Friday, April 20, 2018

The Crazy Bee in My Bonnet


I have a GIANT, angry bee in bonnet: I need to get to Ireland. Check out my gofundme page: www.gofundme.com/magdalenes

I’m working on a book of poems about Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries, workhouses run by the Catholic Church in Ireland from the mid-1700’s to 1996 (!), and in which girls and young women were incarcerated and used as unpaid labor in an effort to “reform” them. If you’ve never heard of the laundries, you can read more about them on my gofundme page, and more here: http://jfmresearch.com/.

Because I need to go to Ireland to do research and meet laundry survivors, and because I’m a perpetually broke teacher, I’ve started the gofundme page to help me get there. (If you feel like sharing my gofundme link on social media or email, I’d be most sincerely grateful.)

I feel sheepish about asking for help (something I’m not good at) when there is so much need out there, and it’s mostly so much greater than mine. I’m not even sure why this project is so important, so consuming for me at this time in my life, but it sure is.

·      Maybe I WAS a Magdalene (what laundry girls/women are called) in a past life.

·      Maybe it’s because I had two DNA tests done, and they both showed I’m basically Irish with a smattering of Bohunk (Czech). My family had always maintained, in spite of a passel of redheads, that we had no Irish ancestry, so this was a bit of a surprise. Maybe my Irish DNA is calling me back to the land of my peeps, and to speak out. 

·      Maybe it’s because I went to Catholic mass religiously (hahaha) as a kid—though I’m not Catholic—and I went to a Catholic girls’ school, and I have a profound love for and fascination with Catholicism’s deep traditions and mythologies, saints, rituals, art, and architecture (although like so many devout and sincere Catholics, I’m horrified by the Church’s abuses past and present).

·      Maybe it’s because I can’t get these babies out of my head… (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/03/mass-grave-of-babies-and-children-found-at-tuam-orphanage-in-ireland).

·      Maybe it’s because in my youth, I was the kind of girl/teen who would have ended up in a laundry if I hadn’t been blessed to grow up in America in the 1970’s, when practically every girl I knew would have been likely laundry fodder. There but for the grace

Ray looks at me like, “Uh-oh…here we go again…” and tries hard not to roll his eyes or sigh too loud. I don’t know if he’ll go with me (he’s one of those rare homebodies who doesn’t care for traveling), but he’s my biggest writing fan and supports me in all writerly things, so I know he’ll be with me either way.

Whatever my deep-seated reason is for needing to write this book, and however long it takes me, I’m going to Ireland. In my own mysterious poet-y way, I’m trusting the Universe to make it happen, and I’ll be sure to blog the trip, whenever it happens. √Čirinn go Br√°ch(less)!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Jack Blizzard's Final Fit

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It’s Sunday, the day after Snowmageddon ’18, Jack Blizzard’s Last Tantrum (https://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/kelen-s-k/jack-blizzard-0070033), the Great April Blizzard. Tucked in our Little Town corner of South Dakota, our magic vortex protected us from the worst of it. We only got, oh, about 10”. Surrounding areas had white-out blizzard conditions and up to 18” of snow. In 24 hours. 


Northern prairie people expect blizzards. When we hear it’s coming, we stock our larders (Friday was mayhem at Hy-Vee; amid cart races and elbow jabs, bread, milk, butter, peanut butter, and beer flew off the shelves), rinse out our woolies, fill bird feeders for the hapless migrators, start new knitting projects, set our mukluks by the back door. What made this blizzard unusual is that it happened mid-April, one day after a stretch of sunny 60+-degree weather. It had been lovely for long enough that people were foolishly raking flower beds (the iris and columbine are up), climbing into garage rafters to get out patio furniture, and swapping out storm windows for screens. Ah, that persistent prairie optimism…
Pre-storm: even squirrels stock their larders.

SD rancher Bryce Teveldal snaps his brother on calf-rescue duty.
Outside our little hamlet and our “pretty spring snow,” things got a little more dicey. Long stretches of I-29 and I-90 were closed due to 40-50 mph winds and ZERO visibility. Stuck drivers had to be plucked from cars that slid into ditches. People were quite literally snowed in their houses by drifts against doors and high as windows. Parked cars were buried. Cows were lost, frozen to death by driving wind and snow-ice, or had to be rescued by determined ranchers.

It’s mostly over now, a few flakes in the air, and the shoveling out commences. The forecast is for 40’s and 50’s by the end of this week, and our memories of Snowmageddon will, as they always do, quickly melt away.