Photos for January Stones and April PAD 2012 property of M J Dills (exception 1/16)

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Covid-19 and Me-70

Remember that poem about a crowd of daffodils? William Wordsworth; I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud. This Daffy-Dills, yours truly, is eschewing crowds these days and considers this poem in a deeply personal way. 

I’m completely isolated, doing zoom sessions with family and taking solo walks on the Interurban Trail, which runs behind my abode. 

I’ve lost over half my income but I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a place to live and enough monthly money to get me through. While I'm in favor of making health care workers the priority when it comes to triage, it also frightens me to think of myself expiring, isolated and ignored, because of age. In a worst-case scenario, I would not be at the top of the totem pole.

I don’t have positive proof but it’s reasonable to say I already had Covid-19.
January 20th, I went to Olympia to participate in Lobby Day. That evening, my friend Lea and I met at a great club, Rhythm & Rye to see Jovino Santos Neto Quinteto. We felt pretty lucky to find them there the same night. I was feeling particularly healthy and youthful! The next day was wet and cold and we gathered in the belly of the Capital building. We met with representatives and I was able to chat with Senator Jesse Solomon about issues important to voters in our district. In the afternoon, I bid goodbye to my friends and left the chilly basement of the Dome, headed for the long drive home to Shoreline, in the pouring rain and ensuing darkness. On the way down the mall, I slipped on a patch of water-soaked moss. I fell hard on my butt, catching myself with my gloveless palms. Muddy and soaked, I got to my car, and merged into traffic. When I arrived home, I stripped my mud-caked clothes, tossed them in the washer and went to bed.

I was sore the next day but dealt with it. Thursday wasn’t much better and by Friday, I felt sick. At the end of that day, I shook so badly, I had a hard time getting my key in the lock. Mind you, it’d been five years since I’d been ill. It felt like a personal affront to me; an attack.

The next day, my daughter Olivia took me to Urgent Care; before we could hardly get a foot in the door, they sent us to the Edmonds ER. I was tested for flu, had a lung x-ray, and my throat swabbed. The flu-test came back negative but the doctor prescribed Tamiflu anyway. It was $101 at Walgreens. Seniors with Medicare not being covered for Tamiflu. I later discovered that Bartells down the block was charging $175. The Tamiflu was totally ineffectual.

By Monday I was much worse, had missed Sunday brunch with my writers’ group; my granddaughter Mila’s singing performance on Saturday afternoon; and Saturday night opera Eugene Onegin with my daughter, Emily.

I saw my primary physician and she did more tests, with no great reveal. I eventually was diagnosed with extreme upper respiratory tract infection. Wednesday morning, January 29th, I wondered if I'd ever get out of bed, but started to make a turnaround on Thursday, and by Friday, I couldn’t stand myself any longer. Clean sheets and a shower produced a new but partially broken me. It was January 31st and no one here had heard about coronavirus in China.
It was a slow recovery. I had a tough time getting my stamina back and accounted for that to being seventy years old. I’m pretty on top of my game for an old fart but worried that I’d had some kind of setback. My throat continued to be terribly sore and I had a nagging cough. My doctor ordered new tests; the throat was a major concern. Everything came back normal, so I was out of the woods, but mending was obviously going to take awhile. (A shout-out to my daughters who kept me alive and supplied with popsicles, the only thing I could eat for days.)

One month later, on February 24th, I wrote to my doctor again, complaining about the cough and I still a sore throat; should I be concerned. Here's her response:
I wish I could help you feel better faster! If it helps, I saw a patient today who has a very similar story - was sick, now generally better, but with an awful sore throat and a little cough. Maybe it's a particular virus that's going around? I'm really not sure.
That was February 24th
Less than a week later, things started to get crazy.

On March 3rd, my doctor put me in touch with the Department of Health. I explained I had not been traveling. There was little anyone could do, but being in a database was not a bad idea. Since that time, I’ve received a total of four calls from the DOH. At the time, it was nearly impossible to test someone who they believed might have the coronavirus, let alone test for antibodies.  

