The Last Time I Saw JD 1997

Below is a PDF excerpt to finish my thought on the Youtube video where I got cut off talking about the last time I saw John in the flesh. Sorry, but I don’t own the video and I was grateful to get that much. (Thanks, JoLynn Long!)

My book can be found here: Memory Clouds on Amazon

Note: You may have to click on the PDF link to open in your browser or download it.

All Rights Reserved ©2017

Keilor’s Poetry Club Chap. 2

Such as it is More or Less

Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892) occupied a lot of my head space in the 90s. I read, re-read Leaves of Grass like I consumed the KJV Bible growing up. He started out as a newspaper reporter in New York, but his passion blossomed into a free-style poetry, so new in the time of strict Victorian verses, a new style—a free wheelin’ man just like his ramblin’ man picture on the cover.

800px-walt_whitman_steel_engraving_july_1854

No stuffed shirt here. And rolling with the Transcendentalist movement in the air around him, he boldly wrote a “Song of Myself”. His line, “The quadroon girl is sold at the auction-stand”, sailed me into another direction.

So, I added a poem to this Chapter. Nikki Giovanni is a woman of color and I think she fits in this Chapter.

Unfortunately, even though her poem was written years ago, it is, as it is in our culture at the moment, more or less. 

Feel free to comment on Nikki’s poem or any other in Chapter 2 in the comment section below.

Allowables

By: Nikki Giovanni

I killed a spider

Not a murderous brown recluse

Nor even a black widow

And if the truth were told this

Was only a small

Sort of papery spider

Who should have run

When I picked up the book

But she didn’t

And she scared me

And I smashed her

I don’t think

I’m allowed

To kill something

Because I am

Frightened

Yolande Cornelia “Nikki” Giovanni Jr.[1][2] (born June 7, 1943) is an American poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator. One of the world’s most well-known African-American poets, her work includes poetry anthologies, poetry recordings, and nonfiction essays, and covers topics ranging from race and social issues to children’s literature. She has won numerous awards, including the Langston Hughes Medal and the NAACP Image Award. She has been nominated for a Grammy Award for her poetry album, The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection.

Grief is Not a Choice*

RogConCimAshGramCrop
Connie, Ashlee. Roger and Cimcie at his Lifetime Achievement Award from the Florida Chapter in 2006.

When I picked up Roger’s iPhone, after his last breath, a long time passed before I remembered to breathe. I froze. Some people do feint at the sight of death; maybe they forget to breathe? I was amazed that I could breathe. But why was I breathing and not him? Why did Roger, who exercised and didn’t smoke or abuse drugs/alcohol get this horrible Pancreatic Cancer?

Rog Con Malibu 79 Crop
Malibu, 1979

When distant gods and empty creeds offer no respite and no answers to this “why” issue, what’s a sensitive soul like me to do? Somehow, the pain and inner voices are guiding me to write Memory Clouds, especially for myself, but maybe reach out to others struggling with grief and lingering “why” questions. After all, misery loves company. But something or someone? won’t let me die with Roger, no matter how much I wish to on some days.

Most days, I still find myself frozen in shock, really fear. I lost someone I’d shared most of my life with–over 33 years of the good and the not-so-good, but it was ALL OURS—our children, our animals, our home, our dates, our triumphs, our tragedies. How the hell can I go on without him to face the money problems, the unfinished projects we’d both worked hard on, and just when it seemed the financial stability that our efforts over decades so richly deserved had finally started–the new coveted steady jobs, why, oh why did he have to die now?

Intellectually, I knew it would never be a good time for him to die, but where was my head? All I knew was a broken heart. Everything was gone: my lover; my friend; my confidant; all the life I knew. Even our old dog, Spookie, chose to die three days after Roger.Rog Spookie FB picmonkey Cowards! Get back here and help me! Who was going to pick up the dead bird in the yard or fix the garbage disposal or hold my hand while we watch the sunset or walk our daughters down the aisle at their weddings or go with me to the doctor or not care that I needed to lose 30 pounds? Each new minute in this new reality after Roger died still delivers different, shocking fears.

When I finally got some counseling, after I thawed out a bit, Ginette Paris, a wise woman with a PhD in Psychology and a twinkly eye, suggested that I not ask “why.” Not only is this asking “why” not helpful, but also by asking the unanswerable “why”, we get stuck in a destructive loop of always asking “why”? It seems that this “why” remains elusive for many things in life like sickness, greed, war or death. But “why” I ask. I’m stubborn that way.

In scanning our limitless Universe, all I know for certain is there will always be more questions for the inquisitive mind. Answering one question will just open up the door to another one. Ask “why” but don’t expect any definitive answers. Why birth? Why do we breathe air? What I do know is this: if you’ve been something to somebody (s)he will grieve when you die. Grieve, I do. This part of life is bad, bad, bad grief, being the one left behind—the fear immobilizing.

