Work Clothes

I read a little quote yesterday from some highly acclaimed musician and decided to capture his thought in verse this morning. Let me know in the comments if it gives the picture or seems too vague.

the famous artist
buried his lack of talent
in splattered smocks

Of Puffer fish & Willpower

after weeks of
cleansing fast  a large pizza
her puffer fish act

Another haiku with a story behind it.

Twenty-some years back I met a lady in her mid-forties; in time she became a dear friend. Was it because of her dysfunctional childhood, or the accident she was in that left her in a coma for twelve days, or maybe some of both? At any rate, you’d have to say she was emotionally unbalanced — and had been attending a church where emotional responses were often stirred and encouraged. She was cheerful, likeable, outgoing — but not very disciplined or stable.

At some point she had accepted the concept cleansing fasts, and even discovered a retreat in the country where she could go and cleanse her body of all the impurities tainting our modern diet. In addiction to the physical benefits, she felt that fasting brought her closer to God and told me that one time she had actually fasted for 40 days, just like Jesus. However, I suspect the dream of getting back to a slimmer figure hovered not far in the background.

My dear friend had a couple of weaknesses that affected her health. Like most of us, she was fond of tasty food — which included baking and other sweets. Plus, she smoked — a habit she didn’t like at all. So she viewed going to this retreat for a month or so, where she neither eat nor smoke, was a blessing four-fold: she could relax in a no-pressure environment, lose weight, crack the nicotine habit, and gain spiritually.

We visited her there a couple of times. It appeared she had nothing much to do at this retreat except relax, read, meditate, and detoxify in the small room she was given. There were a number of other guests, with a nurse present 24/7 to make sure no one suffered serious health problems because of the regime. When my friend’s fast was over she was put on a juice diet for a couple of days to re-adjust her body to food. Then she paid the rather hefty bill — this place was into making money as well as healing bodies — and went home.

This “coming back to the real world” got me involved one day — and my involvement brings me to story behind the senryu I’ve penned.

Early one morning my phone rang; my friend was telling me she needed watermelon and could I help her out? Could I buy one and bring it to her apartment? (She didn’t own a car.) She explained that she’d just got home from spending several weeks at the retreat and her body was reacting negatively to food. She needed watermelon to “flush out the salt” being retained in her tissues.

I didn’t know much about what fruits & veggies have diuretic properties, but she mentioned a few and was glad to help. I picked up these foods and went over to her place, where I heard the facts of her current health issue.

When she got home from her fast she’d been so hungry, she ordered an extra-large pizza and ate the whole thing. Her body was reacting big time to the sudden overload.

Reading history I’ve learned this isn’t an uncommon reaction for people who’ve been starved for a time. Their brain registers FOOD! and common sense is lost among the impulses. Their hands automatically start stuffing and people may even eat themselves to death. For my friend, all that salt in her pizza spread through her system, causing her tissues retain fluid until she was uncomfortably bloated.

Maybe puffer fish is an exaggeration, but the simile came to me and I thought it an interesting comparison.

In time my friend discovered one long-term side-effect of those prolonged fasts: starving drains your bones of much-needed minerals like calcium. One day she tripped going down some stairs and broke her leg. Her doctor, after seeing the x-ray, told her, “Your shattered bone looks just like corn flakes.”

It seems self-discipline and will power are rather like muscles. If we don’t use them, they become limp. Bypassing self-discipline in favor of complete abstinence, she short-circuited her willpower. Later, faced with the same temptations, she caved. Food and cigarettes became chronic problems. I won’t say that fasting is either wrong or harmful, in moderation, but nothing can build up the muscles of self-control, or deliver us from our vices, like the day-by-day exercise of resisting temptation.

Sad to say, my friend didn’t live long enough to reap the benefits of all that system-cleansing, either. Shortly after she turned 65 she was diagnosed with intestinal cancer and died a year or so later.

I think of her often, and miss visiting with her.

FACES

by Edgar Guest

I look into the faces of the people passing by,
the glad ones and the sad ones, and the lined with misery
and I wonder why the sorrow or the twinkle in the eye;
but the pale and weary faces are the ones that trouble me.

I saw a face this morning and time was when it was fair;
youth had brushed it bright with color in the distant long ago
and the princess of the lovely once had kept a temple there,
but the cheeks were pale with grieving and the eyes were dull with woe.

Who has done this thing, I wondered; what has wrought the ruin here?
Why are these sunken cheeks and pallid where the roses once were pink?
Why had beauty fled her palace; did some vandal hand appear?
Did her lover prove unfaithful or her husband take to drink?