January 8th was the first day of winter quarter at Shoreline College, where there is a comprehensive program for Chinese students. They learn English and once they've mastered it, move on to universities. It’s part of their immersion process. Students who, in the past have lived at my property, are now attending institutions such as Penn State and Cornell.  Since the on-campus living fills up fast, I always get a flood of these kids right before a new quarter begins, fresh from China.

The week prior, I did tours of my available units for quite a few new arrivals. One drove a brand new, temp-plates, white Mercedes and had two friends accompany him. As is my nature, I shake hands, which I also did with these three young men. One of them seemed to be coming down with a cold. 
It would seem likely, that if I did have the coronavirus in January, the closeness with possible applicants such as these, would have been the source. 

The fourth and last person I talked to at the DOH asked me the same questions the former interviewers had but wanted to end our conversation with an admonishment. She let me know that, whether it was indeed Covid-19 that I had contracted, it was unlikely I'd gotten it from Chinese students. It was my turn to ask questions. She read back to me undetailed notes from my original phone call interview. Making me out to be a racist made me feel almost as sick at the virus itself and I know the ineptitude of one notetaker is not a reflection on the entire system.

However, what's happening at the top is terrifying. Hearing the bully in the White House refer to Covid-19 as the China-Virus makes me grind my teeth. We know that’s not the case. And when do we stop the uninformative, press conference of the arrogant and dishonest? One tiny man tries to get the truth to the public but he's clearly outnumbered.

I think we may be in for a long haul. As I hope we'll get back to close-to-normal life, I rely on the fact there are ways to stay in touch and keep from being idle. Take walks with friends and stay six feet apart. Zoom and Facetime with family and friends. Clean cupboards and go through photos. Read books that have been gathering dust. Write if you’re a writer. Paint if you’re a painter. Sand a piece of furniture and order paint online to create a masterpiece. Bake.  Exercise (especially if you eat what you bake.) Call old friends and send emails. Catch up. Wash, wash, wash your hands. 

We will get through this.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Take Care of Your Chicken

Not one given to speeches, famous for attending a media event and saying “I’m only here so I won’t get fined,” Marshawn Lynch, running back for the Seattle Seahawks, shared valuable words of wisdom, following the Hawks loss to the Green Bay Packers in Wisconsin on January 12, 2020.
“This is a vulnerable time for a lot of these young dudes. You feel me? They don’t be taking care of their chicken right, you feel me? So, if they was me, or if I had the opportunity to let these little young [players] know somethin’, I say take care of your money, African, ’cause that shit don’t last forever.”

Marshawn Lynch

Retired at 33, Lynch was called back by the Seahawks in an attempt to help regroup after several devastating injuries left the team sadly unprepared for the playoffs. It also raised hopes and spirit for fans. Though they didn’t make it to the Super Bowl and we don’t know if 24 will be back again next season, this we do know: Marshawn Lynch is a man of few words but he definitely knows what he’s talking about when he expresses himself. Lynch is well-loved by his teammates and fans. His sense of humor and respect give him an edge that we don’t see enough of in the NFL. 

In this clip posted on January 9 to his Instagram account, Lynch is seen joking with another veteran who also returned to the Seahawks in a time of need, Robert Turbin. The two old men purposefully seat fellow Seahawk/cornerback Tre Flowers between them and Lynch gives Flowers a humorous preamble to the chicken speech he would give after the Green Bay loss. Consider that Flowers was signed by the Seahawks to a 4-year, $2.75 million contract with a signing bonus of $298,729. It’s good to hear from Uncle Beastmode about how to take care of your chicken. Seeing that Flowers graduated from Oklahoma State with a degree in management, he's probably inclined to listen.

I get the chicken story in a way that I have one of my own. About twenty years ago, I had the honor of giving a ride home to the grandmother of a young man, César, who was at the time, in my employ. This was in Mexico and his Abuelita lived high in the mountains of Nayarit. I had a 4-wheel truck and nothing else to do; it was off-season, summer. César drove, as he knew the way and the terrain. I sat in the tiny jump seat in the back and hung out the window, as far as possible in the humid September heat. We crossed the same river four times, as it wound down the mountains, and at each crossing, minus a bridge, we watched for crocodiles. Never saw one, but the point would’ve been to not run them over.

