Thursday, October 20, 2016

A loss is a loss is a loss

It's been so long. Haven't had the combo of calm and emotion that I like to launch each blog entry, but today I am allowing myself pajamas at  noon.  Silk and dotted with maroon hearts of all sizes.  I think they are silk, discover in a clothing exchange by my eldest daughter. In case you don't know, my youngest daughter lost her second child, Jade Bird Guthrie at 4 days.

I want to be like Maira Kalman, focused delightfully on the ordinary even after she lost her husband and partner Tibor.  If you don't know her, you probably do and don't know.  She did many New Yorker covers, including the famous "Newyorkistpan" one after 911, remember Kvetchnya, Pashmina, and Botoxia?  She has the gift of humor after loss, and a humorous approach to life.
She also illustrated Obama's inauguration for the New York Times.  I first found her in Bill Gersh's house, the children's book Max Makes a Million, about the poet dog whose dream is Paris. And guess what? He sells his book of poems for a million and gets to live that dream. Wonder why I love her?

I recommend her, just Google, she's a vitamin for me, loving the odd and the daily, a man's suit, a paper punch, and hats and hairdos everywhere.  Which brings me to Beti again., the hair stylist.  My mom on her yahrzeit or anniversary of death.  Same date as Robert Winson's so I light two candles.  My mom has been gone 15 years which is difficult to grasp.  This year I was glad she was not here to endure the loss of our grandchild, Jade Bird.  She missed all of my lovely and living grandkids, but we enjoy them for her.  Galen's blond tuft of hair we attributed to her expertise in coloring.

I know it's been six month's since we lost Jade Bird and why I haven't written in this blog.  I wanted to experience the processing of grief.  This week the lovely Mary Beth came by with a card for Jade. Late, she said. But it was perfect, an acknowledgement that this is real and human and endures.

As I was deciding to write this two occurrences occurred...  My g-mail opened up to the week of Jade's death and the  e-mails pouring in and out around it. My heart has been a bit dumbed down due to anti-depressants, one I can't pronounce.  Then just now a bird hit the window about four feet away from me.  I think it is reminding me to write.  Hope, my bereaved daughter, has been writing sporadically and said it needs a warning label.  She goes for it.  I realized that so much of how I am now is better, and I don't feel compelled to tell every stranger on the street, or man emptying trash at the post office, or bank teller what happened to Jade.  But though the outer M & M coating is less crisp and now deeper, maybe a fig Newton, there is still a core of loss.

So, 45 current blog followers (up from the nine I brag about), if it's too much you can unblog me.
My gift to you is Maira Kalman.  Your gift to me is reading this.  I met Tess Gallagher after Raymond Carver died and she was still visiting the grave daily, and having people impatient with her.  Get over it could be the national mantra. She said there is an ecology of grief, a term which stayed with me over 20 years.  She and Donald Hall, and Phyllis Hotch,  and Miriam Sagan and Paul Monette and Isabel Allende and Joan Didion and Mirabai Starr all wrote bravely into the grief.  A baby that didn't make it, but made it for four days is not a teenager or losing a lover.  But a loss is a loss is a loss, and grief will have its wild way with us.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

How to measure tears

I don't know if tears can be measured, if anyone has bothered to collect them and see if they have cried a thimble, a tablespoon, a half pint or liter, a bucket.  We tend to want to exaggerate and say we have wept an ocean.  I think I weep about a medicine dropper a day.  I think this is pretty accurate.

I feel like the world should know, but I have not posted since my worried optimism of March. I am sad beyond sad to report that my daughter's beautiful baby, Jade Bird Guthrie, 7 Lb. 12 Oz. was born only to never cry, or take a breath. She was able to be on life support and many of us got to feel her presence, hold her, and then let her go four days later at the Children's Hospital in my hometown of Pittsburgh.  My daughter and her husband feel that they were visited by a little hummingbird who touched down and could not be held. It was the first death at the Midwife Center in 35 years.

When meeting her small body, all pulse and graph and hookups, I thought of Alvaro Cardona-Hine quoting his Zen teacher,  "Long is long, short is short, Every life complete." He's 89,  and Jade was four days here.  I am on bird wave-length these days.

It was a fluke, a blessing and a curse, a loss and an innocence, and so I measure my days in medicine droppers.  We are blessed that she came and went peacefully.  That we were all treated so respectfully and loved so much. That she did not live a life compromised and suffering, I am truly grateful for this.  But each day is rough, taking homeopathy, Bach Flower remedies, herbs for grief. My kids planned their own wake, cremation, flight home to New Mexico, and burial of ashes, or a Good Bye Ceremony as one friend named it.  Jade's ashes are here, with a Golden Rain tree planted by them, a hummingbird feeder I fill every day or so. I watch the birds come and go, Scarlet Tanagers, finches, and hummers.

