Tag Archives: Wisconsin

But Night Crawler is so much more Evocative

Our yard in May contains the world. Wisconsin teems with life. For many of us living in climates where the temperatures are at or below freezing for so many months of the year, this is a heady experience. One day you’re wearing your jacket and mittens and looking at everything brown and gray, and almost like Dorothy’s arrival in Munchkinland, the next moment goes blindingly Technicolor.

IMG_1086

A Few Minutes Ago…

It is grass that melting snow washes to emerald green. Tiny lime-colored leaves on black branches. Tulips, orange, and pink, and red. Daffodils, deep yellow and apricot. Lilacs, deep purple, lavender, and white.

FallWinter2015Mostly 010

Munchkinland

Robin’s breast russet, and then those impossibly lovely blue shells their babies shed in unexpected places. I find one on the metal chair on the front deck. Cardinals, still here, looking tropical now, the crimson against the green. Red-winged black birds. White herons. Orioles, as orange as the fruit we feed them.

The sky at day, a brilliant blue, at night diamonds and velvet.

 

My husband calls me out to the yard.
“You have to see this.”
It’s dark and slightly cool. Wet.

“Look.”
He shines a flashlight across the lawn, catching the quiet, clandestine movements of thousands of earthworms.
They are everywhere. The lawn is undulating like the surface of a lake. I’m afraid I’ll hurt them.

He bids me come. “Step slowly. Lightly.”

I’m sure I shouldn’t be out like this, could never tread lightly enough. I say a quick prayer. “Please don’t let me do any harm.”

We stand together watching the glistening movement as the worms slide back into the ground. Everywhere the light hits them, they move. We talk about what they are doing. We’ve never learned.

I suspect they come up out the earth and the rich dark loom to gulp in the sweet, sweet air. My husband suspects it’s for sex.

We know very little about the life of worms. Such a common thing to know so little about. We feel silly, and are sure these must be things our parents were born knowing. Like the call of a mockingbird.

Then, a voice inside me says, Thibookworm-151738__180s is why they’re called night crawlers, Lori. And I know I am a complete dolt. How could this simple fact have escaped my attention all these years? Though it’s no excuse, night crawlers is not a term I ever remember being used in my family. Just earthworms, or simply worms. We didn’t fish, and we didn’t garden much. Out of sight, out of mind.

But “Night crawlers” is so much more evocative. Briefly, I picture little worm-sized, worm-shaped zombies crawling out of tiny worm-graves, marked by little crosses and a mausoleum or two—“Here lies Squirmy, Beloved Father and Husband”—our entire lawn a movie set for a new Tim Burton story.

graveimage                   How could I miss this?

“They’re good for the garden,” I say. (We’ve just planted tomatoes, peas, beets, onions, peppers, lettuce, and broccoli.)
“Yes.”
As we walk back to the house, I think, “And fireflies will be next.”

 

Rachel “Lori” Pohlman, Copyright 2016

*For some interesting facts on worms, such as the fact that, yes, there is some sex involved in night crawling (but that’s not all they do), go to: http://blog.nwf.org/2014/02/ten-things-to-know-about-earthworms/.

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Filed under Humor, Nature, Night Crawlers, Seasons, Uncategorized, Wisconsin, Worms, Writing

Yellow Submarine

A few months in the life–part of an in-progress memoir. Lori PohlmanFallWinter2015Mostly 079

The duplex days were numbered, and surprisingly sweet. Billy and I had to go to a different school, but I walked in the first day, and every day, with my new best friend. She was a quiet girl, but obviously respected among the kids and teachers there. She did, indeed, sleep in a very small bed in her mother’s room, but it wasn’t a crib.

“My three brothers are in the other bedroom,” Cheryl said, indicating her tiny wooden “youth bed” at the foot of her mom’s bed.  “This is my bed.”  Her eyebrows raised, disappearing under her bangs. “Bed,” she repeated.

“Yeah, it’s a bed.” I wasn’t about to argue with her, even though I’d never seen a “youth bed” before. It didn’t have really high rails on the side like baby cribs had, so I decided it was just some special privilege she had, being so small, I mean. A special bed just her size.

She gave me a knowing look, “I’m sure not gonna sleep in my brothers’ room.”

I didn’t know what to say. On my side of the duplex, my mom had her own room and I shared the other one with my brother. She seemed to sense my discomfort.

“I don’t mean it’s weird you share a room with your brother,” she said.  “He’s not that old and he’s just one boy.”

I nodded. “He’s not that bad,” I said.

Cheryl put a hand on my shoulder. “I believe you,” she said, her large blue eyes solemn. “Over here though, there are three brothers. Great, big, loud, smelly teenagers,” she said, “Ugh.”