A day spent in a tiny village with no electricity or indoor plumbing, grandmother’s stove a hand-hewn clay oven that stretched up through the ceiling, and the ubiquitous chickens wandering in one end of the house and out the other, with the prized pet rooster, pictured here, was an honorable time for me. Not many are invited in and hosted as I was that special day.
Abuelita's Prized Rooster

A couple weeks later, César showed up at my condo in Puerto Vallarta with this lovely resin chicken. He cheerfully explained his grandmother’s gratitude for the ride. Not only had we delivered her back to her village, we brought with us months of supplies, packed into the bed of my truck. We also had coolers full of freshly caught fish, some of which we feasted on that afternoon, the rest to be dried and smoked. 

The live chicken the grandmother had gifted to me would not go over well in an urban condominium complex in downtown Puerto Vallarta but I was blessed with a replica to remind me of that day. Though it was over twenty years ago, the chicken is still with me, guarding my entry, with my trusty golfing monkey, who has seen better days.

The Chicken and The Monkey

How is this all related to a running back with the Seattle Seahawks? As I grow older, the importance of planning my future taps on my shoulder every day. I have been very lucky. I didn’t always take the best care of my chicken, not just once in my life; living lavishly, not deeply feeling true gratitude for gifts given, both physical and otherwise, not committing myself to causes that make a difference in a diminishing world, not acknowledging how important it is to look after others, though they have no way of giving back. 

The chicken represents all these things and unless we closely listen to the messenger, we are likely to miss the message.

 Thanks for reading. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Por Fin - August Post Card Challenge

August seems like such a long time ago but in the world of words, it's simply part of another season. I love the postcard challenge every August and try to form an intelligible blog of cards sent and received but this year, I've fallen more behind than ever before. Yet, here they are...por last in Spanish. Sadly, this isn't all of them, due to my poor record-keeping this past summer. I bring in the new year with wishes for everyone and plans to do a much better job keeping up with my blog. 

I hope you enjoy these poems, the cards that were chosen to carry them on their journey and invite you to peruse other posts on my blog. 

Richard Novak talked me to sleep. He came and sat on the big Naugahyde chair and spoke softly, while I nursed one baby, sandwiched between me and her brother, whose back I rubbed with my spare hand. I tended to drift off to sleep somewhere in the middle of Richard's gentle words that hung in the shadows of my California sunset room. I never knew where Richard lived but at some point, he became quiet, left and went to that home, night after night. I never thanked him. I found his obituary online. Richard had so much room in his heart. 

The morning of the Sylmar earthquake (1971), all I wanted to do was sit still, and hang onto something, anything. I didn't even want to be in a moving car. Aftershocks knocked me around, just when I'd get my bearings again. A big bang started it, with bright flashing in the dark. The sun rose suddenly and we didn't know what happened. Sixty people died.

Dad would gargle his Listerine and we would laugh and laugh. I wish I could remember these things with you today. I walked by our old house when you were dying... just a street away, and there lay before me a multitude of images; our childhood. 
Frances (our grandniece, age 10, who looks so much like us in so many ways) walked with me one of those days. We sought out the handprints, initials, and dates you and I left behind in the concrete that Dad poured so many years ago. We are history, you and I. 

We used to say, in full seriousness, our mother would live to be 100. It took us all by surprise. She died at 89 after a diagnosis of brain cancer two months prior. We were filled with sorrow (and some with remorse.) She was not! At 89, she's stoically claimed she's seen enough and was ready to find out what came next.

 Pick up your skirt! Lift your knees and raise your arms! Yell out with a vengeance and a grin! It's time to win! Ring the alarms and wave the banners! Carry your pride high! Forget your manners! Tell the world we're on our way! Dammit! Women will save the day!

 I used to walk across the Aurora Bridge, up and down Queen Anne and downtown, through the market, over Capitol Hill where my bro lived on Roy Street, up to the U District. It was a mission-like walk, directionless, yet focused in an odd way. I didn't always know where I was going until I got there. Doors were always left open in those times. 1968

Living killed my brother. Years, he lived so close to the edge, Falls were inevitable, but he always managed to claw his way back up to paths with brambles and beauty. He was never hostage to the truth and has been called both a "man of few words" and a "Storyteller." I miss him.

