12 April 2020
Is that the engine of change?
Is it time?
How do we change
as a person
as a society
not just physically
due to age
with letting go
Is that what anxiety is?
Forecasting doom and gloom
Yet there is an ongoing crisis
Pandemic of COVID 19
Consuming the globe
with various levels of understanding
How to be more aware
To watch a bee circling a shrub
Listen for birds
Distant hum of traffic
Sitting on a balcony
On a no street
A slow street
A street where
Three cars pass in a day
More birds pass than cars
Accepting that life is beyond control
Yet not beyond action
with a new found ability
to sit and look
This is new, different
I am in Canberra Australia
Far far from the USA
I grew up in Kansas City
Moved to the San Francisco Bay
Listening to the music
of Soul, Motown
Thinking of that music
Gladys Knight and the Pips
after reading about overwhelming
numbers of deaths of African Americans
in the USA
during the COVID 19 pandemic
Mourning the loss
Listening to the music on YouTube
Remembering the joy
in an African American café
in Oakland California
November of 2008
The election of Barack Obama
44th President of the USA
saying “I wish my mother was alive today”
“A Change is Gonna Come”
(Sam Cooke song)
Who is dying today
in the USA
in the pandemic?
Let me sit
and see if I feel better
Alienated by anti-poetic words
deadening of affect
My mind engorged by a headache
My limbs growing numb
I hurry out of the room
grab a sugary treat
to sit outside
in the sun
Building walls covered by harsh
of the beauty
of Sidney Nolan paintings
a blue not of the sky
a blue with more green
than the piercing sky blue above
The walls asymmetric pattern
Yellow tiles in a ragged diagonal
small black square tiles
with colourized tiles
The sun on my back
I cannot return
to the symposium
causing bodily pain
Back inside the gallery
to briefly re-absorb
Sidney Nolan’s paintings
Then going out to catch
the Rapid 6 bus
taking me home
After putting aside for several months my novel-in-process based on events in my father’s life, Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time, I came back to it. I went through it page by page. Made some minor changes. Leanne my editor did a copy edit. Ready for layout.
So what am I waiting for? Is it perhaps that I’ve lost some of the energy and enthusiasm? Or is it that I can’t face actually publishing and sharing the book and what that entails? So just put it aside and pretend I’ve done it.
With the help of my spouse, Jim, we did the layout in InDesign and submitted it to Lulu in mid January. I ordered a proof copy. Now at the end of January it never arrived. So I ordered another copy for the final proof reading.
Here’s the front cover:
The photo is of my father W. Lon Hutchison on the left, his sister Margery and brother Jack. Lon was the first born. I believe this picture was taken in Tulsa, Oklahoma about 1917.
More soon on planned launches later this year in Canberra, Australia, Oakland, California, Kansas City, Missouri, and Vinita, Oklahoma. Watch this space!
Please keep in touch if you would like to attend any of the book launches. Thanks!
I urge myself to write after days in a daze due to a head cold the aftermath to sitting in a tent for hours at the Majors Creek Festival (a tiny historic gold mining town, 301 km south of Sydney and 16 km south of Braidwood in New South Wales, Australia), listening to Emily Rose and the Wild Things (high energy) followed by Great Aunt, a folk duo on guitar and bass (quiet competency).
I have lost the plot. What did I want to say about Kei Miller’s two novels? See my blog https://bettehutchisonsilver.wordpress.com/2019/11/01/you-never-know/ about meeting Kei Miller, the poet. Inspired, after meeting Kei Miller at the Poetry on the Move festival in Canberra, I found two of his novels at the local public library: The Last Warner Woman and Augustown The title of The Last Warner Woman confused me. When I see the word “Warner”, I immediately think of two brand names: Warners bras and Warner Brothers, a film production company.These are brands I grew up with in the USA. I have never consciously thought of either one - perhaps in my entire life (although I have seen the WB logo of Warner Brothers in movie credits). I have never bought a Warners bra. So I wondered why a writer from Jamaica would write about Warners bras or Warner Brothers? The cover of the book did not relate to the Warner brands. Think about it. Shocking that a word “warner” became embedded in my mind with two brands. The power of advertising that changes the lens through which we understand words. Warner… means a person who warns… that is, a seer or prophetess. A warner is someone who can “see” what is going to happen and then warn people. This book is as beautiful as the cover. The writing is so evocative that I had to read it carefully - word by word - the way I usually read poetry. I often speed read novels. Satisfied with understanding the main story line, following the principal characters and immersing myself in the story without carefully reading each word. Not possible to speed read The Last Warner Woman. And then Augustown Augustown started slower for me. Something ominous surrounded the people in the novel. Something was going to happen. I read the novel with anxiety. At one point I put it aside. I didn’t want to know what was going to happen next. Both books are based on Jamaican history and folk lore. After reading Augustown, I looked up “Bedward“ and found the following: “Between 1891 and 1921, Alexander Bedward, an African-Jamaican healer, led the Jamaica Baptist Free Church in August Town, Jamaica, on the Hope River. . . In the 1930s, Bedwardites and Garveyites transformed Bedward's millenarianism into the more antiestablishment and durable Rastafarian movement…” https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/historians-and-chronicles/historians-miscellaneous-biographies/alexander-bedward Enjoy!
