Monday, May 28, 2012

Keepers of the Memories

Our veterans tell the story of their dead. They carry the stories to us.

I once saw the Traveling Vietnam Memorial wall at Ocmulgee Indian Mounds. My husband, newly minted in the Marine Corps League, stayed with other veterans guarding the tribute the entire time it was here. The Indian Mounds wore the memorial like a holy salute to the dead.

I saw all kinds of Vietnam veterans at that monument whose reflections in the wall made the blackness come alive.  Every time I looked into those shiny black walls, I saw another veteran carrying another story of another who died whose  names grace its Wall.

I finally visited the real Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. My experience at this wall was so different. The most overriding factor determining my perceptions was the refections in the wall weren't grieving veterans. It was my own curious face,my mother, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew. We didn't look anything like someone who carries on their soul a war for which an excuse has yet to be found.

The memorial for World War II was not so starkly insightful about who I am and am not. It was a gloriously large airy arena where we all wanted to hang out and bask in the grandeur of the views, the magnificence of the sculptures, the skillful transmission of the its largeness in world history.

We strolled back by the Vietnam memorial as we left. I explained my feelings to my niece. The Vietnam Memorial is like a scar on the land, reflecting back to us who we are. It announces with great solemnity that we acknowledge our dead, who fell in commission of the wars waged by our politicians. We acknowledge in its entire geometry the rise and fall of the American War, as the Vietnamese call it. It honors these men and still tells the truth of an unjust war, one that was waged on the Vietnamese people and our own young men, their families and friends.

We are connected to all of these memorials and to each of these names whether we realize it or not. I choose to honor the history and the men and women who sacrificed to create the republic for which I am a citizen. I am proud of our warriors. I am proud of the truth telling of our memorials in Washington. I have great respect for those who serve. Their stories are the reason we acknowledge and mourn with them the great losses and sacrifices they and their fallen comrades have made on behalf of the rest of us. Also I honor  those who have fallen in war anywhere at any time. May the nonsense of war cease.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Death By War, a Memorial Day story

Memorial Day is set aside to remember those who died in war. Most often, it is the survivors of war  who keep the memories for us.

My husband, Carl, is one such survivor. He is a combat veteran of the
Vietnam War (or as it is called in Vietnam - The American War). He carries memories very specific to the week in which Memorial Day occurs.

On May 27th, 1969 near dusk, Carl, who was the squad leader, and his first Fire team leader, Gary, and a member of Gary’s fire team sat in their 3 man fighting hole on the company’s perimeter when a helicopter landed to resupply the company with food and men. Carl distributed the C-Rations among the fire team leaders of his squad. It had been over 24 hours since they had any food.

Carl was called up to the CP (Command post) and was assigned troops “fresh from the world,” which means these men were landing in Vietnam straight from the US. He took the men back to the fighting hole and as they got settled, he wolfed down his spaghetti and meatballs - a meal he had to be hungry to eat. He saved his favorite, ham and lima beans for later.

The area came under attack, the fire brought in by the helicopter giving away their location. Incoming recoilless rifle rounds, highly accurate small artillery pieces, were shooting rounds in the fighting holes up and down the perimeter. Carl and Gary put the two new guys and the fire team member in the fighting hole.

The sun was near setting and therefore firing would soon stop because it would give away the NVA position. Carl watched several men who had left their positions on the perimeter during incoming and were walking on the ridge line back to their hole. Suddenly these men were running. Gary and Carl looked at each other and Carl said, “let’s get down, just in case.” The two of them resumed their positions on top ofthe other three guys, just barely inside the parapit of the fighting hole.

Carl’s entire right side exploded. There was a cloud of black gun powder smoke where Gary had just been. Carl’s flak jacket and and helmet protected his internal organs and head, but his right leg and arm were very nearly blown off. Gary was dead.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine, Schmallentine

Valentine's Day is a wonderful day to make art. My granddaughters participate with me in labors of love for this day allowing me to use pictures of them and then they tell me their Valentine sentiments.