My dad spoke highly of these guys, as if he knew them, growing up in Idaho, Montana and Eastern Washington. In the way we talked about favorite athletes, celebrities. Some say Butch lived his life out in Spokane and only the kid died in Bolivia, but my dad said it was not likely Bolivia, but Mexico. Interesting... my dad's fascination with these Crooks. He wasn't fond of movie stars at all. He hated Frank Sinatra. 

Sitting in bed, Sunshine covering me in its warm morning blanket. Reading last week's New Yorker, listening to birds gossip. Tweets, chirps, caws, wishing briefly... That perhaps there might be someone, almost anyone, who would bring me a hot cup of tea. And yet again, maybe not...

Do you feel as tall as you look? Do you feel as tall as you are? You stand over most of us with eyes that wonder in your own head, seeing things you'll never share, not with us. 

There were always laughs because that's what it was like when he was around. Uncle Russ sat at our dinner table, told silly jokes and riddles, and gently teased us. That was before before he married again. Aunt Myrtle, as we were told to call her, was shy and my mom said not really his type. When he died, Aunt Myrtle was the one I mourned for. I was a kid, 13 maybe, but she never got the chance to be a part of dinner laughs, nonsense at our house. She was all alone again, like she’d been before him. We couldn’t find a way to bring back those jokes again. 

At my brothers memorial service, I spoke to you on the phone from Portugal, where you now live with your wife. I loaned you my guitar, you said, in 1966. We chatted about music, my brother, Portugal. I struggled with images rolling in my head of you, New Year's Eve, 1966, and months later coming home to find you chatting with my mother in our family kitchen.

Sitting in bed, Sunshine covering me in its warm morning blanket. Reading last week's New Yorker, listening to birds gossip. Tweets, chirps, caws, wishing briefly... That perhaps there might be someone, almost anyone, who would bring me a hot cup of tea. And yet again, maybe not. 

It was words that made me stay in Seattle, New Year's Eve 1999. Not numbers, not 2,000 millennium scare, not weather, not fear flying, or computer crashes. Words. Words took me away again, sent me away, drove me away, pushed me away. Many words, one word, your word, my word. 

I left notes for John on the bulletin board of a Portland hang out cuz someone told me he had moved to PTown, too. One day I found a response. We were notes passing in the night. I wanted to see John and talk to him remembering our one quick historical moment of passion. It was 51 years before we would make contact again. Over someone else's death bed. His eyes of blue. They shot across the universe in the invisible ether and I felt naked again.

When we drive down Interlaken, Ewan's eyes are fixed on the ravine, leaning forward in his booster seat, straining the straps, hands gripping small armrests, skinny little boy legs dangling, swinging slightly, using his imagination, seeing things in the trees; creatures, humans maybe, moon people, samplings from the pockets of his mind.

 I was four years old when I saw a buffalo, a bison, for the first time and my Dad held me by the waist and cantilevered me over the fence and let me touch the majestic, tangled, smelly, beautiful head of what was now docile, broken, long-ago decimated; our national animal, a symbol of what we became.

She held images inside, tight and nonconforming to her other parts. She wouldn't allow her body certain sensations, less to awaken the noises she had silenced with expertise. The scent of burning corn husks could spring to action demons she couldn't personally be responsible for. It did no good to cover her ears; the hearing happened as an event she controlled with a feverish chill, a complete lack of love, A coldness as cruel as the autumn of a desert moon.

Tonight I read through all my old postcards and was haunted in my sleep as I tried to recall a street. Was it a corner? A dust road? A paved street with busy traffic? I exhausted myself battling images, memories, sorrows, and joys.

(After living in Mexico for 12 years) I've always found it interesting that white women, gringas,  are excited to meet Mexican men, dance with them, drink with them and often have affairs with them. But in the US, when a Mexican man makes attempts at conversation with a gringa, compliments her looks or makes a subtle pass, he is considered cheeky, even dangerous.

We had unmitigated hope. We thought all was right with the world. It was so short lived; it was as if we had nothing but a dream. What we've learned is that when all white people love all white people, there will no longer be a black problem.

