February 14, 2007

An Occasional Poem, plus an update

I wrote this just today for the occasion of my mother's birthday. Thought you might like a glimpse, though it is personal. There are four of us children, hence the mention of the four materials: paper pulp - me for my papier mache; wood - Chip, my brother, who does woodworking; fabric - Lynnie, who sews; and clay - Martha, the youngest, who does these marvelous little people sitting on the edges of pots and pitchers she makes, very realistic and strange, and minuscule. My mother, as you'll learn in the first few lines, is a woodworker, among her many other skills.

Now, Dad, if you are skulking around, reading my blog, do not tell Mom that I wrote her a poem, or that it will be coming late if I don't get it to the post office tomorrow due to ice and sleet covered roads. Just let it surprise her altogether. Okay? Okay? I repeat: Do Not Spill The Beans!


for Mom

You push the wood under the saw,
the sawdust scent is sharp and familiar.
First time in months, you’re in the woodshop;
at the end of the day, you’re sorry to stop.

It’s mid-February, the pale wintry light
has long ago left. You look up. It’s night
and you haven’t appeased yet your hands’ appetite,
their urge to create. I know as I write

that hunger of hands to handle and make,
your children all feel it, the pleasure, the ache.
You taught us love, gave us skills that you knew
copper enameling, pen and ink, too,

the weaving of baskets and papier maché
antiquing desks and working with clay,
sand casting, knitting (you couldn’t crochet).

You fired up a hunger that’s better than food
a hunger that drives us, the right attitude
to make things of beauty, for need and for use.
With paper pulp, wood, fabric, clay, we produce

unique objets d’art not entirely planned.
We make them with care and the love they demand
and when they are finished, we give them away.
(The joy’s in creating; they’re not meant to stay.).

You gave us the spirit, this need and the drive
this hunger, this feeling of being alive.
I don’t know if knowing, you planted the seed
but the plant it grew gives almost all that we need.

A mother like you is so rare you’re worth pay,
which conveniently rhymes with this:
Happy Birthday!

by Pamela Spiro Wagner 2/07

I got to the Adult Ed class twice to learn to make Central American jewelry, and found it fascinating, though so far we have not learned anything but basic beading techniques that anybody could learn in a half hour or so. I have been teaching myself more, out of a book. But I don't know any Central American techniques and don't know if the teacher would go ahead of where he is in the class to show me, if I'm ahead of the others...I'm anxious to get to the harder stuff, though I know I could use practice even with the basics, which is of course what I am doing every time I sit down to make or remake a necklace choker or pair of earrings! I only have a certain number of wires for chokers and bracelets, though many earrings, so I have to keep taking the others apart to try different techniques and combinations. Will buy a few more on Friday perhaps, when the ice lets me get out of the house again. Wish Kate lived near me as I know she could teach me lots...At least I gather she is pretty experienced in the jewelry-making department, having mentioned it twice in her blog.

I really enjoy it myself, but have to put some brakes on until I find out what to do with the things I might make. I don't wear it much myself, except for fairly simple earrings, and the occasional necklace when I get dressed up. But I live in a very large building for this area, and wish I could have people come pick out the beads and stones they want and a pattern, and ask me to make something for them on demand...that would be perfect. Then I wouldn't be making lots of stuff in vain, though I'd want to have a supply on hand for those who wanted them to choose from, and other people could have things custom-made to match their particular tastes and clothing. Of course, that would make it more expensive, I suppose, but I would not charge for my time, since I mostly need to recoup my expenses and make a little spending money, not run a business! I just want an excuse to keep making the things!

My next sculpture is mellowing in my brain, trying to gel into how and in what form I will make it. I'm pretty sure it will be a person, not an animal, though I could do an animal in the interim while waiting for the person to come to a full realization mentally, which it has to do before I can start making it. Meanwhile, I make jewelry for fun, and try to read, and of course write as much as I can. My life is quite full these days and reasonably happy, what with all the writing and things I enjoy doing. I have few major problems, none that are new, that is, only the usual, which I am at least used to, even if they bother me no less for all that. Even my weight is stable at 95 pounds. Light, yes, but I'm not losing, and I eat 2-3X every day, sometimes more often.

If I'm sad at all, it's about Joe's declining health. Though he is still functioning fairly well, he can't eat solid food anymore but must puree everything or drink thick liquids, and his speech is very difficult to understand, especially at night. He is also noticeably weaker this month compared with last. But neither he nor I are depressed in the slightest and I sleep a good 8-9 hours almost every night. Unless I don't take the first dose of Xyrem and stay up till 3am, as I did last night, eager to take advantage of what are naturally my best hours. I only do that maybe once a week and otherwise take both doses.

I have made the decision to go ahead with the neuro-feedback sessions, starting in two weeks. I can't explain the theory anymore now than I could earlier when I wrote about it, except to say that this new form of it is based on the Chaos Theory of subatomic physics, while the healthy brain that it used for a model, one of them, was that of a Tibetan monk like the Dalai Lama. This program, which consists of -- well I dunno what, but I do nothing, literally just listen to music or an audio book of my choice while my brain unconsciously does the work, learning and healing itself.

Dr O says that this program, taking up to 30 sessions of 45 minutes each, can teach the brain not to react with anxiety to situations where it is not useful or necessary, which is how, or one manner in which it could help me: if my brain did not feel anxious and scared in various circumstances, if my amygdala did not pump out spurts of unnecessary fear-chemical signals, I wouldn't then have to "invent" a reason (paranoia) to explain the feeling of fear that actually arose before I "decided" what was causing it. That's what she means by "the feeling is primary." We feel something, a feeling or sensation of fear, sadness, anger -- whatever, then we find a reason, fit a story to the feeling to explain why we first felt that feeling, even though it really arose spontaneously before we "invented" the reason for it.

NB: I use the words "invent" and "decide" with care because I do not wish to imply that anyone is lying, simply that the brain does this as a matter of course, that it is how the brain works. It is a wholly subconscious process, not anything one does deliberately or is even aware of.

I will of course keep you posted on the neuro feedback sessions and progress associated with them, with a blow by blow of the first one. I don't expect any miracles, but you never know. I didn't expect one with olanzapine either, but got one, even though it turned out to be a mixed blessing later on...

Posted by pamwagg at February 14, 2007 07:06 PM


Dear Pam,

I'm sure your Mom will love the poem. It's great. So she's where you inherited your artistic talent. Aha! It's nice of you to share the poem with us and it's nice to get to know your mother. She sounds like a strong and creative woman.

Pam, trust me, I am no expert at making jewelry. I've never even taken a class but would love to someday. Most of my earrings have been fanciful and amateurish. Only one type of earring came out almost sellable but not quite. I got the pattern and supplies from a company and tried to sell the earrings back to them but no go. They are in a Native American style and I like them. It took me an hour to make one of them. I'll send you the pattern. I may even have some beads to get you started if you like. The pattern is worth learning and it is a challenge though not excessive.

The neuro feedback sessions sound almost futuristic. It would be wonderful if it helped you. I've never heard of it but it certainly doesn't sound stressful, so why not? Go for it.

Posted by: Kate K. at February 15, 2007 01:41 AM

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