Once the golden voice of promise whispered sweetly in her ears;
she was born to be a garden where the smile of love might lurk;
now the eyes that shone like jewels are but gateways for her tears
and she takes her place among us, toilers early bound for work.

Is it fate that writes so sadly, or the cruelty of man?
What foul deed has marred the parchment of a life so fair as this?
What has wrecked this lovely temple and destroyed the Maker’s plan,
raining blows on cheeks of beauty God had fashioned just to kiss?

Oh, the pale and weary faces of the people that I see
are the ones that seem to haunt me, and I pray to God above
that such cruel desolation shall not ever come to be
stamped forever in the future on the faces that I love.

.
From the book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

Faceless, Voiceless Women

we knew they lived
those faceless voiceless women
up in that small room

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the book, Write Like Issa: A Haiku How-To, writer David G Lanoue says, “Write with compassion yet understatement. Leave space for your readers’ minds to wander and wonder.” In the verse above there should be ample room for you to wonder and surmise — just as I have over the years.

Putting together my collection of haiku verses now, I often wonder if I should stick with Mr Lanoue’s advice, or share a few lines of back-story that led to my writing this verse? What do you think? Do you like to read the story behind the story or verse?

Here’s the story behind the verse above:

Back in the fall of 1981 we bought a small 1½-storey house and moved into a small hamlet in SW Ontario. The neighbours were friendly and different ones dropped by to visit after we were settled; through their accounts we learned quite a few details about our home’s history. One elderly couple, Jim & Jean, enjoyed visiting and had lived in the village for years. Since they’d known a number our home’s past owners, we found out some interesting details from them.

For example, Jean talked about the school teacher and his wife who lived in our place years back (I’m thinking late 1950s) and how they’d visit this couple from time to time. I’m guessing the teacher & wife were middle-aged and had no children still at home, but his aged mother and sister lived with them.

Jean told me, “We never saw them. His mother and sister stayed upstairs in their room whenever we were there. They never came down when the teacher had company — we never knew why.”

I sometimes think of those two women and wonder, why did they live as recluses in that tiny bedroom? Did they have embarrassing health issues; did the mother have dementia and couldn’t be left alone? Did they refuse to visit with the locals; were they snobby, shy, or did they think “it isn’t our place”? Were they not allowed to join the company, ordered to stay upstairs and not “interfere”? How free were they otherwise? My mind is very free to wander and wonder about that situation.

I’ll never know the answer, but since today is International Women’s Day, this is the perfect opportunity to appreciate and express my thanks for the many options women have now.

Books: Rescuing Finley

I have great news for readers who like an inspiring contemporary fiction story. Dan Walsh is one of my favorite writers and the first book in his Forever Home Novels, Rescuing Finley, is FREE today on Amazon. NOTE: Last Day of giveaway.

Rescuing Finley CoverMy Book Review:

Two people in desperate situations, one abandoned dog.

Amy Wallace was a recovering meth addict, who lost her job and needed friends. Sad to say, two “friends” had in mind some shoplifting: they wanted to steal an expensive ring from a department store’s jewellery section. And they had in mind Amy should be the one to pocket the goods. Which meant Amy was the one who got caught and sent to prison.

Ever since he finished high school Chaz wanted to sign up with the Marine Corps. His mother protested angrily when he told her, “I signed up today. It’s for two years — but they’ll go fast.” She needed him to help her survive. And what about his dog, Finley? Did Chaz expect her to look after him?

Chaz was Finley’s whole world, the one human who loved him. Chaz’s mother barely tolerated Finley in her small apartment. We understand through his eyes how abandoned and confused he was when Chaz left — and never returned. Finley couldn’t know his master’s life ended on a battlefield, but he knew something was very wrong. Lost in her own grief Chaz’s mother couldn’t deal with a dog — especially a huge one like Finley. Feeling guilty but desperate, she dropped him off at an animal shelter.

Chris Seger’s life as he knew it also ended while on a mission in Afghanistan, when he stepped on a land mine. A permanent ticket home — minus one leg. Stateside, after months of therapy, he found work with an understanding and flexible employer, but he wrestled constantly with PTSD, depression and the nightmares. Then a pal suggested he look into this new program: service dogs for the disabled.

Dan Walsh does an excellent job of taking us through Chris, Finley, and Amy’s lives as they struggle to start again. Then he brings them together in a winning story of forgiveness and healing. At the same time he walks readers through a great program where prisoners work with dogs, training them as companions for veterans with PTSD.

I found this a terrific, heart-touching book and shed quite a few tears as I watched the story unfold. Five stars from me.