This year, the girls seem to not be on the love vibration.  No ballads of love from these girls. Thank you Higher Powers of the Universe! They are sending a different message!

The handshake valentines came from a series of photos I did to illustrate commitment and community for my church's pledge drive. My the small handed model wanted to see these photos re-purposed in a valentine. 

I admit, the pi one was my idea. I mean anyone who can draw a mustache like this on her face is definitely a natural, must be irrational and very important to boot! You have to love a kid like that!

And Buddha, of course, has his bit to say about all this love stuff.

On last year's Valentines, Buddha wasn't as grumpy.

The girls and the goats had plenty to say.

And romance was the purview of roosters and chickens.

The goat girls figured prominently in last year's designs, teaching me much about love in unexpected places.  So does the girl in the heart below.

I take comfort these two goat girls still have each other, and my three granddaughters also have each other, loving parents, grandparents and beyond. 

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, January 30, 2012

A morning trek with my old camera

I found the charger to the old camera, the go-anywhere-, even-under-water camera. It is a beat up and shabby looking, but I am so happy to be able to use it again. I love the pictures it takes, the richness in the darker colors, the way it interpolates pixels.

I took pictures this morning trying it out. Take my morning trek with me.

This is where I sit to write this blog and work on my novel. I have a migratory work space. I'm a laptop warrior. This is the center of operations for now, in the junk room. I like to create from a place of mass chaos. What can I say?
This is our garden. We had a fire yesterday burning the roots and ground cover from the plot we are preparing for corn, beans and squash. The three sisters, I squeal. Carl C shakes his head and says something sounding as if he wants to thwart or change my plans. Gardening with a partner takes compromise. The burned spot will be the next place we dig.

Here is the corn plot we are preparing.  I've taken to circle gardening. I like to dig out a circle, marking the cardinal directions and put plants aligned with the directions. This is no science behind my madness, only a slightly ODC plan to make earth compasses all over the land. Carl C likes directions, so he has conspired with me on this latest patch, helping me to exactly delineate the directions. The yellow duct taped bamboo pole in the right corner of the photo is south. The chair is in the north, though slightly east. I have woven with bamboo branches a retaining wall for the low end of this small piece of ground where we will grow corn, for sure. Carl C has dug out roots, master minded the pole construction and exact circlitude.  It is definitely a joint project now.

Look, look! The bamboo in the northwest from which our poles come.  And see the measly little circle gardens I did by myself, and thereby proved this would be a great way to feng shui our handicapped garden.
There is cabbage, swiss chard and collards in these. I also have lettuce and spinach in another unseen circle to the right. It has picket fences and sharp bamboo twigs to protect it from the chickens. We ran out of chicken wire.
Back inside, my old/new camera itches to take a look at the mantle above our fireplace. Here, dust and all is what our mantle piece harbors.

The camera and I walk over to the house shrine and take a peek. 

Since this buddha seemed fine, we went to check on the outside buddha.

We found him checking out his reflection in the bird bath.

I know where the wild chickens lay! It is hard to emphasize what a victory this represents. I have been searching for their laying place for months, and finally they started laying in a place I had made receptive for their laying needs.

They ignored it for months while the yard cat lounged in it, but when I changed where I fed the pets, the cat migrated back there. Another month went by and then, yay, an egg. Two days later, another egg. I began writing the dates on them and gathering the oldest one everyday. Day before yesterday, two eggs were laid. I can identify at least three separate egg layers  by color and shape! I only have four wild laying hens.

Here sits Buddha. He hasn't moved since we looked at him a minute ago. He's really enjoying the day, I can tell.

So are our two loyal, loving dogs, though if I'd go on a long walk in the woods with them, they would find it an even better day.

And a final look at Buddha bathed in sunlight, keeping the company of a bottle tree and some irises who will bloom in spring.