They seemed pretty cool to me. I could hear their laughter, their deep voices, one of them strumming a guitar, a record playing I’d never heard before. They played a lot of Beatles music.

At school, no one gave me any trouble. I barely remember the place, to be honest, which probably means I had already entered my “amnesia” period. Huge chunks of time that I can’t remember or account for. The school year ended quickly, leaving us kids with long, largely unsupervised, summer days. I remember making holes in the dirt, paths for the clear and colored glass marbles-the cat’s eyes, the pearlies, and the steelies that we flicked expertly with our thumbs and forefingers. On a good day we could earn enough pennies to buy ourselves a bag of French fries at the Chat-n-Chew drive-in restaurant.

With Billy and his new friends, we explored the open concrete tunnel that ran the length of the property and beyond, always daring one another to go in just a little bit farther. We played Monopoly, a game I hated, and Billy would reach over and openly take all of Cheryl’s winnings, prodding her to talk to him. But she never would. When it came to him, she was mute.

“He took my money,” she’d whisper in my ear.

I was always ready to do battle for her, and in fact, enjoyed fighting with my brother. It was probably the only time I felt any power, though I always lost. Even so, I could fight, and he wouldn’t really hurt me back too bad, and was never mad at me afterward.

We kids began to settle in to this new life, and I suppose imagined that when summer ended we would go back to Curtis Strange School and become, rather than faceless new kids, kids who belonged.

But our dad had other ideas

.FallWinter2015Mostly 059We left Wisconsin before summer’s end.

 

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Filed under childhood, Divorce, Loss, Relationship, School

Bumblebees on a Cool Wisconsin Morn

Mr. Bumble

Mr. Bumble

One of the many things I love about my little railroad cottage in Wisconsin is the abundance of fat, furry bumblebees who feed from the flowering hostas that surround the front porch. I love the bumbles, perhaps perversely, partially because they ignore me entirely. Playing hard to get, so to speak.

The other critters ‘round here notice me. The baby bunnies that were around last month became instant pancakes when I walked into the yard, their floppy ears laid flat along their backs, their little shoulders melting into the grass.

Peter Bunny

Peter Bunny

The baby birds stared at me, perhaps wondering if I was about to produce a juicy worm out of my pocket.

BabyBlue

BabyBlue

The mosquitos most certainly notice and adore me. They come, one and all, to create a moving halo around not just my head, but my entire body, each time I step outside. They want to become intimate. Here, they say, let us land on the flesh of your eyelid, the back of your hand, the tender skin at the back of your ankle. We love you.

I do not care for the mosquitos.

I have not taken their picture.

I love everything else. The cardinals, I expected to see only in the snow, but they are here all year. Red streaks against the blue sky. Scarlet flutters among the green branches. They are a bit reserved, I’d say, but they acknowledge me as I pass by.

The squirrels and chipmunks romp around, and sit up straight and still to say hello.

The robins are a part of the family. The butterflies dip and swirl around me. The deer plunge through the underbrush right before me, taller than I could reach, and very, very fast.

The bumblebees ignore me.

They have long tongues. They can get the nectar out of the deepest flower tubes. Their buzz is soft, as I imagine their fur to be. They move slowly. I don’t startle them at all.

Bumblebees do not produce extra honey, I’ve read. Just enough for their own tribe. They have a huge impact on the number of blossoms in my yard. I cherish the bumblebees. I cherish the flowers.

And yes, it is a cool Wisconsin morn.Bumblebees 006

Mahalo.

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Smiling into Spring, and Writing, and Festivals

Spring comes in fits and starts in Wisconsin. We’ve had a few days hovering at 70 degrees (very few—technically, I don’t think two qualifies as a few), but mostly we’re back and forth right now between chill winds, dark clouds, rain, snow flurries, and the occasional embrace of golden warmth and showy display of nature that keeps us right where we need to be: alert and grateful, and ready to hit the Festival circuit. Wisconsonites thrive on festivals, which go on all summer long. The first comes Memorial Day Weekend: Nestle/Burlington’s Chocolate Fest. Happy Days are where you make them, here now, here then, and most definitely…Here Again!

Even the most curmurgeonliest of my river rat neighbors has a smile to share this time of year. The guy with the waist-length beard and the four broken down boats in his driveway, the lady smoker I haven’t seen since October with the two pit bull dogs, the suspicious teenager who usually ignores my friendly wave. Today they stand proud, noses lifted high. Smiling. The seasons will and do change, and nobody and nothin’ can take that away from us.

