out to meet all the tree people who are congregation, altar and pew, their stillness reaching towards the eternal.
I go out to meet them to be prayerful, the trees breathing both below and above, the one organism, earthly, celestial.
I go out to meet my wild angel, to explore its paradigm and its whim, to go out and greet this old tribe, my people.
I go out to greet my ancient people that die and live and grow for clues how we wander borders of the eternal.
I go out to greet my fellow people where wildness and peace are hand in glove as one organism, one world, eternal.
Native Americans and First Nations Peoples give each full moon a descriptive name. It is what is supposed to be happening in the natural world during that lunation and the full moon spotlights it. Some call this the Barley Moon since that grain harvest coincides with the August full moon. Sturgeon Moon is appropriate for the Pacific Northwest, but here in my corner of Ireland Sunflower Moon is more appropriate. The prompt from #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge is ‘Lion’s Den’, but all the various solar associations came tumbling out. The astrological sign of Leo is ruled by the sun. So the zodiac’s Lion recalls all manner of potential subjects- royality, gold, drama , lion heart and Cowardly Lion. Since the full moon was only yesterday and is still bright, I decided that the Poetry Daily needed to celebrate the Sunflower Moon.
As a side note. this month has had loads of solar flares. Apparently, at least according to astrologer Pam Gregory, these can either knock you out or make you buzzy. I am on the knocked out end of the spectrum. But my dreams are more vivid than usual. So I kept the writing practice short and sweet this morning.
The blackberries aren't ripe yet, the bilberries nearly all gone. This full moon the sunflowers stand erect, even as the rain pounds down. The meteor showers have shot past. The solar flares wear me out. The sunflowers still stand proud, their spiral smiles encourage us to be of stout heart.
Mountain High and River Deep is the theme for Day 15 of the #30DaysOf SummerWritingChallenge, the writing prompts that are helping me get over the 365 day marathon of the Poetry Daily. The finish line is September 14th, 2019. August 15th is also the Catholic feast of Maria Assunta, when Mother Mary is believed to have ascended bodily into heaven. Coincidentally, it is also the third anniversary of our cat Zymina crossing Pet Rainbow Bridge. She is buried under a little cairn in the garden she loved.
The mountain prompt and the pet cairn reminded how we have a rank of mountains (well glorified hills, but they are OUR mountains) that have cairns on top of them. Knockninny in Fermanagh is farthest east. Then there is my local Cuilcagh Mountain that straddles the Cavan-Fermanagh border. Travelling west, Benbo in Leitrim has a cairn, too. Then as you reach the Atlantic coast in Sligo, the cairn or all cairns, Queen Maeve’s tomb on Knocknarea.
Cairns, while looking like a just another pile of stones, were the earliest tombs (along with modified glacial erratics that stored cremated remains. In Cavan Burren Forest there is, deep in the woods, a Cairn Dolmen. Layer upon layer of archaelogy and pre-history is literally present. Dolmens, the first of the megalithic tombs, succeeded the cairns and modified glacial erratic as sacred places associated with death rites.
So the Poetry Daily is just concentrating on mountains today. The highest one locally is Cuilcagh, at 666 metres. It has a cairn on top, which can be reached by the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ that helps very sturdy tourists mount to its summitr from the Fermanagh side. But please, leave no trace! Would you leave a plastic bottle at your granny’s grave?
Nipple on the mountain tip offers itself to suckle the moon. Tickled by the wind, it is erect. What secret, ancient queen sleeps beneath your pile of stones that were scraped and shaped by Ice Age freeze and thaw, freeze and thaw? What do the tourist hordes understand as they puff and pant up the Stairway to Heaven? This is the Queen of Heaven's last throne, Her inauguration seat built over her body and bones. Leave each sacred stone in place. There is no earthly blessing She can impart who is the one that intimately knows Sky's heart.
The prompt from #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge is to write about rain. Now the Irish have as many words to express the quality and character of rainfall, just as Inuits are alleged to have about snow. Yet again I am being tossed back into memory of my youth. I experienced one of those batten down the hatches Northeasters when visiting with my aunt at the shore. When we get storms in from the southwest I have a flicker of recognition. And those kinds of storms, dramatic as they are on the outside, can be quite cozy when you are safe indoors by a fire. But it was the one genuine hurricane I can say I experienced that became the subject for the Poetry Daily. Hurricane Agnes was the first storm of the hurricane season in June 1972. It was more savage than usual for that early in the summer. It was even more brutal once it moved inland from the Chesapeake Bay and whirled its way up the path of the the Susquehanna River.
It's not all palm trees bent double. A hurricane can move inland and make for plenty more trouble. All night we slept on the 'Y' floor, waiting to see if the dam would hold. The river rose and rose. Every road, in and out, was closed, bridges washed out. So we waited. I was young enough to sleep through that night. The older ones sat up, drinking coffee, without much talk.
Next day it turns out our town fared better than most, was mostly okay. The rain stopped. The dam held, but it was cut pretty fine. Some cellars filled. The bridge was still pretty sound.
A few days later some of us teens helped scrape up the mud that reeked of rot and sewer in the heat off someone's dining room floor upriver in Shickshinny. The whole town looked condemned. We skipped and leaped over the jagged teeth of the remains of bridge over still angry, churning water from a creek. But then again maybe it was rail ties crossing a street. The Susquehanna stayed high for weeks and weeks.
The prompt today from #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge is ‘Speak the Lingo.’ Now the prompt’s line of thinking was about foreign holidays where you don’t ‘speak the lingo’ in the locale where you vacation, but I went a bit off-piste with the prompt. Being a professional foreigner, so to speak.
Once upon a time when I was young I was foreign in an era of the portable typewriter, the phrasebook, paperback editions of dual language dictionaries. Maps were paper. Street almanacs were called A to Zeds. Even the last letter of my mother tongue had a different pronunciation.
My grandmother translated for her immigrant mother and father. I am the third generation of women to bear the name of stranger.
Home is never quite home. Living in a body, on a planet, is a confusion never quite deciphered.
I am the vanguard of the breathing barbarian horde seething at the gates of your museums and cathedrals, eating your local food, liking its taste in the absence of a common language.
Having just the silence in my head, my mother tongue encrypted in a notebook that travels with me everywhere as I translate.
The prompt for day 12 of #30DaysOfSummerWritingChallenge is ‘Cruel Summer.’ I did write a tanka(ish) five liner on the theme. But what really was itching to flow from my pen came when the phrase “the Republic of Crochet” popped into my head. Our niece has been here over the weekend pet sitting. But we have also had conversations about a community art project she is envisioning that would use crochet as its medium.
The Republic of Crochet For Hannah Daisy
Flowerchild conceived long after The Summer of Love, your flower power blankets us with 'Chain Stitch One, Chain Two, Chain Three'. It links us all, but softly, in wool.
Everyone loves a flower. Who can resist them? Petal confetti love bombs us in crochet. Single stitches mend us one at a time - the lonely, the odd, the angry for lack of some love - with a flower, or a blanket, some soft wooly love.