I learned to tend cut flowers, do laundry non-sop for the bereaved, that I was able to rise up and hit walls and crash, only to rise up again. Each person, both our family and Leland's, gave from their very core and genius.  One might be playful with our 3 year old "big sister." One might order egg-rolls or buy plane tickets.  The giving was non-stop, round the clock blessings. People got in cars and drove all day.  People wept all night and stayed by her in the NICU.

Yesterday we attended a mass for Valentine, an 8 year old son and grandson of family friends.  He was a little hoop dancer from Pojoaque Pueblo, injured in a car accident a year ago, and finally was ready to be released, no more surgeries after 14 of them.  I saw him dance once and never forgot the vitality and charisma.  We grandparents exchanged hugs and sorrow, we had been neighbors at the bus stop so many days and years ago. So here I am, wordless for all these weeks.  My kids, Hope Logghe and Leland Guthrie, speak so eloquently on their Facebook accounts, you can go on and scroll down to see what they have to say, how they frame this great loss.  Or my page, down about four entries, their language.

This is what I can say, finally after sadly seeing the last blog posting and letting it silence me.  Hope posted her own pregnant beauty on her birthday, and her strength helps me be able to face up and find my own.  Thanks for sharing this moment with me, and the tides of sorrows we all have felt, may they wash us a little bit cleaner, more core and source. Every person I meet meets my pain with their own story.  I agree with poet Jack Gilbert, that this is paradise, right here in each other's eyes.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Shrine on a String

  We put Corina on a plane this morning to fly out as support for her sister as we wait for little girl #2. She was supposed to fly last week, but a flu and 102 degree temperature caused a delay.  We thank Southwest airlines for understanding.  Mike and I feel related to Southwest as both the airline and our marriage occurred in 1971.  We are both celebrating our 45th.

  I don't know why I am not in Pittsburgh now, I really don't.  I think to keep my worry energy contained and 2,000 miles away. Hope has always read me and I'm contagious.  Last week Hope and Leland had a baby blessing, inviting their Pittsburgh friends to their Pittsburgh house to each bring a bead. My niece, Lisa Slesinger, and my childhood friend, Nancy Tapper Smith, were there.They read some of my poems, and I sent eight pink rose quartz beads from my mother's necklace.  Rose quartz carries love and heart.

   Here is the necklace, so beautiful and carrying meaning, prayer, and our New Mexico ways into this new place, my old love and home.  There was the woman, Eileen, we met at Squirrel Hill farmer's Market with its two strong quartets and juice bar.  There were friends from La Leche League and Hope's Crunchy Moms group. One woman said it was one of the top ten hippiest things she had done in her life. My dear ones called with a good report. Hope and Leland are magnets for gathering interesting folks.

  I am in prayerful times, pilgrims Friday and Easter morning today. Hope herself was born in this house on a spring morning, Mother's Day in 1985.  I sit and stare at this one photo of a wedding my cousin Amy Friendman Doran sent me.  Beti is the glam blonde and Harry the tallest.  These are my peeps, not so crunchy but definitely glittering and glad to be alive.  I am living every day as my first/last.   The necklace is a shrine, each bead has a wish and an intention. 
Time to make my house shrine to welcome the baby,  New Mexico style.

  My Father's side, I recognize nine.  Beti and Aunt Clara, the last two of the trio above.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Hi Ho Silver Ghazal

Hi Ho Silver Ghazal with photos

What I keep forgetting is I  keep forgetting
Every time I stand up, it takes a day to sit down

The first blue bird is bathing in between robins
We're waiting for the tanagers to flit down

All year the word cancer keeps whispering
to some it is shouting, screams till she bit down

The old poets I love don't live in China, they long
ago left Japan, to visit me, stroll Forward Ave. a bit down

He said "I never heard of Nepal
now people go there like downtown" 

My mother is persistent from beyond this life.
Just now I order a matchbook with her name written down.

"Can you imagine silver in her house?" my bro asked, meaning my abode.
"Yes," my stepdad said. "Hi Ho Silver." That old clown.

We are awaiting the next baby. It is a long road
all have taken, between the heart and the crown.

Today we will visit a farm, a library, some new
folks who braved the elements to land in this town.

Last week we helped clean road for the pilgrims to walk down.
Easter Sunday, plum blossoms, the water in the ditch pours down

Life is indeed full, you old fool Joan Logghe.
There are three of us, just Google us, now sit town.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Unpunctuated Awe This Whole Week

My new book arrived, hot off the print-on-demand press and published by Tres Chicas Book.