In some circumstances fear would be a good thing, if I was a zebra on the Serengeti running from lions. But when the lions leave, zebras totally relax. Not so with humans. We carry our angst on the tip of our tongues, buried inside our bodies like a steaming hot mess ready to boil over at the least provocation. At some tipping point, too much fear, too much grief and your body shuts down. Mine did. I just felt numb. I couldn’t move.

Will I survive this? How does anyone? Can I stop asking “why” questions? Time will tell. No matter how it happens: divorce, abandonment or death, it’s loss beyond words. But, grief is not a choice.

*Update: I wrote this 23 June 2012, the day I started writing Memory Clouds: Good Grief Bad Grief and as of 27 Nov 2018 I am grateful to be alive and enjoying my life in this next chapter ;).”

Connie Hermosillo
Conrad Reeder

The Captive: My Backstory

To Whom It May Concern:

22 June 2018

During a graduate playwriting workshop for my MFA with the University of New Orleans (2008), I wrote and workshopped a play titled, The Captive (working title). At the time, my life took many downward turns (business failures, my husband got cancer and died, etc.). Also, I needed to find more allies in the Native American Community to support me. I still have the good fortune to be working with Francis J. O’Brien, Jr., the former President, Aquidneck Indian Council in Newport, RI and a native language philologist/writer (Moondancer) who continues to support me with, “There is no reason for you not to proceed at this (The Captive) as a non-Native trying to make a dramatic statement to non-Native audience. Many works by non-Native exist as you know. Your motivation to get the language right is commendable and Natives –like myself– will assist.”

I have many reasons for writing this story. My ancestry goes back to the Mayflower (Allerton) and other Puritans, and Quakers who were part of these 17th Century events. I am also a direct descendant of James Hovey (and others) who fought and/or died in King Philip’s War, so I am extremely interested in this period. And writing The Captive has been a cathartic release of pent-up anger and frustration over the mistreatment of indigenous societies everywhere, coupled with my angst regarding religions that disenfranchise women.

As a child, I spent many summers at a Church of Christ Church Camp near Serpent Mound in southern Ohio and something happened to me in the woods around that place. I longed to be in the woods, and not in a church building with my mind and heart buried in a book.

In addition, around the time of working on my MFA, I saw Tecumseh, the outdoor drama that’s been running for 36+ years near Chillicothe, Ohio and it so offended my sensibilities in the way Native Americans were portrayed (a bit insipid and dull) that I felt inspired to write something more in-line with the facts as I believed them.

As a young adult, I deprogrammed myself of the dogmatic religion I was born into (working in professional theater helped as well as touring the world singing with the forward-thinking artist, John Denver).

My hope is for non-Natives to visualize the Weetamoe and Mary Rowlandson encounter in a way that will affect them long after they leave the theater and maybe consider ways to work on how to eliminate intolerance in our daily lives.

C. Reeder

Fire! Fire! Fire!

Thomas Fire on Ridge
5 a.m. 13 Dec 2017. At night, I can really see the flames—ominous, chewing away, melting everything in its path. A spiraling flare of tremendous red that looks big from where I sit miles away means large things are burning, big trees, maybe big buildings, maybe oil business paraphernalia and then comes the black smoke, which contains the particles of a hotter fire that’s extinguished items of purpose, now some new old purpose.

The fire keeping me awake this dark morning is on the peak of a mountain ridge across the Upper Ojai Valley in Southern California from where I sit on a deck that didn’t burn in the fire when it came through here. This valley, my valley on a plateau that stretches between Ojai Town and Santa Paula for about ten miles is burned through, so they say, although earlier this night a house across the road that survived the #thomasfire caught fire when the electricity was restored. Seems to me the fire gods are having their own say. Little pockets of smoke reveal fires in our yard and all over the hills from roots slowly burning which may take weeks. Some smoldering fires are oil seeps, a local item that springs up along fractures in the earth in this part of the world and they may burn a long, long time.

There are many big fires still burning all over Southern California: Thomas, Skirball, Sylmar, Lilac, probably more. Without TV or reliable Internet, it’s hard to keep up. No rain for months coupled with 70mph Santa Ana winds lit up the sky around me nine days ago and with little warning, Eric and I with our precious dog, Rocco, drove away fast with flames all around.

The #thomasfire, my fire, burned up and spewed out everything around my abode: cars (my car), homes, ancient oaks, animals trapped in barns (not my animals), trailers, garages, fences, pictures, tools, golf clubs, books, family heirlooms, family Christmas ornaments…the animals trapped in barns haunt me in my sleep.