Writing is kind of that way. For me, anyhow. Sometimes it flows like the Fox River does right now, swelled up with all kinds of life and energy, bringing on something new. Other times it gets sluggish, muddy, stagnant—full of bugs. Right now, things are moving along. Change is good. Accept and embrace that, as we do in Wisconsin, and everything else gets a whole lot brighter. Happy Writing, and Happy Festival Season!bluelawn 001

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One of the Smart Things…’Cause Why Tell You the Dumb Stuff?

Importfromcell6272014 489Writing Log

One of the smart things I do occasionally, though not as often as I should, is attend writing events, such as book signings, workshops, and lectures.  At each of these events, I endeavor to follow through on at least one suggestion that strikes me as being easy to accomplish (Did I really say easy? I meant one that I thought to be a practical and intelligent idea).  Smirk.

This past week I attended a lively and informative lecture given by Amy Gail Hansen, former English teacher and author of The Butterfly Sister, her first novel, published in 2013 by William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers.  She is nearly a local author; she lives in neighboring Illinois, and attended college here in Wisconsin.  In fact, her guest lecture took place at her alma mater, Carthage College, just here in Kenosha, which also happens to be one of the central settings for her novel.  Pretty neat.

In addition to being a lively, personable, humorous speaker, Ms. Hansen, was also generous with sharing writing tips and publishing industry information.  I really can’t say enough nice things about her—just a lovely person.  You can learn more about her at www.amygailhansen.com

The practical and intelligent idea I’ve decided to follow through on from Amy Gail Hansen’s lecture, is this—I’ve decided to begin keeping a Writing Log.  This, not to be confused with a Writing Blog, or a Journal; those are two totally separate things, sort of.  I find that when it comes to writing, everything leaks.  And I think that’s good. As a former writing project colleague says, “If it goes into my head, it goes into my writing.”

I’m not planning to keep the log on the blog (damn, I love rhyme), but I’m thinking if I make the commitment here, I have a better chance of following through.  Writers make lots of promises to themselves.  I will write every day.  I will always have something out there—out in the world—that it would be much easier to keep here, safely tucked away.  I will be brave.  I will finish project A, B, C, and D before beginning Project E.  I will set up a defined and sacred writing schedule…I will not be distracted by news of the day, or Facebook, or those adorable text messages my granddaughter is sending me right now from far away in California…

So, you get the idea.  Some of these promises I actually know I will not keep.  Shocking, right?  Honestly, I know I can do better, though I don’t expect, really not ever, one-hundred percent adherence.   That might stunt my creativity!  And, come on, no grandmother can ignore a text from her growing up too fast and won’t always have time for me granddaughter—that’s just criminal even to think about.

I will, however, keep a Writing Log beginning Monday, August 18, 2014.

The Writing Log shall include:

     Date

     Time

     Progress

     Notes

Wish me luck!  And please, share your ideas.  Comments are most welcome.

Mahalo.  Lori.

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July 2, 2014, Salem, Wisconsin–Two Days In.

     About a week ago, I retired from a fantastic teaching job after nearly two decades so that I could write. And because my loving, and much-loved husband got a job across the country. A job he needed, wanted and deserved.
      And because I was tired.
      And frankly, because I was afraid. Afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up the pace and do it with love and style. Afraid that my cancer wasn’t going to stay in the past, was sending me signals through chromogranin blood and 24 hour urine collection tests that I took regularly and that I didn’t understand but sure saw going up. That I’d be dealing with “it” once again, and I’d miss too much, too many hours of planning lessons worth learning, giving relevant feedback, and connecting with love and meaning to my dear students and their families.
To those of you who scoff at my description of 8th grade kids as dear, I say, throw away that prejudice. Junior High age children haven’t changed a bit. They are as lovely and strong and confused and thirsty for answers as they’ve always been. They are gorgeous and deserving of love, respect, and guidance. They are us when we were twelve, thirteen. Filled with energy, depression, fear, joy, and self-indulgent superiority. Us. Then. They need us, and if we love them, they even want us around—old people who care and are willing to suspend the easy judgments that flow and have always flowed, like a mean, mean river around us, separating us, generation by generation—now that we are so experienced and “wise.”
And because, forgive me, my intestinal health was much compromised by my earlier surgeries and my condition, and I hate, hate, hated having to run out of class, interrupting the art class next door, putting my wondrous friend/fellow teacher Heide on notice that I was already gone, could she please watch my class as well as her own.
It seemed enough.
This meant leaving California. The San Bernardino Mountains. The Rim of the World. An amazing community—a gorgeous resort I was more than privileged to live in. A real home. Friends to die for (and I would!). Church. School. Family.
My daughter, son-in-law, and four grandchildren, all of whom love me as dearly as I love them.
Am I crazy, selfish, cold-hearted? What? I pray it’s none of that.
I was an unlikely nomad in childhood, spent hundreds of hours in cars moving from one place to another. Lived with a lot of people. Only had one house my mother owned, and that for just a few years. I more than loved that place on Winslow. It was haven, heaven, heart. But I learned to move on. When I was young, I learned that.
Hated it, but learned it. Change is as inevitable as death and taxes. There’s no getting around it for most of us. I know we can all site examples of people we know who never changed their address, and maybe they were even lucky enough to die before their loved ones, but those people are few and far between. For most of us, we either keep going or we lose more than we had.
I won’t lose the love of my home in California, my community, my students, their families, the pines, or the spectacular rocky cliffs. They will always be right here. My daughter sometimes doubts that we will survive this. She counts the likely number of times we will be together again before I die. I wish I could explain. I’m trying to now. I’ve lost mother, father, step-father, brother, mother-in-law- so many. But I’m not alone, nor empty. Perhaps I am fuller, feeling each of them taking up such a large part of my heart. They, those who loved me, and everyone else, every place else, stay with me. And I will stay with them.
If they wish it.
Mahalo, and greetings from Wisconsin, USA. May your path be as valuable to your heart as mine has been to me.