Hey, isn't that my own press with Miriam Sagan and RenĂ©e Gregorio?  Isn't that my own photo on the cover, taken by my stepsister-in-law?  Is the song, "She's so vain, she probably thinks this song is about her?" playing in the background?  Yes, yes, and yes.  I am in the big yes of a new book with its two years of taking notes in Santa Fe and another two years of getting it together as manuscript. Make that four years but who is counting?  We are at the time in life where every ten minutes it is Friday.

Friday again, we say, and by now it's Saturday and we're driving to Taos to honor Natalie Goldberg whose book Writing Down the Bones is 30 years old. It's a little writer's reunion with Eddie Lewis who grew up five houses from me in Pittsburgh, Elaine Sutton who I met at the very first Natalie class I visited on Don Cubero, Elaine weeping as she read about childhood, and Sawnie who we published with Tres Chicas, and Iris Kelz, Scrapbook of a Taos Hippie, and Rick from Brodsky books and Rob Wilder and Mirabai Starr.  It was a love fest. The celebration felt a lot like a memorial only the dearly beloved was sitting in the front row with a wild smile.

After the celebration and chocolate cake, gluten free, I wanted to give Elaine a snapshot of the two of us from 1998.  We ended up looking at my poem- holders, giving her my new book, giving Natalie my book, and selling two to Brodsky books in the parking lot.  It was a normal scene for me, the back of my car full of potholders with my poems inked on and cartons of books.  A poet's way-back of her Subaru Outback. Here I am peddling at Ghost Ranch last summer.

The whole week was alive and whole.  I gave away my best in poetry teaching to over 200 elementary students grades six and fourth for ArtWorks, the aesthetic education program out of Lincoln Center where I've been delighted to work for about eight or nine years.  When I first met Natalie Goldberg I was a poet in the schools, and now, thousands of teaching days and nights and hithers and yons later, I am still poeting in the schools. My mentor in ArtWorks has died, the indomitable Lorraine Schecter whose act of generosity, her brilliant My Last Picture Show, not only fund-raised for ArtWorks but showcased the depth of her as an artist. Every piece of art from her life sold for $100 or less.  I got four pieces.  I hung a work on paper over my bed.  It has a Mary Oliver quote:

     "Look, I want to love this world
     as though it's the last chance I'm ever going to get
     to be alive and know it."  Mary Oliver, "October"

I've been looking at this week on the calendar, my Day.Timer with every little green lined rectangle of a day filled.   I have been afraid of this week, and the upcoming one, and yet thanks to the Tao and good weather and health and school kids waving their arms in the air in response to poetry it has been a total joy.  I even had energy to go to the Upaya Zen Center on Wednesday and honor Natalie Goldberg then too, and eat good Zen food next to strangers.  I found out later that the man across from me is the Zen calligrapher I wonder if I'm brave enough to study with.  And this whole week has been saying Yes!!

I even zipped out of my last Friday class of the  student packed week and zoomed up to Espanola for Silver Sneakers, an exercise class that is free with my insurance. I am aging.  I am in reunion mode, in happiness when I can be.  Natalie's presence in my life has been stellar.  I am glad she is alive, and super glad I am alive, and wildly glad for my family's vitality, all eleven of us and new baby a month or so away.

And I'd be delighted to sign and send out my new book, Unpunctuated Awe. 
Just e-mail me at

Saturday, August 29, 2015


"I have new eyes," Kaleia announced to me in her Pittsburgh House.  Then she said, "I have new eyes, and new eyebrows."  I thought of e.e. cummings who says "the eyes of my eyes have opened."  She is 2 1/4 so the whole world is new, but I believe she is seeing Pittsburgh with new eyes after a tiny lifetime lived in New Mexico.
I have just returned from a week in Pittsburgh to celebrate my birthday and see my family.  My family now includes not just my brother, sister-in-law, Niece, and great niece, But Hope, Leland and Kaleia, our grand child.  The lens of seeing Pittsburgh is not just the view after the Fort Pitt Tunnel from the airport, but a little bit teary view of my family in new surrounds.

On the way from the airport when she insisted I sit by her, with great serious intent she announced that "Babies don't wear shirts.  Evah."  My brother said she sounded like a New Yorker, and "evah" became our word of the week.  Kaleia is the latest family campfire we all gathered around, so it is hard to find our center.  Luckily I have a class at UNM to teach and the Girls' School waiting. A new baby is growing in Hope and that's another focus.  Kaleia said she has two babies in her tummy and that she has a nephew who is two months old.  She has become what Hope calls a teller of tall tales.
Kaleia runs down the marble halls of my old Temple to her preschool class hollering, "It's my school."  She visits the family cemetery plot, we shop at Trader Joe's where it says, "See Yinz soon."