My mother favored all of her children at different stages of our lives, and hers. She was whimsical in her favoritism; preferential treatment doled out in the same unexpected manner as rule changes and obtuse parental authority.

We must keep living life to the fullest. 
Never give up. 
Cross every possible bridge. 
Bridge every possible Gap.
Sail all the oceans. There is so much to be done and many who are up to the task.

Monday, July 15, 2019

My Bro -- September 9, 1946 - April 29, 2019

Yesterday we did a great job of remembering my brother. A memorial in Enumclaw at the VFW Hall was packed with old friends and family, some that came from afar to attend. Here is a poem I wrote about my bro, which I read:

My Bro

A small history about a big person.

My brother, the boy, wanted to please our dad when he signed up for Little League but found the fit of eighty-eight black-and-white ivory keys suited him more than an oak bat and leather glove. Report cards were low on the list of anticipated events but teachers loved my brother. My brother’s favorite-come-in-the-back-door-at-the-end-of-the-day-shout was “what’s for dessert?  My brother was mom’s best guinea pig. Lemon meringue pie, lady-fingers, wedding cake icing, petit fours, peanut sauce and honey mustard dip.

My brother, the teenager, learned how to sweep floors with sawdust at Nelson Lumber & Hardware; turned in his push-broom for a guitar. The Ivy Three. Practice sessions late at night. The Drone.

My brother, the friend, was never at a lack of company. His friends were keepers and band-mates, fans and brothers, cousins, hermits, old, young, digital and analog.

My brother, the musician, played piano from the age of four and took up brass at ten. The only parts of the orchestra my brother didn’t master were woodwinds and reeds, but my brother would blow a tune on a saxophone if challenged. Harmonicas, accordions, trumpets and cornets, set sheets, songbooks, sheet music, late nights, dark roads, local followers, fans, messages on bar napkins and coasters, heavy loads, love letters.

My brother, the actor, had the lead role as Tully Bascomb in The Mouse That Roared, the All-School-Play in 1963. It was a quaint lesson in war that stained his naivety. My brother joined the protest in his own way; Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Woody Guthrie, Phil Ochs, Buffalo Springfield, Hoyt Axton.

My brother, the digger, was hip to Miles and Mercer, Willie and Waylon, Elvis and Elvis, Mavis, Aretha, John, Paul, George, Ringo, Stones, Animals, the Duke, Ray, Dizzy, Louis, Booker T. My brother was the clam-digger winner. Copalis Beach, annual camping corner, musty tent, open fire bacon and egg breakfast, mosquitoes, 6-12, and rain.

My brother, the Parks and Recreation Guy, knew everyone’s name, never missed a wave or hello, drove a loader, could dig a hole and use the right shovel, and didn’t take shit from no one.

My brother, the dad, was more proud of his progeny than anything he ever did. My brother wasn’t called to fatherhood but he wore it like the cloak of a knight. Overseas phone calls, road trips, Mariners, Seahawks, Avery Grace, Marin Skye.

My brother, my bro, hanging tinsel on a real pine tree, one that dad brought down from the hills; sitting on my chest and farting under my chin; hanging in the U District at Coffeehaus Eigerwand, Hippie Hill; teaching me how to use a capo; painting plastic cars with Testor’s enamel paint and letting me paint the wheels silver; sitting in front of the mirror while I trimmed his bangs; visits to Snow Camp; boxing in the basement, learning a left hook; giving me perfume for Christmas when I was sixteen; dime movies at the Roxy; skateboarding on Skateboard Hill; giggling in church, getting scolded; overnights with Grandma and Grandpa, hiding liver and onions under the table; madras shirts and cut off jeans; blue eyes, freckles; Beatle boots, Stetson hats, Rainier Beer belt buckles; old/new Mom tattoo; walrus moustache; authentic, stubborn, stoic; vests and bolo ties; books, penguins, CD’s, LP’s, penguins, coffee mugs, photos, penguins, postcards, ashtrays, penguins.

The longest journey is the one that takes you home.