But by some miracle the house did not burn. But why not? Not one window broke in this wood Victorian, including the fireplace logs leaning against the house. Maybe the recently watered grass and trees that surround the house, maybe the wind changed or maybe the fire gods didn’t need it on their march, doing what they do, burn, burn, burn.

The irony is we create our own disasters by doing what we do, building things where fires have always burned, but where on the planet is there not Nature calamities for human-born projects? Flood, tornadoes, hurricanes…btw Nature runs things on this rock, in case we all forgot. We are merely allowed to reside in the beauty for a very brief span of time.

On this day many of my memories and the comforts of home for a lot of my neighbors now reside in piles of ash, totally unrecognizable from their previous state. The remarkable thing about humans is the desire to mold that dust back into some sort of tangible thing to hold or love whether it be a structure or a handmade quilt. This valley is so unique, so beautiful, I bet they’ll all rebuild. Maybe it’s easier for me, having already gone through the process of losing my home and precious belongings in some other disaster seven years ago. I survived and my life got better. And if old-timers know, I’m told the fires are done with me, for now. But I keep my mother’s quilt nearby just in case we need to run again.

6 a.m. Dawn. The rooster just crowed!  I thought he was dead because of his silence these past nine days. I know it’s the one before the fire because he has a particular skrackle-doo. What a great morning! And anyway, I can’t see flames in the daylight.

Memory Clouds

Given all the grief floating around this planet, another book about “one woman’s journey” may sound like a snooze, but, at least, I’ve had an interesting life with some amazing characters like John Denver, Ginette Paris, Roger Nichols, Joy Monroe McConnell, Paul Rothchild, Donald Fagan, Walter Becker (Steely Dan), Dorotha Stephens etc., and I’m willing to write about some of it.  😉

Memory Clouds is my offering to the “searching person” book-glut in the market. It’s also about my discovery of goddesses (and gods 😀) inhabiting every bush, every last bottle and circling all the skyscrapers. New Age mumbo-jumbo aside, I also wrote my way out of committing a justifiable revenge act and found some tools to help me bloom again.

Matilija Poppy Crop
bloomagainworkshops.com

Everglades Bill Tarnished

C. Reeder
2002

Opportunists seeking to undermine the average citizens’ right to challenge environment damaging permits, tacked on an amendment to the much anticipated Everglades Bill HB813 in the final hour of the Legislature session that ended March 22, bypassing public debate and now awaiting the signature of Governor Bush.

The amendment sponsors, incoming Senate President Jim King and Rep. Gaston Cantens, R-Miami, argue, “If that person fishes in the water body to be altered by a permit… theywill have standing.”  But environmental attorney, Tom Reese, who uses the specific statute under attack to enforce Florida’s environmental laws for Sierra Club and others, states “this legislation reverses 30 years of (a) citizen’s ‘standing’ right.”

Under the new guidelines only an environmental organization in existence a year with at least 25 members living in the county where the permit is being sought can challenge projects, leaving the language open to interpretation by the courts. For example, Reese notes that the bill refers to citizens. State law defines citizens as Florida residents or corporations, which could exclude corporations like the Sierra Club, incorporated in California.

Desperate, many environmentalists including, Eric Draper, Audubon’s director of conservation, lamented, “We can’t fund Everglades restoration and buy the land we need to buy without that bill”, with Audubon Vice President Charles Lee saying they’d worked to amend it to make it acceptable, since the bill doesn’t specifically prohibit a single ‘citizen’ from challenging permits.

However, a decade ago, environmentalists living in Sarasota County worried about the effect on the regional drinking water supply if the Consolidated Minerals mine went forward sucking out ‘this huge amount of groundwater,” according to David Guest, a lawyer who represented the group. They sued and blocked the mine. Although Guest doesn’t think Bush should veto the bill, because of its importance for the Everglades, even he admits “This bill would have foreclosed our participation.”

Rep. Cindy Lerner, D-Miami, one of 37 House members who voted against it reminds us all, “Public participation in the process is the cornerstone…of a democratic state.”

Sierra Club, Florida Consumer Action Network, 1000 Friends of Florida, Save the Manatee Club and 50 more groups join Attorney General Bob Butterworth in opposing the tarnished Everglades bill, and urge Governor Bush to veto the bill on his desk, call a special session of the Florida Legislature and remove the offending language.

The citizen’s of Florida deserve a bi-partisan bill eagerly awaited by all working to save what’s left of this country’s only sub-tropical kingdom and allow the state to sell bonds to pay for its share of cleansing the Everglades without any erosion of civil rights or gifts to special interests.

Article appeared on the Sierra Club Florida Chapter Website March 2002.