Until that moment in the public library in Lawrence Kansas when a record came up online that my great aunt Jessie Hutchison had my father W. Lon Hutchison committed to the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital, I had no idea that he had suffered from mental illness. I had only heard vague mention from my mother of narcotics in my father’s past.
I was shaking, when the records came up on my laptop of my father being committed by his aunt to the state mental hospital. I had never heard of the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital nor the town of Vinita, where it is located. The records were a blast from a past and from a place that were unknown to me. How could I have ever known or even heard about the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital in Vinita?
I don’t think even my mother knew about my father being committed to the state mental hospital by his own family. She once told me that he was bitter about his family but she thought it was because he had been disinherited by his siblings.
My friends in Lawrence, Kansas, where I was staying, had a road atlas. I looked up Vinita. There it was. Almost due south from Lawrence. I rented a car and left for Oklahoma the next day. It was a straight shot down a narrow two-lane road through the Kansas plains to Vinita, Oklahoma. A pleasant drive with very little traffic.
I easily found the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital just outside the town of Vinita. I drove around on the road bordering the brick buildings. The state mental hospital has an extensive, imposing campus, with no trespassing signs and a tall fence to keep people out. It had been shut down several years before.
How was I going to find out anything about my father’s time here? Would I find any clues about how he got out? Being committed to a state mental institution is often a life sentence, without parole.
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Your comments are always most welcome.
Have you had any family members committed to a state mental hospital?
Note: I have another blog dedicated to my mother at https://www.bettehutchisonsilver.wordpress.com
I found a new title, or it found me during a poetry festival: Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time. Now back to writing a novel based on events in the life of my father, W. Lon Hutchison, from his birth in 1907 in Indian Territory, soon to become the state of Oklahoma, to his death in 1971 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Begin again… my father was a man with many secrets. The legacy of secrecy and revenge goes back to past generations and forward to current and emerging generations.
Where I live in Canberra Australia, every public event begins with respect for elders, (referring to Indigenous peoples in Australia ). We recognize that we are standing on Ngunnawal land and extend our respect to their elders, past present and emerging . Respect for elders is fundamental to the Aboriginal cultures of Australia, extending back at least 65,000 years.
Growing up, I was not able to respect my elders. How is respect established? What about transparency as is often heralded in the shady, sloppy world of politicians? There was no transparency in our family. Not by parents or children. On all sides, hiding and /or lies. My father was hiding his past. My mother was whingeing about lack of love from her mother and disgust for her stepfather. My father said nothing at all about his birth family, even when his sister moved to Kansas City, Missouri and became friends with my mom.
My father was a self-made businessman, although there is really no such thing as self-made… who can make themselves? Impossible. My father’s religion, Christian Science, was about individual discipline. According to Christian Science, There is no life, truth, nor intelligence in matter. All is infinite mind and its infinite manifestation. As a Christian Scientist, a person lives in their mind and the body will follow.
Through fiction I will build respect for my elders, reconcile my family and develop forgiveness. In this blog I will share my search for reconciliation.
Growing up, did you respect your elders? Was that built in to your culture? Did your parents share family stories with you?
Which would you choose to communicate your ideas and emotions – words or paintings? As a blogger perhaps you think it should be words?
But, words can’t reach our inner most selves as paintings can. Nor can we easily express in words how or why a particular painting affects us.
Art should not be judged from an aesthetic viewpoint. No, Kupka insisted, fighting for breath (he was dying). It was nothing more nor less than an attempt to communicate.
– Quote about Franz Kupka from The Red Highway by Nicolas Rothwell, p.63.
It’s not “either/or” words or paintings… We need both in our lives. Art inspires and elevates. Art brings people together.
On Saturday in our back yard, we celebrated both – painting and books with our neighbours and friends!
What a splendid way to reach out to others and share beauty! Art is part of life and community. Art is not just for exhibition in galleries and museums.
Through it (art) people communicate to one another their feelings, their most intimate and infinitely varied and poignant thoughts. -From Dialectical Materialism, Philosophy and Art, by Alexander Spirkin
Have you ever held a neighbourhood art show?
Have you ever attended a neighbourhood art show?
Please comment on your ideas about art, communication and community.
I am continuing with my response to the novel The Making of Martin Sparrow and learning about history through fiction. Reading the book, I entered into the world of settlers on the Hawkesbury River in southeastern Australia at the time of the flood of 1806.
Colonies are built on dreams, but some dreams threaten ruin
This was the single sentence on the first page of The Making of Martin Sparrow after the title page.
Women were only minor characters in The Making of Martin Sparrow. Evil and not so evil men dominated. Many settler men met their end through the harsh environment – wild boars, wild rivers, a prick from a platypus, or disease. Others through retribution by indigenous men, who selectively killed settlers who had massacred their people.
The ending of The Making of Martin Sparrow didn’t quite satisfy. It was a little too neat. Yet the book had to end sometime. I had to leave that time and place and return to the present day.
Here are a few samples of the beauty of the writing in The Making of Martin Sparrow about a harsh violent history of the forcible settling of Australia by convicts and their keepers.
It was almost sunset and the clouds to the north sat flat, as if on a straight edge, and they were lit bright pink on the underside and the sky beneath was the palest petal blue. (p. 297)
I’ve seen those clouds and that sky.
Or they might not find them at all and instead find Dan’s musket wedged in a tree, draped in the deathly grey of flood-borne shrubbery, the floodwaters a master of random arrangement. (p. 404)
I’ve seen shrubs, trees, stranded, washed up along the banks by rising rivers after they’ve subsided.
Just one thing can shape your whole life. (p. 423) Quiet insights in the dialogue, especially from the character Cuff, are sprinkled throughout the book. Somehow they become believable, although the reader may doubt the character’s ability to reflect.
The author, historian Peter Cochrane comments in the Afterword
The Making of Martin Sparrow is a work of fiction in which the documented past provides points of departure into an imagined world. (p. 447)
Can the reader find historical truth through fiction?
Are novels a more powerful and accessible way to learn about history and other cultures?
What do you think?
Your comments are most welcome. Thank you.
My last post was about learning history through novels. Here’s my response to a novel by an Australian historian, Peter Cochrane.
I heard a review of The Making of Martin Sparrow, on ABC Radio National here in Australia. I put in a request online at the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) public library.
That’s how I came to having a copy of The Making of Martin Sparrow. I was already reading several other books so I put it on top of a pile. A few days later, I received a reminder from the library by email. The book was due in three days!
I read The Making of Martin Sparrow as an emotional journey. When the first page had a long list of characters, I was skeptical. I skipped over that page and started reading. Tentatively. I kept on, although the main character, Martin Sparrow, was not particularly likeable.
At one point I thought the story was harshly boring and was ready to put it aside. The writing, the odd turn of phrase, the originality kept me going, even when the narrative seemed tedious.
My perseverance was rewarded. I entered into the world of settlers on the Hawkesbury River in southeastern Australia at the time of the flood of 1806. A world dominated by male violence, drinking, whoring – not topics that usually hold my interest. There was something more shining through… patches of sunlight in a forbidding, very dark sky.
My emotional journey through The Making of Martin Sparrow continues in the next blog.
Have you read this book
What are your reactions?