Me and My Bro
On Vacation
Two Cool Kids

There were so many old schoolmates who I didn't recognize and some I did. I was so grateful to see them all and get some good warm hugs. I don't know how long it'll be before I realize JC is gone. The night he passed, I felt someone at the top of my stairs; it woke me up and I expected the phone call the following morning. I was lucky to be able to be with him that day, April 29th, along with my younger brother, Dana; his two kids, Charlie, and Rosie. 
JC, the Dad, with Charlie 

JC and Jim
I idolized my brother when I was young. He taught me a lot about many things. He was there first and I was his avid student, from babyhood, to teenage years and beyond. We shared a love of music and books. He got to make music his life; I became a mom. We had a wonderful childhood and the words and photos yesterday were a testament to that. I loved listening to his best buddy from kindergarten on, Jim Nielsen, talk about those days and though it made me feel old, it confirmed what I knew to be true: we came up in a magical time.

My brother's son, my nephew, Charlie Lenier, made a great video that I'll post here later, once I get the link. I've got some outtakes from his compilation. 1965; South Dakota; School; and Lance Romance.
Great Kids at a Grand Dam

My brother made an impression on a lot of people. He was referred to as a storyteller, and a man of few words. Obviously he struck different people in diverse ways. One thing we know for sure, he was an incredible musician, of whom Fat Domino expressed his admiration. Yesterday was a testament to how many loved him. It was a surprise when two of the Kingsmen introduced themselves and gave their condolences, having driven up from Oregon, and the remaining members of his great Country Jazz band Lance Romance were in attendance.  

JC was a collector (some might say hoarder) and he didn't accrue just one thing. He had hats, lots of them, ashtrays (someone said the reason you can no longer smoke in bars in the NW is because JC took all the ashtrays), coffee mugs and shot glasses, photographs, CD's, LP's and books. He had far more lawn mowers than a person would ever need. His most treasured collection was his penguins, hearkening back to the the time of his dear Joe, a stuffed penguin he loved from the time if was gifted to him as an infant.  

Life goes on, but there is a part of my history gone now. Once you lose someone like this and they are gone forever, you get the true meaning of "no man is an island," because you are completely aware that a clod has been washed to sea and you are lesser.

Thanks for reading. 

John Carl Rieck
September 9, 1946 - April 29, 2019

Saturday, April 6, 2019


Honored to be accepted to POETiCA REVIEW with my poem Détente:


there was no bloodletting; only sorrow
the will to have a hollow heart …
yet all the tears that once filled an ocean
turned to salt and stood like a pillar in the land of Lot.
we stood akimbo from one another
chins of steel
elbows piercing
all the directions of earth

I write you stones
you send boulders

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Happy Birthday, Mr. Ferlinghetti

March 20 2019

Today Lawrence Ferlinghetti turns 100 years old. When he was much younger and I was younger still, I walked into City Lights Bookstore with eyes wide open, browsed, and purchased Howl, Coney Island of the Mind and Pomes Penyeach by James Joyce
Ferlinghetti was 47 years old and I was 15. I didn’t know who I was talking to at the time, but he and I had a delightful conversation about poetry, writing, and the weather, which was sunny and warm on that San Francisco day. 
Years later, my friend Mary Jo told me it was indeed the poet himself who engaged me that day in silly, flirtatious banter. 
I’m so glad I didn’t know it then. 
At the time I was spellbound by "on a freeway fifty lanes wide/ a concrete continent/ spaced with bland billboards/ illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness." I would certainly have made a fool of myself. 
I was a big Whitman fan then, and was just growing a sense of modern poetry, not the kind we were reading in school. The words fuck and beat were kind of synonymous with not allowed.
I was on a summer trip, driving to California with my art teacher, Sylvia Neth, who wanted me to meet her niece. It was an eyes-wide-open time for my young naive self. Mary Jo and I got along much too well and were comrades in trouble. The things we did then were innocent compared to messes kids get into today. We smoked cigarettes, snuck out the bedroom window, wore very short skirts, read beat poetry, and flirted with 47 year old men. 
Thanks for the memories, Lawrence. I owe you. 

"Poetry is the shadow cast by our streetlight imaginations." LF

Thanks for reading