Now on to another of my memory stories. They are kind of fun and I have finally come to the point where I can share them without undue embarrassment or shame or fear of how anyone will perceive me through them. Age does have a few privileges!
This is a little about how I came to be --dare I call myself a poet? Well, at least s scribe of rhymes and verses. That I can boast of, at least. Like my other writing and story telling gifts this seemed to come to me honestly and easily. Tomorrow I will try to share a few more of my recent verses and rhymes.
Rhymes and Reasons
I never required or had a lot of fancy and expensive toys. Playthings were simpler in my day. I won’t say that I did not have some nice things for the Christmas pictures prove that false. But with a few exceptions, odds and ends, found items, rocks and words gave me more pleasure.
From early childhood I delighted in making things, whether it was a fort or playhouse built from junk, or taking chains, beads and buttons to make “jewelry.” Creativity was always my passion as was collecting—packratism runs deep in my genes! To my despair I move toward the last part of my life with far too much “stuff.”
At least words don’t need much space to store them or gather dust. I suppose an early diet of Mother Goose, Stevenson’s A Child’s
literature imprinted rhyme on my infant psyche in an indelible way. Rhythm and
meter may be shaky but rhymes were and are appealing and found their way into
much that I wrote or even spoke. From a young age, I was building poems. I was
eight when I wrote my first little verse. Garden
That summer I spent out in the woods with my parents who were running a Forest Service fire lookout on the north side of the
Walking out into the forest and seeing wild animals was a common event although
I was not allowed to go out of sight of the tent and the lookout tower alone.
So my first verse spoke of this activity:
Over hill, over dale
Through the pines on the trail.
Sun so light, shining bright,
Happy are we, you and me,
Marching along today.
Immortal verse not, but then again, even later most of what I wrote was nowhere near that. For the most part, I wrote either about events and sights around me or my feelings. As I reached the teens, those emotions were increasingly either about my eternal quest for romantic love or sentimental mush dedicated to my current crush or hero. Half sarcastically, I termed most of my crushes “handsome heroes” while the ex-crushes were “former fancies.”
But even if I kept at least one foot on the ground most of the time, the poetry was often maudlin, over-blown, pretentious and laden with a weighty burden of teenage angst. Sad to say that followed me well into the next decade. My excuse is that was how my latent drama queen came out. Outwardly in my daily behavior I was not inclined to a lot of drama, probably considerably less than the average teen. It was definitely not encouraged at home!
After her death, I found my mother had written poetry too, especially during her youth. Her first verse, which seemed a bit more sophisticated than mine, was also written at age eight. She also wrote of love, both sought and unrequited. I found so many parallels in our words and decided to put together a collection of our verses, grouped by theme or topic into several sections. I was much more prolific but she had written more than I would ever have guessed. That helped me understand why she always encouraged me. She stopped after her marriage but I did not. That too is telling of her situation, far different from my own.
I self-published and comb bound about twenty copies of “Mother-Daughter Lines” and generally gave them to family and friends. Even now when I read a few at times I am struck by the similarities in the subjects in particular. Especially given the fact she grew up in a small town in
while I was raised in rural
and there were twenty three years between our ages. Perhaps blood is thicker
than water. Arizona
That initial effort emboldened me so that after my husband had passed away I collected all the “love” verses of mine and assembled them into a book. I initially had no intention of publishing this at all. It was mostly an exercise in closure and perhaps exorcising some demons that had haunted me for a very long time. I had serious doubts that it was worth reading or that anyone else should! But finally, I did pass the collection to a friend who was working with me on astrology, another of my efforts to understand the who and why of my peculiar character. She, bless her and damn her, insisted I had to share that whole mishmash with the world.
I had come up with a title early in my efforts to collect and compile the verses, many hand-written on scraps of paper and packed in boxes and folders of souvenirs and “junk.” I called it “Walking Down My Shadows.” The title is explained in a foreword. Many of my old heroes and adored ones were anything but heroic. I personified to a T the old saw of “unwisely but much too well” in my checkered romances. Thus many of those past relationships had continued to cast a pall or regret over me although they were lost in the distant past. By putting the verses together and doing some light editing, might I finally put an end to all that and shut a door?
For the most part, it worked. Most of the keenest regrets are gone, replaced by an occasional gentle melancholy. Now and then I will pick up the book, which finally did get contracted and properly published, and read a random few lines. I can laugh at my folly or shed a single errant tear. It was all part of living and I have come to see I was not unique or really very wicked.
True, I did ignore quite a few “no trespassing” and “keep off the grass” signs but not willfully or deliberately. It merely happened. I just looked around and there I was! Mostly if anyone was hurt, it was chiefly me, which is as it should have been. Karma does work.
Looking back on both books, I read lines of teenage rebellion, joyful word pictures of riding my horses, running in the wind, watching a sunset or smelling the roses. I mentally explored flights of fancy, dreams and visualizations of what might be. Writing served as a relief valve for the pressures of difficult times and also as a cry of “I am, I say,” when those pressures seemed to approach extinguishing the small spark of unique identity that was my selfhood. I write rhymes to this day, more gentle, low-key and philosophical now for the most part but still what I see and hear and feel.
Lifelong there have been those rhymes and reasons. I know that my words are not those of Shakespeare, Shelley, or Stevenson. They hardly belong in the same universe as those of Emily Dickenson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Gertrude Stein or Maya Angelou. That is okay! I do not seek to compete with them. I just play with words and rhymes as I have for decades now. Once in awhile my words may even have something to say.