Her interest has changed from obsession with her baby dolls to her backpack bear.  She insisted I photograph her with her bear.  What you don't see is the front porch on Tilbury street where a cast of characters pass by.  The Orthodox and Hasidim on Saturday since they don't drive.  There is a park, hills, a back yard with sod her other grandpa planted.  She calls that her Pittsburgh Yard.  It is the size of our guest room.

I got a birthday card from my nephew wishing me the best birthday, "Ever."  "Ever," I told my nephew, "how did you know that ever is the word of the week?"  Then at my party, I meet a new friend with Ghost Ranch connections.  Will is my niece's nurse in the hospital and everybody loves him.  After chatting with him we discover that his late father was my program director at Ghost Ranch and is sorely missed. What are the odds? They invited him to come celebrate my birthday and meet my young family.

We totally hit it off at my birthday party.  It happens to be, in this land of coincidence and meant to be, that it is Will's mom's birthday the same as mine.  His sister is at my party also, a lovely young woman named Eva.  She explains it's pronounced "evah" as in "whatevah."  I guess my family is meant to be in Pittsburgh.  I'm home, trying to land here while they are trying to land there.  Where is happily ever after anyhow?  I have to think, whatevah.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Tunnels and Bridges

22 days and counting until my youngest daughter, her husband, and family take off for Pittsburgh.  I may have slightly mentioned this to you before, dear reader, dear friend tired of me going on and one and on about this, but my little family is taking off to my very own Hometown so Leland can pursue a PHD in clinical psychology at Duquesne University.

Fine and dandy except they are the movers and shakers in family dynamics, the ones who lived in a yurt 3 years on our land, the ones who threw great parties, had forty hour baby labor, sweat lodges, and have the youngest child.  You know how the baby in the family is. At two years and three months, Kaleia is in some sort of peak of adorable.  Adorbs, as the kids say.  She speaks in unintelligible but meaningful baby talk, waves her hands like her Italian ancestors ("Logghe" is an Italian name after all, traders from Venice via Flanders), and has our hearts firmly in said hands.

Last week, and we are trying to squeeze in Kaleia time, I could not get her to settle for a nap.  Mike's breaking out the chain saw while I was pushing her in the stroller, how she usually crashes, did not help.  By about 4:00 she was punch drunk and marching about the house talking about tunnels and bridges.

I thought it was very advanced and interesting, since we have nary a tunnel, and a few bridges here in New Mexico.  Then I realized, what is Pittsburgh but tunnels and bridges.  She is rehearsing for her next act.

If I weren't going back east for my birthday and then later my high school reunion, I would be even more bereft.  Some days I just weep a little, others more.  But as a person who has been accused of never leaving Pittsburgh by her spouse, this is a tricky time.   All along  I go to sleep and rise early, as if I never left Eastern Standard Time.

My night dreams have always been set at least 25% in Pittsburgh. I have probably spent more time at the family house in dreams than when I lived there.   Last week I dreamed we bought the house, the house that I lived in from age 4-after college and marriage and kids, the 1980's.  The house was the same with a light flowered sofa instead of the deep purple one.  But the big change was that now we had to feed the horse who lived in the back yard.

My cousin James Kessler and I are back in touch. We last visited in person when I went to D.C.  attending brunch for Mother's Day with my family and the famous Mimi Meyerson, and marching in a Code Pink anti-war protest in front of the White House for Mother's Day.  It was a lovely visit but then we drifted back into our own lives.  I remember the Cousin's Club in McKeesport, and we don't have one of those with its Hungarian pastries and embarrassing Hungarian old country relatives, Big Pearl and Little Pearl.  Big Ethel and Little Ethel,  Beti with an "i."  Now I long for a Cousin's Club.

Jim just attended his 50th high school reunion, as I will attend mine in October. Jim, retired from the Army where he orchestrated the Army band, and by now he has done some fifty arrangements for the PBS shows for Memorial day and Fourth of July.  Jim went to Taylor Alderdice, a graduation class in the 800's.  I went to The Ellis School, with about 50 some girls.  Somehow he managed to connect me to some of my elementary school classmates.  One person says she went to kindergarten with me.  I hope I didn't bite her, or that she wasn't the one who bit me. 

I do look forward to the connections in the world, which hopefully add to the connections in my brain. I have never left Pittsburgh, though we're 42 years deep in New Mexico.  My last book, The Singing Bowl which I highly recommend  (hint hint) has a section called "So Far from Pittsburgh."  Here's to tunnels and bridges.  My little family both a tunnel of depth and a bridge spanning distances.