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Leaving Lake Arrowhead

ImageStaying Up, Falling Down, and Surviving Sea Level

January 7, 2014

Over the edge.  That’s a very genuine concern I’ve had as a mountain citizen.  Staying up here, not falling over the edge, I mean.  And I’m sure I’m not in a minority.  It happens all too often; a vibrant life taken by a curve, a boulder, a patch of ice, another driver.  Going over the edge is the risk we mountain folk  take living a life which propels us along a highway called Rim of the World, many of us climbing up and down and far into the tangled freeways below on a regular, if not constant, basis.   I tuck the fear away and try to imagine myself connected to the road, guided by an invisible yet powerful track that won’t ever allow me to really experience that dream sequence free-fall into nothing.  You know the one.  That’s my secret for staying on the Rim.  But it’s more than the roads; it’s the life.  The life above.  The views, the air, the bears, the lake.  Knowing you’ve been granted something very rare, somehow you’ve been allowed to live for a while in a place of great beauty.

We’ve been approaching that edge, my husband and I, none-the-less, for quite some time.  As much as we’ve tried to maintain our security here, the ground has been relentlessly slipping away beneath us.  It began, as far I can tell, about the time my brother became ill and we brought him to live with us.  I had idolized him all of my life.  My husband loved him dearly.  Despite our efforts, hopes, and our very deep love, we soon realized that he wasn’t going to get better, was in fact getting worse, and that we weren’t going to be able to save his life.  Slip.

That was also a time of financial hardship for much of the country.  While my job was secure, there were no foreseeable raises, and benefits were costing more.  My husband, used to working long hours and getting plenty of overtime, was reduced to part-time hours and part-time wages.  Slip.

Soon, my emergency appendectomy, a surprise in itself, removed another wedge of stability when we learned the appendix had contained a rare goblet cell adenocarcinoid tumor.  Slip.

I began to hear a quiet rumble.  Felt it under my feet and inside my soul.

Mike was no longer working at all.

Billy was so sick.

I was scheduled for surgery and then chemotherapy.

Over the edge.  Slipping.  Fearing a violent end.  Praying for peace.

When Billy died, so did a part of me.  We mourned him as we tried to maintain our balance, still on the edge, and teetering.  Within two weeks, our dear old dog died.  She had refused to eat after losing Billy.  Then our darling seventeen-year-old cat followed.

We lived in a house of death, set on top of a purple mountain, surrounded by deep green forests, and lit by gentle sun and easy moon.  I held on to the beauty, clung to it for life, dug my heels into the slivering earth wanting nothing more than stability…that and an end to death and was that too much to ask?

Slipping.

Those months, those years, did take us over the edge.  And we’re leaving the mountain now.  But not into the abyss.  We chose Wisconsin, instead.  It’s pretty flat there, and Mike has a new job.  It’s a bittersweet compromise.  My grown children and grandchildren will be so far away.  They are sad, and I am torn.  I trust we will find wonderful new ways to connect, both in Wisconsin and back here in California when I’m able to visit.  I’m also leaving friends, a church family, and the amazing students, teachers, administrators, and staff of Rim of the World Unified School District.  A career that’s given me a heart so full that I know I will never be lonely.  A community I love.

But we didn’t fall off the mountain.  We leave here whole and nourished.  Back at sea level, Mike begins a new job doing what he loves most.  I will rest and write and maybe escape the ghosts I loved and left up in a beautiful place, on the edge of a continent, a place called Lake Arrowhead.

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