QandA : Stark Contrast
QandA is a weekly current affairs program on ABC TV in Australia The 29 October 2019 broadcast focused on responses to the current ongoing, multi-year, devastating drought
Sitting at one end a middle-aged water woman, assertive in a quiet, fact-based approach explaining the mismanagement of scarce water resources
Next to her a government minister, nothing to be proud of, prattling on, talking much, saying little
The government minister sandwiched between the water woman and an eloquent, emotional young farmer, her face bent to listen to other panelists, her responses always from her heart, faithful to the land
In the middle of the panel
The moderator, looking rather young, a half smile on his face, eyes open wide, trying to hold things together without losing his composure
Next to him
A blonde, curly-headed woman wearing an all green shirt (but she’s not a member of the Greens), the head of the Farmers Federation, talking, even interrupting the water woman, but with nothing much to say except pity the farmers, defending the status quo, offering no analysis, no vision, no future
And last but somewhat least the shadow minister for labor, talking about the poor farmers doing it tough, saying Australia needs a national drought plan without offering one
QandA Studio Audience
The QandA panel floating on a sea of climate change and drought, with the audience and farmers (in the studio and on video links) critical of the dismal performance of current governments
The audience and farmers acknowledging human-made climate change and the mismanagement of very scarce water resources
The audience applauding the eloquence, the heartfelt sentiments of two indigenous leaders – one on video, one in the audience – denouncing corporate greed and capitalism that has taken their water
In the audience – connections to the land, to reality, to caring in stark contrast to the empty words of three members of the panel
Talking with the delivery guy about farming He smells of cigarettes I want to tell him to stop smoking But I don’t I listen and find out His was a farming family Hard life Father told him Don’t be a farmer So he’s a delivery person Thinking about land every day The destruction of Mother Earth Thousands of hectares every day deforested in Australia Trees cut down Amazon burning As one youth activist quipped on a poster The wrong Amazon is burning I don’t even know what a hectare is I have never lived on a farm I have lived in cities and towns on six continents Hiking in the bush just outside town I see parched earth Erosion like the deep cut on my arm But the cut was sewed up closed up Now healed Leaving only a slightly pink and purple scar How to heal the earth? Some farmers know how The earth can be renewed But forcing the land to yield immediate results leads to long-term destruction Farmers becoming delivery people
Rounding a corner from a gallery exhibition Walking up a ramp with no destination Black tiled floor Grey cement walls Polished silver handrails Blinking white floor lights Triangular window looking down on fern palms in a secret garden below No paintings or people visible in the crowded museum Silence only my own footsteps and the distant click clack of someone’s high heels
I had found my way to Vinita, Oklahoma, to search for more information about my father W. Lon Hutchison who had been committed in 1934 to the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital by his aunt. In search of family reconciliation, long after his death, I am writing a novel Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time, about events in my father’s life.
I had gone to the public library in Vinita to find out more information and searched through a file of clippings about the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital.
Next to the library was the Eastern Trails Museum. The Museum is made up of memorabilia, organized into sections, including kitchen, general store, post office, media, Civil War, ranching, Native Americans.
I have no idea why a museum in Oklahoma would be called “Eastern Trails”. Perhaps because it is located in Eastern Oklahoma?
Samples of exhibits at the Eastern Trails Museum:
Cowboy and ranching gear, including collection of barbed wire
Exhibit of Native American crafts
There was no display of the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital, although it had been the largest employer in the county from the opening in 1913 until its closure in the late 1990’s. Perhaps not surprising. What community would want to publicize a state mental hospital? Volunteers who run the Eastern Trails Museum said that they would like to help but could come up with nothing but a sketch of the buildings at the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital.
Drawing of the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital complex
The people in Vinita were friendly, but it was mostly a cold trail. Onward.
Next stop? Tulsa Oklahoma, the second largest city in Oklahoma. I had contacted the Tulsa Public Library by email to ask for help from the research librarians.