Rosemary Nissen-Wade: Aussie poet and teacher of metaphysics – a personal view
My bestie nicknamed me SnakyPoet on her blog, and I liked it. (It began as
'the poet of the serpentine Northern Rivers' and became more and more abbreviated.)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

As Others See Me

1) Physical

On holiday recently I reunioned with people I hadn't seen for a long time. When some of them asked solicitously, 'How are you coping?' I naturally assumed they were referring to my journey through widowhood. At least, that seemed natural to me; it's the biggest thing I've had to cope with in the last year and a bit.

Gradually it became clear that instead they were concerned whether I could walk for 10 minutes without becoming fatigued, if I might lose my footing on uneven ground, or my poor old legs might give out from under me without warning. I had mentioned 'a touch of arthritis' and some recent shortness of breath coming up hills, so I guess it was my fault. I had not thought to mention my daily walks and fitness exercises, the regular chiropractic treatments to keep the (very slight) arthritis at bay, and the friends who envy my ease of movement. In one case I gave in and let the concerned person give me her arm at every opportunity, for her peace of mind; she obviously felt such a sense of responsibility for looking after me. 

And it was good of her, of course, to want to look after me, which she did beautifully in all sorts of ways while I was with her. But I'm not used to walking in tandem, clutching someone's arm, and found it awkward. No doubt that reinforced her belief that I needed support!

It was a relief to come home, ask a friend who sees me often, 'Do I look frail and decrepit?' and have her roar with laughter and say, 'Not to me! That's the last thing I'd think about you.' Then she asked, of the people who'd acted that way, 'Were they younger than you?' and I realised they were, by 10 to 20 years. With that, their not having seen me in years, and my ill-advised remarks about my health, I guess I can understand their concerns. It was disconcerting all the same.

As for the shortness of breath, I've now had tests my doctor ordered just in case, and I'm perfectly fine. I may have been a bit too ambitious when resuming exercise after a bit of a lapse. More likely it was emotional; it's mentioned as one of the symptoms that can follow a bereavement. It was good timing for me to have a holiday!

2) Occupational

Even people I regard as close friends, and whom I see quite often, are inclined to ask, 'Are you still writing poetry?'

Though I should be used to it, the question always startles me. How could they think otherwise? Writing poetry is what I do. I've been doing it since I was a little kid. If I don't actually write every day — though for the most part I do — I'm at least thinking about it: working in my head on a particular poem, deciding which ones belong together in a chapbook, reading other people's poetry, offering other poets feedback when requested, revising old poems....

It's an invisible occupation, I suppose. If someone doesn't live in my house or read my blogs, how would they know? I don't do performance any more, unless it's really easy for me to get to venues, and I haven't yet published any of the chapbooks I've been toying with lately. Haven't had a book out since 2005. I do get into various magazines and anthologies, and occasionally get mentioned in awards; however there is little awareness of these among the general public. Most people would be quite oblivious of them.

But I think it's more than that. I think people see it as some kind of hobby rather than an all-consuming vocation. I told one very dear friend about getting together with a couple of other poets at the end of December and mapping out our writing projects for the whole of the coming year, both individual and collaborative — after which she asked me if I had any special plans for this year!

It's comforting to recall a recent visit from my Firstborn (who lives in a different State). On his first night here, when he announced it was his bedtime, I said, 'I'll probably stay up quite late and do some writing.'

'Try to keep the surprises to a minimum,' he said, straight-faced. I stared at him blankly. 

'Mum,' he explained, 'As long as I've known you, you've always done that.'

He's known me 48 years.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

On Not Minding My Own Business

Cross-posted from LiveJournal

My friend and I finished eating our Subway at the outdoor table on the corner, then wandered down the street, stopping to pat the gorgeous big dog tethered to the railings. His tongue was hanging out and he was panting hard.

'He's thirsty,' said my friend. 'Sometimes the shops put water out for the dogs, but I don't see any here.' I remembered the newsletter i'd just got from the vet, pointing out signs of heat distress to watch for in pets.

'His owner will probably come back in a minute and give him a drink,' she said, and walked on. But I saw no sign of any nearby owner, and wondered how long it might take.

'I'm just going to duck into the hardware shop,' I said, so we parted and she went on her way. I asked if the shop had some kind of dog bowl. I explained the situation, saying,
'I might be an interfering busybody, but I don't care.'

I was shown a hard plastic bowl for $2, not a dog bowl, more like a small serving bowl of some kind, but it would do. Then I went into Subway and bought Spring water.

I set the bowl down by the dog, poured in all the water, patted him and showed it to him. He wrinkled his forehead at me, looking puzzled, and made no move to drink. Perhaps he had been taught not to accept food or drink from strangers? I left him, thinking that if he got thirsty enough he'd figure it out. As I was walking back to my car on the other side of the road, I saw a man come along, untether him, and sit down at the the outdoor Subway table, where a woman joined him.

I felt like a bit of a fool, being down to my last few dollars and all — but I knew that if I had gone away without doing what I did, I would not have seen the dog's owner return and I'd have been worrying for a long time afterwards about the thirsty animal.

Later that afternoon I had to go back to town, so I checked on the bowl. It was still there, half empty. So some other dog must have benefited!  I poured out the remaining water and brought the bowl home. After all, I did pay for it. I gave it a wash and put it away. It will make a nice little salad bowl when I eat alone, which is most of the time now that I'm single.

So — was it stupid of me? Was it officious of me? Probably, but I still don't care. What if the owner had come back in time to find me pouring the water? (As it was, he didn't seem to notice that it was there.) Would he have felt offended? Maybe ... but I wasn't to know how long he'd be.

The dog looked beautifully kept and very healthy, now that I come to think of it, so perhaps I might have guessed that he had a caring owner. Still, I'm kinda pleased with myself for doing what felt right to me, regardless of what anyone might think.

Comments from LiveJournal:

Date: 2014-02-08 07:45 pm (UTC)

From: mount-oregano
You did the right thing, and the kind thing. Be proud of yourself.
From: snakypoet
Thanks for the validation. :)

I agree, you did right ~
From: snakypoet Thanks to you too, dear!